Trump ignores science at dangerous indoor rally

CNN's Jake Tapper presses White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on whether the White House needs to do more to address the damage caused by climate change.

Posted: Sep 14, 2020 12:40 AM
Updated: Sep 14, 2020 12:40 AM

President Donald Trump offered a glaring new example of his refusal to put medical science before politics with a large indoor rally Sunday night that made a mockery of social distancing, while the pandemic he mismanaged has now claimed more than 194,000 American lives.

The event in Nevada -- his second rally in the state in as many days -- did not only risk the health of those present, thousands of whom were packed together inside a manufacturing facility in defiance of the state's ban on local gatherings of 50 people or more. It also has the potential to turn into a super spreader event that could seed Covid-19 outbreaks in the wider community. Trump hadn't held an indoor rally in nearly three months, since his last one, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after which the city saw a surge in cases and multiple campaign staffers along with Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus.

The jarring scenes of the indoor event clashed with footage from the first weekend of NFL games that went ahead in cavernous empty stadiums, reflecting how almost alone the President, who might be expected to set an example, is responsible for the most dangerous breaches of his own government's coronavirus recommendations.

CNN's Brian Stelter reported that major television networks, including CNN, decided not to send their crews and correspondents into the rally for their own safety. It's not unusual for media companies to take steps to shield their employees in war zones abroad, but such precautions are exceedingly rare on home soil.

The same ditching of inconvenient facts to service Trump's personal whims, political goals and conspiracy theories will likely be highlighted again on Monday when the President visits one of the raging Western wildfires in California, where more than 3 million acres have burned this year and 22 people have died since mid-August. The President insists that the fires are caused by poor forest management. Scientists argue that they have been exacerbated by climate change.

Accelerating efforts to reshape reality

As the election fast approaches, the administration's broader attempt to reshape reality to benefit and accommodate an unrestrained President is accelerating, including among government officials who appear to be trying to stop the full story of the coronavirus emergency from coming out. Trump's decision not to share what he knew about the deadly potential of the disease back in February -- detailed in Bob Woodward's new book -- may have cost tens of thousands of lives. The economic effects of the pandemic are devastating. Yet as his incessant demands to open states -- based on political motives rather than scientific rigor -- show, the President is still not taking the human toll of Covid-19 with consuming seriousness.

A similar effort to create a reality that Trump would prefer is underway as he repeatedly lies about what he says is a Democratic attempt to rig the vote in November. In fact, his own political appointees in the Department of Homeland Security are accused of trying to conceal the full extent of Russian election interference designed to prop up his trailing campaign. CNN reported last week that the same whistleblower who raised that complaint had also cautioned that officials had also modified intelligence assessments to downplay the threat posed by White supremacists and to line them up with false comments made by the President about Antifa and leftist and anarchist groups.

New signs of politically-motivated investigations at the Justice Department are meanwhile adding to Attorney General William Barr's reputation as Trump's personal enforcer and also to concerns that an investigation he ordered into the origins of the Russia probe is being cooked up to offer Trump a pre-election surprise.

Across Washington, it seems to be a similar story as the truths and facts are remolded to support a President who admitted last week that his worldview and perception of reality are filtered through hour after hour of Fox News opinion shows whose counsel he appears to value over some of the highly qualified experts in his own government.

In a new example of the President picking conspiratorial or fantastical positions that match his political goals, rather than those rooted in fact and science, he complained over the weekend that California's raging wildfires were the result of poor forest management. This is in line with his previously expressed belief that state governments need to "rake" and "clean" forest floors to remove the kindling for wildfires. Many scientists have said that drought and longer fire seasons are a direct consequence of climate change and have produced peer-reviewed studies to back up their conclusions. But such a conclusion is inconvenient to the President's desire to promote fossil fuels and would require him to challenge conservative orthodoxy.

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"Talk to a firefighter, if you think that climate change isn't real," the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" on Sunday. "It seems like this administration are the last vestiges of the Flat Earth Society of this generation."

One of Trump's top economic advisers, Peter Navarro, warned in several academic papers that climate change was one of the most serious potential environment challenges of the age. But in an interview with Tapper, in which he repeatedly refused to answer questions about the new Woodward book, Navarro seems to have changed his views to accommodate those of Trump.

"For many, many years, particularly because of budget cutbacks, there was no inclination to manage our forests. That's actually a real issue," Navarro said.

An all-powerful President

The triumph of Trump's political ideology over fact and truth underscores the way he has systematically removed restraining personalities and forces from his administration. In many cases, the government now runs much like a massive version of the Trump organization, all working to fulfill the desires of the all-powerful boss. While Trump had now-disgraced legal fixer Michael Cohen in his business life to impose his will, he now has loyalists who are working to subvert what they see as the "Deep State" opposition in the bureaucracy to a President who demands total loyalty.

It's not clear that the power grabs of the President will be anything like a decisive factor in the election, despite warnings by former President Barack Obama during the Democratic convention that the very future of American democracy and the integrity of the republic are on the ballot.

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Trump's efforts to stifle good governance draw big headlines in Washington but don't resonate as much elsewhere in a country staggering amid a pandemic and consequent economic disaster that have destroyed the rhythms of normal life. Political maneuverings at the top of a government agency can often seen arcane. One lesson from countries in places like Eastern Europe, where democracy has been challenged, is that damage to good governance only becomes clear in retrospect, following months and years of erosion.

