Trump Lied. People Died.

[ Posted Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 – 16:20 UTC ]

It's now official: Trump lied, people died.

Bob Woodward is out with a new book, and today he released some excerpts -- with some tapes to back them up. The most damning revelation is that President Donald Trump knew full well -- in early February -- that COVID-19 was a very serious threat and much more dangerous than the flu. But that was in private conversation with Woodward. Publicly, Trump kept right on downplaying the threat for approximately the next five weeks. If America had moved more quickly during this period, tens of thousands of Americans would still be alive today. Quod Erat Demonstrandum: Trump lied, people died.

The Trump campaign has been busy selling a total fantasy about the pandemic. In it, Trump boldly moved very early on and has been at the forefront of keeping Americans as safe as possible, while (perhaps singlehandedly) causing a vaccine to appear in record time so we can all put the pandemic in the rearview mirror once and for all. You may notice that this bears little resemblance to reality.

Team Trump's fantasy conveniently ignores all of February and half of March. This was the critical period where Trump not only absolutely refused to act but also began actively gaslighting the American public about the severity of what we all faced. [For handy reference: here are the 108 times that President Donald Trump has downplayed the virus so far, and here is the full timeline of how he completely squandered February.]

Up until now, it has not been clear how aware Trump was of the actual reality. We knew he had been briefed, but Trump is not known for paying much attention during briefings, or for ever reading the written material provided to him. So there was always a certain doubt about whether Trump even understood the threat. Maybe he had been told, but also maybe he was looking out the window at a squirrel at that particular moment -- who knew?

Well, now we do. Here's how the Washington Post reported the bombshell:

President Trump's head popped up during his top-secret intelligence briefing in the Oval Office on Jan. 28 when the discussion turned to the coronavirus outbreak in China.

"This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency," national security adviser Robert C. O'Brien told Trump, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward. "This is going to be the roughest thing you face."

Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, agreed. He told the president that after reaching contacts in China, it was evident that the world faced a health emergency on par with the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

Ten days later, Trump called Woodward and revealed that he thought the situation was far more dire than what he had been saying publicly.

"You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed," Trump said in a Feb. 7 call. "And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flu."

"This is deadly stuff," the president repeated for emphasis.

At that time, Trump was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than a seasonal flu, predicting it would soon disappear and insisting that the U.S. government had it totally under control. It would be several weeks before he would publicly acknowledge that the virus was no ordinary flu and that it could be transmitted through the air.

Trump admitted to Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. "I wanted to always play it down," the president said.

Here's a longer version of that last quote: "I think, Bob, really, to be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

Today, laughably, the White House press secretary lied about Trump's lies, telling reporters that Trump "never downplayed the virus." There simply is no wiggle room between: "I wanted to always play it down," and: "[President Trump] never downplayed the virus." It's on tape for all to hear, whether Kayleigh "I Will Never Lie To You" McEnany wants to admit it or not.

Trump lied. And then he fully and clearly admitted he was lying, to Bob Woodward of all people. In what universe did he think this would not be included in Woodward's book?

Joe Biden wasted no time hitting Trump on his lies. One hour after the Post released the book excerpts, Biden spoke to some Michigan autoworkers and worked the story into his remarks:

[President Donald Trump] knew how deadly it was. It was much more deadly than the flu. He knew and purposely played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months.

He knew how dangerous it was. While this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people....

[Trump's] failure has not only cost lives -- it sent our economy into a tailspin.... How many schools are not open right now? How many kids are starting a new school year the same way they ended the last one, at home? How many parents feel abandoned and overwhelmed? How many front-line workers are exhausted and pushed to their limits? And how many families are missing loved ones at their dinner table tonight because of his failures?

It's beyond despicable. It's a dereliction of duty. It's a disgrace.

Biden also pointedly noted that as many as 54,000 lives could have been saved if Trump had supported shutting the economy down two weeks earlier. This is actually an older estimate, and has not been updated to reflect the new reality of over 190,000 coronavirus deaths (and counting). An update to this figure would be helpful for the public to understand the monumental nature of Trump's failure of leadership back in February. But whatever the projection is, it is now indisputable that if Trump had acted when Joe Biden urged him to (at the very dawn of the crisis), tens of thousands of Americans would still be alive today. That is a pretty potent political argument for who should really be our next commander-in-chief.

