Sen. Joni Ernst says 130,000 American deaths show Trump is ‘stepping forward’

Though it is a holiday weekend, the Sunday news shows continued on in mostly the usual fashion. Trump ally Sen. Joni Ernst, one of the corrupt man-child's most ardent defenders as the Republican Senate nullified impeachment charges against Trump without investigation, once had a lot to day about two (2) Americans dying of Ebola under President Barack Obama, saying it showed "failed leadership." CNN host Dana Bash asked Ernst whether 130,000 Americans dying in the (now fully out-of-control) COVID-19 pandemic also is showing "failed leadership."

Sen. Joni Ernst replied with yet another response seemingly hand-tailored to show just how corrupt, incompetent, and buffoonish the Republican Party has become. After a long filibuster resulting in Bash repeating of the question: "No, I think that the president is stepping forward," she clowned.

CNN's Dana Bash: You said in 2014 that Obama showed "failed leadership" with Ebola, when only 2 Americans died. Would you say Trump's showed failed leadership with coronavirus as 130,000 Americans have died? Sen. Joni Ernst: "No, I think that the president is stepping forward" pic.twitter.com/WQqSC82OSt

— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 5, 2020

Lord, now that was just pathetic. I’m embarrassed for both of them.

Again, the whole premise of so-called "news" programs is invalidated if political leaders are simply allowed to bullshit their way through each with no repercussions. Bash's question was spot-on, probing whether a sitting senator's supposed outrage at one pandemic would translate to the next. Clearly, it did not.

What, then, should the repercussions be for being so transparently a hack? Should a buzzer sound? Should a duck drop from the ceiling? During the pandemic itself physical solutions are largely out of bounds, as most of the people praising Donald Trump's brilliant handling of a pandemic now expected by the White House to result in at least a quarter million dead are praising him from inside their own homes because it is simply too unsafe to travel to the studios as usual. That means the best solution is, for now, right out; nobody is going to agree to have a pie-throwing machine installed in their den.

Hecklers, then. I'm going to propose the "news" shows liven up their broadcasts with professional hecklers. If any politician says something as egregiously tawdry as Joni Ernst says regularly, ninety seconds of interview time will be given to a team of hecklers to point it out and roast their target into oblivion.

Hey, it's more news than what's currently being broadcast. If the nation's top political reporters are incapable of bringing shame to those that quite transparently deserve it, we need to bring in people with more appropriate skills.

Trump, Ratcliffe implausibly claim Trump was never told of Russian bounties for murder of US troops

Numerous news agencies have now confirmed the story broken by The New York Times on Friday: The Russian government secretly issued bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, offering cash to militants in exchange for the killing of American soldiers. The Russian intelligence unit in question is believed to be the same one behind the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal, in 2018.

The Trump administration's response to this now-undeniable news is coalescing around a bizarre argument: Despite the immediate danger to U.S. forces, nobody in U.S. intelligence told Donald Trump or Mike Pence it was going on.

Despite the Times reporting that Trump's National Security Council met in late March to present Trump with a "menu" of possible retaliatory responses, both Trump and his surrounding toadies now claim that Trump and Pence were not told of the clear and substantive danger to U.S. troops. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, newly installed in the post after maudlin and sycophantic performances as a House Republican defending Trump during impeachment proceedings, gave the most definitive declaration:

"I have confirmed that neither the President nor the Vice President were ever briefed on any intelligence alleged by the New York Times in its reporting yesterday. The White House statement addressing this issue earlier today, which denied such a briefing occurred, was accurate. The New York Times reporting, and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate."

This is almost certainly a lie—as would be expected from Ratcliffe. There are few plausible scenarios in which top U.S. intelligence officials would hide a Russian operation to assassinate U.S. soldiers from the White House, and fewer still in which this would happen, but the Times' government sources would instead falsely invent a scenario in which he was.

Trump's installed team, however, is suggesting one of only two possible scenarios. One, that those surrounding Trump and Pence did not feel a high-level Russian espionage operation directly promoting the murder of U.S. troops was worth White House attention.

