COMMENTARY

Trump and his regime committed — or at least condoned — mass murder. America just doesn't care

It's clearer than ever that Trump used mass death as a political weapon. Do Americans now think that's normal?

By Chauncey DeVega

Published November 18, 2021 6:00AM (EST)

Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

More than 750,000 people have died from the coronavirus plague in the United States. Epidemiologists and other public health professionals predict that more than a million will die before the pandemic is finally vanquished. Millions more Americans will experience long-term and perhaps lifelong negative health impacts after surviving COVID-19.

By one serious estimate, the coronavirus pandemic cost the American people more than 7 million years of life in 2020 alone. More than 140,000 children have lost their primary caregivers to the coronavirus plague. These estimates do not include any guess as to how many millions of peoples' lifespans will be shortened because of the psychological, emotional and financial stress and other misery caused by the pandemic.

What do people do with all that pain and loss and resulting emptiness? Where will they put the sadness and anger?

Ultimately, Donald Trump and his regime are responsible for many of the deaths — probably a large majority of them — caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At almost every key moment, Trump and his inner circle, along with other Republican elected officials who followed his lead, made decisions based on personal self-interest, greed and political partisanship, rather than a sincere effort to save American lives.

RELATED: A crime against humanity: Birx admits Trump's campaign distracted from COVID response

New reporting in Politico this week details the Trump regime's de facto acts of democide against the American people, based on the congressional release of "emails and transcripts with former senior CDC officials about the White House's attempts to sideline the agency at critical moments" early in the pandemic:

The emails and transcripts detail how in the early days of 2020 Trump and his allies in the White House blocked media briefings and interviews with CDC officials, attempted to alter public safety guidance normally cleared by the agency and instructed agency officials to destroy evidence that might be construed as political interference.

The documents further underscore how Trump appointees tried to undermine the work of scientists and career staff at the CDC to control the administration's messaging on the spread of the virus and the dangers of transmission and infection.

As was reported last year, also by Politico, staffers at the Department of Health and Human Services sought changes in the CDC's weekly reports on COVID-19 "to align the summaries more closely with [Trump's] talking points":

Christine Casey, one of the leaders of the CDC team that publishes weekly scientific reports ... told the House committee that at one point in August 2020 she received instructions to delete an email reflecting political interference.

Casey said Paul Alexander, the former temporary senior policy adviser to the assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS, instructed her to stop publishing the weekly reports, insinuating her team was trying to make Trump look bad in public.

After conversations with leadership at the CDC, including then-Director Robert Redfield, Michael Iademarco, one of the CDC's leaders overseeing epidemiology and laboratory services, told Casey to delete the email.


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Dr. Deborah Birx, the former COVID task force coordinator at the Trump White House, recently testified that Dr. Scott Atlas, "a radiologist and White House adviser who frequently disagreed with the CDC, attempted to alter the agency's testing guidance":

He pressed the agency to rewrite its guidelines to underscore that only symptomatic individuals needed to get tested. His argument, at the time, was that the U.S. only needed to worry about those individuals who had Covid-19 and were experiencing symptoms such as fever and coughing because those were the people who could more easily spread the virus. ...

"This document resulted in less testing and less — less aggressive testing of those without symptoms that I believed were the primary reason for the early community spread," Birx said, adding that the change in the guidance was not based on science.

None of this should be a surprise. Trump and his regime committed these crimes against humanity in plain sight. These "revelations" are simply providing more evidence and clearer details of how and when these crimes took place.

In a recent Esquire article, Charles Pierce places the Trump regime's COVID crimes in a larger context:

The sheer contempt for active national leadership and the sheer disregard for the public health illustrated by this material has no parallel in American history. For the sake of their own public image — which, ironically, was headed for the storm drain anyway — members of the administration abandoned even their most rudimentary obligations as public servants. The country was denied the information it desperately needed because some time-servers and coat-holders were trying to avoid a tantrum from the Oval Office. We are lucky we survived this long.

Some may wonder why Trump and his inner circle were so reckless and bold, acting without apparent fear of any accountability or serious negative consequences? The answer is simple: Donald Trump is a fascist authoritarian and likely a sociopath. To his political cult members and the current Republican Party as a whole, he is essentially a demigod. Trump never intended to leave office. As the events of last Jan. 6 should make clear, Trump was willing to do virtually anything — including literally staging a coup — to remain in power.

RELATED: Right-wing media and the pandemic: A toxic feedback loop that nurtured fascism

There were many public warnings about Trump and the pandemic. 

In a May 2020 interview with Salon, less than three months into the pandemic, epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves said this about his controversial use of the term "genocide":

Trump's pandemic response is not the same as Nazi Germany. It is not Rwanda. But Trump's response is something that is well beyond a policy mistake. One hundred thousand people are dead. There are likely to be 150,000 or perhaps even 200,000 dead from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. The estimates are that two thirds or more of the deaths could have been prevented. ...

Moreover, it was premeditated. There were people in the White House and elsewhere warning Donald Trump, "People are going to die. We need to do something about this." And the White House made a concerted policy decision to let people die. Their response to the coronavirus was death by public policy.