Of course, "X lied, people died" is not a new sloganeering construct. It's been used before, most notably against President George W. Bush. But on the scale of total deaths, Trump has outdone Bush by far. What the phrase does have going for it is its succinct summation and its catchy cadence. Only four words long, and yet it provides a rhyme.

Biden is smart to respond so forcefully to Woodward's revelations. This is a life-and-death matter, after all. It helps focus the campaign on what is really important right now -- who do we want to lead us in times of crisis? It blows away Trump's monumental efforts at distracting us all from his abject failure to respond quickly and forcefully to the pandemic. Trump has been somewhat successful in these efforts of late, forcing Biden to condemn political violence from all parties (something Trump himself notably still refuses to do). Woodward's book allows Biden to get back to one of his core campaign messages in the most forceful way possible.

Sometime in the couple of weeks, we will cross an important psychological benchmark, that of 200,000 coronavirus deaths. Some of the models now predict we could see double that amount by the end of the year. All the epidemiologists are now raising red flags about what the seasonal changes have in store for us, as we enter the normal fall flu season. Many are warning of a second (or third, take your choice) wave rising in the next month or so. The first wave took us up to a plateau of 20,000 new cases a day, and the second seems to have settled in at 40,000 daily new cases. What will the third wave bring?

All Biden has to do, at this point, is keep reminding us all of a very basic truth -- it didn't have to be this bad. Look at Europe, look at Japan, look at New Zealand, look at just about any other country on Earth -- our response has been far worse than any of theirs. This is directly due to the lack of leadership from the top.

The proof is in. Trump knew. He knew full well how serious a crisis America faced, and then he went out and lied to the public about it, over and over again. The result of these lies downplaying the severity of the risk is that frighteningly high death count.

Or, to put it on a campaign bumpersticker:

Trump lied. People died.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


43 Comments on “Trump Lied. People Died.”

  1. [1] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Trump lied. Woodward didn't release the tapes for seven months. Nearly 200K people died.

  2. [2] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I don't believe in souls, but if I did, I'd surely believe that KayLie McEnany was without one. There is no bottom at Trump TV, but isn't Chris Wallace great?

  3. [3] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I'd like to believe that this will make a difference, but that's just not how death cults work.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    maybe it can't be put on a bumper sticker, but some bright advertiser could buy permission to put a counter in the corner of the TV screen: americans killed by trump lying about covid:######


  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    true, it's pretty cynical of bob woodward not to release the tapes as soon as he had them.


  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Years of journalistic plinking had little effect on the Trump Power Grab. Woodward saved his silver bullet tape for a kill shot.

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    nypoet22 wrote:


    maybe it can't be put on a bumper sticker, but some bright advertiser could buy permission to put a counter in the corner of the TV screen: americans killed by trump lying about covid:######

    Well, someone did.

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    Chris Weigant

    It's now official: Trump lied, people died.

    Remember that time in late March/early April where we discussed Donald Trump's spew at the CDC on March 6 about anybody wanting a test? *be right back*

    To begin with, a commenter at my site made a nomination that is worth repeating as many times as possible in order to drive home the message. Donald Trump is quite obviously going to win "The Biggest Lie of 2020" this year, and this is the obvious choice that will win it for him...

    Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That's what the bottom line is.... Anybody right now and yesterday -- anybody that needs a test gets a test. We -- they're there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test.
    -- Donald Trump, March 6

    ~ Chris Weigant

    Remember that!?

    And remember how I said:

    And if that turns out not to be "The Biggest Lie of 2020," God help us all for what is...

    ~ Kick

    This right here is what I meant by that right there.

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Re "not how death cults work"

    One would think that the more cray cray it gets the more those people will "wake up."


    Au Contraire, it makes it even harder for the Trump folk to pull out because the moment they do they admit their being, er, total suckers.

    You know, losers.

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:




  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:
  12. [12] 
    MyVoice wrote:
  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    How many swing voters regularly watch the billboards in times square? Also it doesn't explain how trump is responsible for those deaths.

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I mean, just imagine that ticker spinning beneath the nba finals

  15. [15] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I'm not saying it makes any difference in solid Blue New York.