Or two, the U.S. intelligence community was intentionally hiding information about the Russian operation from Trump and Pence. If so, that would be an astonishing choice, and would suggest that intelligence officials believed there were national security reasons to keep Trump and Pence in the dark about just how much the U.S. knew about Russian operations.

The Director of National Intelligence is either suggesting that Trump and Pence are such impotent figures that his office did not bother to alert them or discuss with them a Russian plot to murder Americans, or that his office believed telling Trump about the Russian scheme would itself compromise U.S. security. Both of those possibilities are alarming.

It seems far more likely that both Ratcliffe and the White House are lying, directly, about Trump's involvement. At the end of March, Trump and Putin spoke by phone five times in three weeks, an "unprecedented" level of communications; the White House, as usual, has concealed the contents of those calls.

Trump's own denials are scattershot and ridiculous. In a petulant pair of tweets Trump proclaimed that "Nobody briefed or told me, @VP Pence, or Chief of Staff @MarkMeadows about the so-called attacks on our troops in Afghanistan by Russians, as reported through an “anonymous source” by the Fake News @nytimes," before wandering off to attack Hunter Biden again.

But Mark Meadows was not Trump's chief of staff during the period in question, and Trump is misstating the actual story. Russians did not "attack" U.S. troops directly, but have offered bounties for others to attack them. Trump, or whoever is tweeting for him, seems to have little ability to comprehend the thing he is denying—a point in favor of Ratcliffe's claim that Trump is simply too stupid to be of use to intelligence officials, to be sure.

Again: We will almost certainly learn that Ratcliffe, Trump, and Trump's indignant but forever-lying spokescreatures are lying blatantly about Trump's knowledge of the Russian operation. That is almost a given. The next question to be answered is why Trump (and Pence), despite learning of the bounties in March, have taken no action in response to Russia's act.

That answer, too, seems self-evident. It is the same reason it was necessary to install a thoroughly corrupt but loyal House Republican into a top intelligence spot to begin with.

Lt. Col. Vindman is up for promotion, but everyone is presuming Trump will just be corrupt again

Most Americans last heard of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman when Donald Trump had both him and his uninvolved twin brother forcibly escorted out of the White House in overt retaliation for Vindman's testimony to House impeachment investigators. Vindman spoke of what he personally witnessed in the Trump White House's effort to extort the Ukrainian government into producing "dirt" on Trump's election opponent before releasing congressionally mandated aid for the war-torn country. It was one of Trump's first acts of vengeance against those that testified against him, after being immunized from lawbreaking by the Republican-led Senate.

Now Lt. Col. Vindman is up for promotion, to full colonel, and according to The Washington Post the question hanging over the Pentagon is whether Trump will once again reach down to retaliate against Vindman, turning the usual promotion process into yet another example of the fascist man-child's use of government as a tool to protect and enable his own lawbreaking.

The Post's article is mostly speculative, with senior officials and the Pentagon expressing concern that once the normally noncontroversial list of hundreds of promotions hits the White House and Senate for confirmation, Trump will create new military controversy by making the move. Nobody believes Trump to be above it. Nobody is seriously pretending, at this point, that Trump has not been using his office to personally retaliate against impeachment witnesses, whistleblowers, investigators, and anyone else who he believes has improperly challenged his absolute authority to do crimes.

Everybody knows Trump is a sack of crap. Everybody knows he has no impulse control to call on, even if it would be in his interest to not do the overly corrupt thing. It's a given. The question, then, is whether his staff can perhaps jingle some keys or whatnot for long enough for the promotion process to go by as it normally does, unimpeded. Perhaps show him a new “antifa" mug, get him riled about that. Perhaps tell him that a fictitious world leader from a fictitious country called him a “poopyhead,” something sure to set him off for two weeks and render him unable to function as anything but short-thumbed tweet machine.