Yet Trump, a President who was impeached for trying to use government power to coerce a foreign nation, Ukraine, to interfere in a US election, appears to be sending a warning of how he would behave in a second term freed from any future accountability from voters. Government agencies and departments often reflect the priorities and interests of a President. But the recent attempts by Trump aides to reshape facts, truth and data is highly unusual.

Trump aides part with reality in Woodward defense

Troubling revelations by Woodward about Trump's negligence amid a pandemic that has killed more than 194,000 Americans were compounded by new suggestions of fact-twisting by top Trump officials.

A federal health official told CNN on Saturday that Trump's communications team at the US Department of Health and Human Services pushed to change language of weekly science reports released by the CDC.

Former Trump campaign aide turned chief HHS spokesman Michael Caputo and his team demanded to see reports out of the CDC before they are released, a senior administration official said. The story was first reported by Politico.

The source said some federal health officials at the CDC believe the interference to be an effort to change communications by the CDC's scientists so as not to contradict the President, who argues that the pandemic is all but over and it's time to fully reopen the country.

Caputo defended the behavior and praised Dr. Paul Alexander, who has reportedly been adding political content to CDC reports tracking the emergency.

"Dr. Alexander advises me on pandemic policy and he has been encouraged to share his opinions with other scientists," Caputo said in a statement. "Like all scientists, his advice is heard and taken or rejected by his peers."

The news is likely to stir more alarm at the way the administration has often prioritized the President's political goals — on issues like masks and economic and school openings -- in ways that repeatedly ignored science and facts.

The administration's credibility on such issues and the need to separate politics and epidemiology will be incredibly important in convincing Americans to take a vaccine to end the pandemic when one is eventually widely available.

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel pushed back Sunday on the idea that Trump had managed the pandemic according to his political requirements rather than as the massive public health emergency that it is.

"I disagree that the President took political calculations into a global pandemic," McDaniel, one of a string of Trump allies sent to Sunday talk shows to try to push back against the Woodward revelations.

But when she was asked by "Meet the Press" anchor Chuck Todd on NBC why the US had 25% of the world's Covid-19 deaths, she repeated a misleading claim that has come to typify the misinformation and illogical responses often used by Trump aides throughout the pandemic. "Well, we do have more testing," McDaniel said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 660071

Reported Deaths: 12531
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion904161633
Lake48298874
Allen35720633
Hamilton31970396
St. Joseph29796510
Elkhart25331412
Vanderburgh21192377
Tippecanoe19927199
Johnson16312356
Porter15917269
Hendricks15785300
Clark11913180
Madison11717315
Vigo11562229
Monroe10300159
Delaware9824179
LaPorte9739196
Howard9038195
Kosciusko8539108
Bartholomew7424147
Hancock7399130
Warrick7399150
Floyd7180167
Wayne6622191
Grant6413157
Boone606888
Morgan6066124
Dubois5890111
Dearborn544466
Cass542899
Marshall5414104
Henry541392
Noble508476
Jackson464165
Shelby459890
Lawrence4174111
Gibson400981
Harrison397863
Clinton394453
Montgomery385083
DeKalb384378
Knox356285
Miami356163
Whitley348435
Huntington341876
Steuben337455
Wabash330576
Putnam328259
Ripley326461
Adams322149
Jasper314843
White297152
Jefferson293773
Daviess285096
Fayette271156
Decatur270188
Greene260780
Posey260431
Wells257174
Scott250050
LaGrange240770
Clay240344
Randolph225376
Spencer216930
Jennings214344
Washington209927
Sullivan202939
Fountain201042
Starke187250
Owen181953
Fulton177937
Jay177528
Carroll176218
Perry173335
Orange170950
Rush164322
Vermillion160141
Franklin159135
Tipton145941
Parke138615
Pike127432
Blackford120527
Pulaski106544
Newton96531
Brown94839
Benton91713
Crawford90313
Martin80114
Warren75312
Switzerland7527
Union66910
Ohio52911
Unassigned0433

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 964380

Reported Deaths: 17183
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1114961198
Cuyahoga950781723
Hamilton72988958
Montgomery47128883
Summit39949954
Butler35292468
Lucas35069761
Stark29218837
Warren22294272
Lorain21904389
Mahoning19348540
Lake18307304
Clermont18271210
Delaware16347135
Licking14893199
Fairfield14449157
Trumbull14239460
Greene13520212
Medina13290219
Clark12194335
Wood11460193
Portage10928155
Allen10742233
Richland10226205
Miami9984187
Muskingum8125129
Columbiana8086182
Tuscarawas8003235
Pickaway800199
Marion7963137
Wayne7837218
Erie6826184
Ross6104136
Geauga6030129
Hancock5965112
Ashtabula5917144
Scioto5906104
Lawrence521874
Union508852
Darke5021123
Belmont488388
Huron4761117
Jefferson4756107
Sandusky474494
Seneca4640103
Athens460931
Washington458787
Mercer4577101
Auglaize454698
Shelby440368
Knox400486
Putnam3976101
Madison390947
Fulton377364
Ashland377195
Defiance3699102
Brown368342
Crawford356096
Logan352459
Preble351771
Clinton338564
Highland326255
Ottawa320867
Williams301077
Jackson288556
Guernsey285034
Champaign284445
Fayette267644
Perry266743
Morrow258624
Henry244865
Hardin243256
Holmes2428104
Coshocton232847
Van Wert228549
Gallia220746
Adams215132
Pike213627
Wyandot208752
Hocking193248
Carroll179828
Paulding159223
Meigs134636
Noble128442
Monroe115636
Morgan100434
Harrison100132
Vinton76615
Unassigned00
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