We can parse words about whether that is manslaughter or mass negligence. Part of me, in retrospect, feels like using the word "genocide" made it too easy for some critics to deny the reality of the situation. Perhaps I should have said that the Trump White House's response to the coronavirus was a monumental error and a monumental sin and a monumental human rights violation. What the Trump administration is doing in response to the coronavirus is something we have not seen in the United States in a long time, which is basically wiping out a whole group of people by public policy.

In July 2020, psychologist Dr. John Gartner, a contributor to the bestselling book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump," offered his perspective:

Donald Trump's behavior with the coronavirus pandemic is intentional. He is malevolent. He is a first-degree mass murderer. This is a plan.

I am a great believer in the principle of Occam's razor. The simplest explanation is usually the right one. Trump disbanded the pandemic task force. First, Trump said that the virus was not going to come to America. Then he chose not to do more testing. Trump chose to not use the Defense Production Act to make more needed medical supplies and equipment.

Trump has admitted to trying to slow down the testing for the coronavirus. Trump has undermined the governors' efforts to protect the public from the virus. Trump even went so far as to encourage astroturf protests to intimidate Democratic governors into reopening for "the economy." Trump has said that he is against people wearing masks — which is the simplest, cheapest and most efficient way to keep us from spreading the virus.

Trump is trying to open the floodgates. He's hosting mass gatherings of people at his rallies and other events. He's doing everything he can to enable the virus.

Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is going to be the most successful bio-terrorist in human history. Let me repeat myself so there is no confusion. Donald Trump is the most successful bio-terrorist in human history. This is not an accident.

RELATED: Trump's COVID response was deadly — but decades of dreadful, racist policy set up the catastrophe

In August 2020, former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner expressed the view that Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic could be considered negligent homicide:

Some jurisdictions call this involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide. The lowest level of homicide has three elements to the crime, and Donald Trump satisfies them easily.

The first element is that a person commits an act in a grossly negligent manner. Or there is a duty to perform an act and a person fails to perform it in a grossly negligent matter.

There are many different pieces of evidence which show that Donald Trump has acted in a grossly negligent manner in the way he has handled or mishandled the coronavirus pandemic. Trump had a duty to act as president of the United States and he failed to act — and that failure was a product of gross negligence. 

The second element of that type of homicide is that your grossly negligent act, or your grossly negligent failure to act, was reasonably calculated to result in serious bodily injury or death. With a deadly virus, the grossly negligent failure to act is reasonably likely to create serious bodily injury or death in another person.

The third element, which sounds like it is the toughest to overcome, is causation. The causation element says that a person acted in a grossly negligent manner where their failure to perform a duty or conduct or failure to act was reasonably likely to create death or serious bodily injury in another person.

What has the response been to the latest "revelations" about the Trump regime's acts of democide? Virtually nonexistent. The mainstream news media and the American people as a whole appear exhausted and bored by the Age of Trump and its continuing onslaughts. In the current media climate, new information about Trump and the pandemic barely registered as newsworthy before being discarded for the next controversy of the day.

To wit. Lili Loofbourow of Slate offered a valuable essay this week which highlights how the American people have been hardened into indifference about the country's escalating democracy crisis and the ongoing Republican coup:

No, people don't want to know anymore. People already know too much, and the knowledge hasn't profited them. They know about all the harms that were done to American institutions and American democracy while Trump was president. They also know what the much-ballyhooed Mueller report — each development of which many of them followed attentively — achieved: nothing. Why would the Jan. 6 commission would be any different? This is what happens when the "news" is that a nation's entire system of accountability is broken: Even the consequences that do get meted out start to feel weightless. Maybe the "QAnon shaman" goes to prison for four years (certainly some of the insurrectionists should). But everyone understands at this point that the actual instigators — including the ex-president and members of Congress who worked with and informed the rioters — are immune to consequences. So why read about it?

America's collective shrug toward the Trump regime's acts of negligent homicide are a surrender to the normalization of deviance, another example of how heretofore unfathomable behavior becomes "acceptable" or "normal" to a large segment of the public. Some psychologists describe this collective state as "malignant normality." Societies so afflicted lose a shared understanding of what constitutes truth and reality, and even a shared concept of time. In practice this means that individuals and groups cannot effectively fight back against the worsening catastrophe. This has made some of the worst crimes of human history possible.

Here's a thought experiment: If these same events, meaning Trump's handling of the pandemic and his regime's numerous other crimes against democracy and human decency, had taken place in another country, how would the American people and news media respond?

Such a country would be labeled as an international pariah. The regime and its leaders would be described as tyrants and criminals. There would be calls for regime change, and many members of the international community would demand that the wrongdoers be brought to trial for crimes against humanity at the Hague.

Thanks to the damaging myopia of American exceptionalism, no such thing will happen. Trump and his cabal will, in all likelihood, never face justice for their crimes against democracy and the American people. Such a thing is simply unimaginable to our national vanity. History indeed has a dark sense of humor, but this time the joke is on us.


Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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