    Come to think of it, when Trump shoots someone on 5th Avenue it'd be just one more death.

    Come to think about it some more, Trump better go to Mississippi if he wants to shoot somebody. Less chance that a solid Blue crowd of onlookers would overcome his Secret Service detail and pull his limbs off. Heh.

  16. [16] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    How about a little This Modern World.

    By Tom Tomorrow. I think of it as "Doonesbury on Steroids."

  17. [17] 
    Kick wrote:

    John From Censornati

    I'd like to believe that this will make a difference, but that's just not how death cults work.

    I hear you, JFC. I'd like to believe that there are some people out there that realize you don't call on the pathological lying SOB to put out a fire when he was the arsonist who sat idly by while putting out fake information about the flames he knew to be deadly while knowing full well the severity of the situation.

    And if anybody out there is "buying into" the utter asinine nonsensical LIE that Donald Trump just didn't "want people to be frightened" or "panic":

    On February 7, Trump told Woodward it was a deadly virus, and on February 28, he told a packed audience in South Carolina and Americans that it was a "Democrat hoax."

    There is a vast chasm between knowing how "deadly" a virus is and yet insinuating to Americans that it's all a hoax and then on Friday, April 17, tweeting:


    and encouraging the people to whom you LIED about the severity of the virus to further your political LIES by brandishing weapons and storming the state houses of multiple swing states with Democratic governors... at the expense of their health and everyone else's.

    Trump didn't want to create a "frenzy"? I call BS.

  18. [18] 
    Kick wrote:


    maybe it can't be put on a bumper sticker, but some bright advertiser could buy permission to put a counter in the corner of the TV screen: americans killed by trump lying about covid:######

    This. ^^^ This right here ^^^

    2 0 0 , 0 0 0

    A running total. Make it happen, Bloomberg, et al.

    53 DAYS * 22 HOURS * 36 MINUTES

  19. [19] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    someone send the ticker idea to the lincoln project?

  20. [20] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Kick [17]

    if anybody out there is "buying into" the utter asinine nonsensical LIE that Donald Trump just didn't "want people to be frightened" or "panic"

    Only death cult zombies could believe that. He clearly wants to panic people about cartoonish threats like "Biden will abolish the suburbs".

  21. [21] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Woodward's timing is devastating to Trump. The conventions are over, public interest in the election is peaking, and Trump is low on campaign cash.

    What was Trump thinking? Does he simply enjoy risk? Cognitive decline?

    Does Woodward have 24 hr protection?

  22. [22] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    fascinating article in NY Mag:

    "In an obvious way, the pandemic provided a perfect season-ending climax to the story of Trump’s first term. A country built on the promise of fantasy was now facing reality in its purest form: Viruses are not even properly alive, being closer to biological chemicals. How would America react? Would its flight from reality come to a premature end? Six months in, what is most striking is how little has changed."

    really thought-provoking stuff.


  23. [23] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    I wonder how long it will take for Woodward to reveal how the pandemic response (or lack of a response) is a bipartisan plan to save Social Security.

  24. [24] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Death Harris,

    You pro-Trump conspiracy theories sound more idiotic by the minute.

  25. [25] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    TS [21]

    What was Trump thinking?

    That Woodward is top notch and that he could talk him into writing a book that would make him look good. To say the least, it exposes how reckless his delusional narcissism is.

    Additionally, it highlights his outside-looking-in desperation even as he sits in the White House. He just can't get over the fact that old money Manhattan snobs never accepted him.

  26. [26] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Big Orange is still saying that he didn't want to create a panic and he's still refusing to complete the sentence.

    He didn't want to create a panic on Wall Street.

  27. [27] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Republicans in congress are showing no signs that they believe that these recordings are a problem. Once again, they seem to be pretty confident about their ability to win by cheating.

  28. [28] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    A quote from a POLITICO article This Republican Party Is Not Worth Saving

    That [Republican] party is long gone. Today the Republicans are the party of “American carnage” and Russian collusion, of scams, plots, and weapons-grade contempt for the rule of law. The only decent, sensible, and conservative position is to vote against this Republican Party at every level, and bring the sad final days of a once-great political institution to an end. Then build the party back up again—from scratch.

    This, from a lifetime Republican!

