The question is: How much damage will be done, and how many will die in the fallout?
When asked how history would remember the civil rights leader, the president replied, “I don’t know. I really don’t know” and brought the point back around to himself.
“I never met John Lewis, I don’t believe,” Trump said.
In the interview, released late on Monday, with the Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, Trump instead centered his view of the late congressman on their lack of a personal relationship, noting Lewis “chose not to come to [his] inauguration”.
“He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches, and that’s OK,” he said. “That’s his right. He should’ve come. I think he made a big mistake.”
The president then appeared unable to distinguish between different measurements of coronavirus deaths.
Trump brandished several pieces of paper with graphs and charts.
“United States is lowest in numerous categories. We’re lower than the world. Lower than Europe.”
“In what?” Swan asked. As it becomes apparent that Trump is talking about the number of deaths as a proportion of confirmed Covid-19 cases, Swan said: “Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the US is really bad. Much worse than Germany, South Korea.”
Trump responded: “You can’t do that.”
Trump is attempting to obscure the fact that the U.S. currently has a much worse outbreak than almost any peer country. The method of obfuscation he is trying to use — most likely, that his aides have prepped for him — is to cite the raw numbers of tests performed and the death rate of patients who have coronavirus. This allows him to avoid the fact that the U.S. has far-higher rates of both coronavirus infections and deaths.
Unfortunately for Trump, he cannot remember his lines, and so he simply hands over the charts that have been given him without coherently explaining what they’re supposed to mean. “Well, right here, the United States is lowest in numerous categories. We’re lower than the world. We’re lower than Europe.”
Swan looks at the chart and realizes Trump has given him the proportion of patients who die who already have the coronavirus. That number, of course, means very little. The problem is not that the coronavirus kills more people who have it here than who have it elsewhere. The problem is that way more people have it here.
When Swan points out that he is citing the percentage of people who die as a proportion of the public, not the proportion who die as a share of patients, Trump seems not to understand what he is even saying. “You have to go by — you have to go by — here, look. Here is the United States. You have to go by the cases.”
He looks like an addled used-car salesman trying to upsell a customer on Tru-Coat, but he can’t remember what it’s called, so he keeps saying “it’s for your car.”
Trump: There are those that say, you can test too much. You do know that.
Swan: Who says that?
Trump: Oh, just read the manuals. Read the books.
Swan: Manuals? What manuals?
Trump: Read the books. Read the books.
Swan: What books?
Trump changed the topic rather than explain.
On several occasions, Trump replied to questions about the coronavirus response by insisting the U.S. is containing the virus as well as it possibly could. When Swan points out that 1,000 Americans are now dying per day, Trump replies, “They are dying. That’s true. And you have — it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it.”
At another point, he conceded, “They are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is.”
Swan asked Trump why he would hold a huge maskless indoor rally during a pandemic. Trump’s reply, incredibly, was to boast about the size of the crowd and insist it was twice as large as news reports (and photos) indicated:
We had a 19,000 seat stadium. First of all, we had 12,00 people, not 6,000, which you reported. But, you couldn’t even get in. It was like an armed camp — 120 Black Lives Matter people there, and Tulsa …
When Swan tried to clarify and ask why he felt it was wise to hold such a rally during a pandemic, Trump explained, “That area was a very good area at the time. It was an area that was pretty much over … Oklahoma was doing very well as a state.” And then he held a large concentrated indoor event with lots of cheering and shouting, after which the virus seemed to have spread. Who could have known?