  29. [29] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    John From Censornati wrote:

    Big Orange is still saying that he didn't want to create a panic and he's still refusing to complete the sentence.

    He didn't want to create a panic on Wall Street.

    Man, you got that spot on! And the stupidest thing among the many Trumpian Covid stupidities is that he was downplaying Covid to keep Wall Street happy fully nine months before the election! Talk about short sighted.

  30. [30] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Another quote from the same article:

    Reconstructing the GOP—or any center-right party that might one day replace it—will take a long time, and the process will be painful. The remaining opportunists in the GOP will try to avert any kind of reform by making a last-ditch lunge to the right to fill the vacuum left by Trump’s culture warring and race-baiting. In the short term, the party might become smaller and more extreme, even as it loses seats. So be it. The hardening of the GOP into a toxic conglomeration of hucksters, quislings, racists, theocrats, and cultists is already happening. The party gladly accepted support from white supremacists and the Russian secret services, and now welcomes QAnon kooks into its caucus. Conservatives must learn that the only way out of “the wilderness” is first to vanquish those who led them there.

    No person should ever get a second chance to destroy the Constitution. Trump has brought the United States to the brink of civil catastrophe, and the Republican Party has protected him from the consequences of all his immoral and illegal actions more ably than even Fred Trump did. Conservatives need to put the current Republican Party out of its—and our—misery.

  31. [31] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    (Hey, at least I didn't put it in all bold, like the former troll known as Michale.

  32. [32] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Cherry news for Elizabeth:

    This, from Trump’s overtures struggle to register with religious voters

    [The polling] predicts an 11 percentage point swing toward Biden among evangelicals and Catholics who backed Trump in 2016, based on input from both demographics across five major 2020 battleground states: Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Other polls have captured similar gains in Biden’s religious support, including an August survey by Fox News that showed the former vice president at 28 percent support among white evangelicals — up 12 percentage points from 2016 exit polls for the Democratic nominee.

  33. [33] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    “People of faith who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton saw her as more corrupt and less kind than Donald Trump, and now some of those same voters see Donald Trump as more corrupt and less kind than Biden,” Pagitt said.

    “This is a different election for several reasons, but one of them is that the sheer disgust most religious voters felt for Hillary Clinton in 2016 doesn’t exist with Joe Biden,” said the Trump adviser.

    This is nothing but good news for Joe. It doesn't matter whether our Christofacists vote for Joe or simply don't show up to vote. Just as black turnout and support is critical for the Dems, religious turnout and support is of mirror image importance to the Repugs.

  34. [34] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Biden's description of Trump's conduct as "a dereliction of duty" is much too mild. The term he should use is not even "homicidal negligence," but "genocidal negligence." It's hard to conceive of genocidal negligence; we're not used to seeing it or thinking of it as possible. But this is not the first instance in living memory. There was also the Reagan administration's response to AIDS.

  35. [35] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    One aspect of the revelation that Woodward’s reporting on Trump knowingly lying to America concerning the threat that the coronavirus posed that no one seems to be discussing is Fox News’ role in spreading Trump’s misinformation — Were they just as duped as the rest of us or were they willing co-conspirators in this crime? Trump’s willingness to spill everything to Woodward so freely makes it seem unlikely that Trump did not share with his favorite FoxNews human bobblehead dolls in private. Just as this deception from Trump makes his response worse than if he had simply acted out of stupidity, this would make Fox News decision to intentionally deceive the country even more horrifying. How can their viewers trust anything they hear from them after this?

    It would also seem to make Fox News legally culpable for the damage their intentional deception might have caused their viewers. They cannot claim that they were just reporting what Trump was saying if they knew what he was saying was an intentional lie. How wonderful if a byproduct of all of this is that it helps bring down Fox News!

  36. [36] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    The GOP now distinguishes itself by inaction. It has stood and watched as this administration separated children from their parents at the border, mistreated asylum seekers, botched its response to a hurricane in Puerto Rico, attacked science, and opened new avenues for toxic materials in our air and water. It said and did nothing about Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and is actively blocking efforts to combat a recurrence in 2020. It has refused to pass a new Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder eviscerated the legislation, which, reflecting the GOP of the past, had passed the House unanimously. It has refused to deal in any fashion with urgent problems such as climate change, immigration, global competition, hunger, and poverty. It confirmed nominees who lied to the Senate, who inflated résumés, and who failed to meet minimum qualifications for the job. It confirmed judges who were unanimously rated unqualified by the American Bar Association.

    This, from I’ve Witnessed the Decline of the Republican Party

    I just don't see how (short of an alien bursting out of Joe's chest during a debate) Trump gets reelected. Not with a split Republican Party and declining support among so-called Evangelicals.

  37. [37] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Boy, nothing like getting a coupla pots of coffee in my system after some days of abstinence -- woot!

  38. [38] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Democrats Won’t Cede the Streets This Time

    If the November 3 voting produces anything less than a blowout lead for either side—and perhaps even if it produces a blowout lead for Joe Biden—the post-election period is likely to test how far both GOP leaders and rank-and-file Republican voters will go in tolerating efforts from Trump to subvert the rules of small-d democracy.

    On that front, a new study from the Vanderbilt University political scientist Larry M. Bartels offers important—and ominous—findings. Bartels found that antidemocratic and authoritarian ideas have secured a substantial foothold within the GOP’s electoral coalition. In a national survey he conducted in January, just over half of Republican voters (including both self-identified Republicans and independents who lean toward the party) strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” Just under half agreed that “strong leaders sometimes have to bend the rules in order to get things done.” About two in five agreed that “a time will come when patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands.” And almost three-fourths concurred that “it is hard to trust the results of elections when so many people will vote for anyone who offers a handout.”

  39. [39] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Regarding the modification of the Filibuster Rule allowing Repugs to stymie the Dems efforts to fix America, here's a nifty way to fix it, rather than to do away with this non-Constitutional rule.

    The answer is to return the filibuster to its original intention—something to be used rarely, when a minority (not necessarily a partisan one, by the way) feels so strongly about an issue of great national significance that it will make enormous sacrifices to delay a bill. There is a simple way to do this—and, in the meantime, keep Rule XXII and mollify Manchin et al. while also providing an opening for Biden and his Democrats to get big things done. That is to flip the numbers: Instead of 60 votes required to end debate, the procedure should require 40 votes to continue it. If at any time the minority cannot muster 40 votes, debate ends, cloture is invoked, and the bill can be passed by the votes of a simple majority.

  40. [40] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    MtnCaddy [28]

    That article is actually from The Atlantic... just wanna give credit where credit is due.

  41. [41] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    How about making the rule that a Senator must have at least 5 Senators listening to their arguments during the filibuster at a minimum for it to continue. Let’s make them stay on subject as more reading the phone book in opposition to passing legislation. I love those old paintings that show Congress members sitting, listening earnestly to arguments in support of and against a piece of legislation as a full body... but that is a thing of the past! When we see video of our Members of Congress speaking to the Chamber, they are talking to an mostly empty room. There might be a few assistants running around, but our elected officials do not actually stick around to listen, to hammer out compromises, to work together on passing the best legislation possible for the entire nation... they can watch the key points being made on video. Is it any wonder that our politicians are not able to work together anymore? We have made it so convenient for them not to have to be around each other to do their jobs that they have forgotten how to work together.

  42. [42] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    Seems to me no scandal is big enough for Trump, and his minions, to suffer a fatefull final blow prior to Nov.

    It amused me to watch Insanity Hannity yesterday...why is Hilly Clinton still subject of concern to these crooks?

    Trump has the blood of tens of k on his stubby little claws.

    The lines are drawn, Trump will get his base, minus a few center rights, Biden should get everyone else...

    Nov 3 can't come sooner..


  43. [43] 
    Kick wrote:

    John From Censornati

    Only death cult zombies could believe that. He clearly wants to panic people about cartoonish threats like "Biden will abolish the suburbs".

    ^^^ This ^^^

    President Panic gaslights the death cult zombies that without him to stop it:

    * low-income people are moving next door
    * there won't be any more suburbs
    * Democrats are going to burn down their cities
    * the United States will be destroyed
    * Joe Biden will hurt the Bible
    * Joe Biden will hurt God

    but, hey, pay no attention to that pandemic, it's going to just disappear one day (after the election) because it's just a Democrat hoax. Now hurry up and grab your guns and go storm the state houses of Democrats where those governors are trying to take away your freedoms... and nobody panic.

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