But this seems unlikely, and the subtext of the Post's speculation and sources is that all involved are so dreading having this battle that the promotion roster itself miiiight have been delayed while everyone involved steeled themselves for it, or might have only been delayed for the more prosaic reason of, you know, Trump so f--king up the response to a worldwide pandemic that even the United States military is unable to perform its usual functions at full capacity, while a "senior defense official" tells the Post that actually there was no delay at all, which doesn't seem like the kind of assertion you'd normally insist on being anonymous to pipe up with.

So we'll see. Will Trump take the opportunity to avoid even one new clusterf--k, even as the military reels from what was very close to a direct order to attack American citizens in Washington, D.C. streets? The odds say ... no.

Senate Republicans refuse to even look at Trump’s tweet smearing 75-year-old attacked by police

This morning Donald Trump smeared a 75-year-old American citizen attacked by police in one of the impeached president’s most delusional tweets yet, and that is saying something. "Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?" tweeted the conspiracy-promoting crackpot who has barricaded himself in the White House. (A phone. The man was holding what is known in common circles as a "phone.")

For three years, Senate Republicans have evaded questions about Trump's most grotesque behaviors by insisting that they, America's most powerful lawmakers, have not seen them. It is such a tired game that reporters like Politico's Burgess Everett and Andrew Desiderio are printing out Trump's statements to show them to shut-in senators. The result? Senate Republicans refusing to even look at the paper as they flee.

Multiple reporters pressed Republican senators for their thoughts on Trump now peddling insane conspiracy theories about an American citizen who has been hospitalized after being assaulted by Buffalo police force.

Sen. Marco Rubio: "I didn't see it, you're telling me about it, I don't read Twitter, I only write on it." (Rubio "liked" another of Trump's tweets only four days ago, one of at least 1,663 tweets known to have been read by Sen. Insert Bible Verse.)

Sen. Dan Sullivan: “I don’t want to comment right now. I’m on my way to a meeting. I’ll see it when I see it.”

Sen. John Cornyn going for the cornpone I-am-an-idiot routine: "You know, a lot of this stuff just goes over my head."

Sen. Kelly Loeffler: Fled to an elevator.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Didn't "want" to look at it. Fled.

Sen. Ted Cruz: “I don’t comment on the tweets.” (Sen. Cruz does, however, comment on other presidential tweets.)

Sen. Lamar Alexander: “Voters can evaluate that. I’m not going to give a running commentary on the president’s tweets.”

Sen. Susan Fret-Level Collins: “I think it would best if the president did not comment on issues that are before the courts.”

Breaking Republican ranks with unusual admissions that they do at least know how to read:

Sen. John Thune: “Most of us up here would rather not be political commentators on the president’s tweets. That’s a daily exercise that is something you all have to cover.” But: “It’s a serious accusation, which should only be made with facts and evidence. And I haven't seen any yet.”

Sen. Mitt Romney: “It was a shocking thing to say. And I won’t dignify it with any further comments.”

With the exception of Romney, each of these Republican senators, and all the others, voted to dismiss impeachment charges brought against Donald Trump with similar defenses. They claimed they had not seen the evidence of Trump's actions, and that they were simply too busy to bother reading it when presented. It is based on cowardice, for the most part, but also on a more transactional calculation: So long as they support Trump, no matter what radicalism, authoritarian proclamations, promotion of violence, or crimes he may commit, the party can continue recrafting America into something more pleasing to their own racist eyes.

There has been no bottom, even after an attack on an American church so that Trump could commandeer it out from under clergy for his own purposes. There will not be one any time soon. They have betrayed their country countless times now; there is no going back.

�In case you didn�t see the tweet...� pic.twitter.com/eoYHYW02dz

— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) June 9, 2020

Mike Pence Says ‘We’re Just Not Going To Tolerate’ Censoring Conservatives On Social Media

Breitbart News reported Monday that Vice President Mike Pence told the outlet that the Trump administration is “not going to tolerate” big tech companies that try to silence conservatives on social media, particularly during the 2020 election.

Pence: ‘We’re just not going to tolerate’ censoring conservatives

Pence said that when it comes to Google, Facebook, Twitter and other major internet platforms,  President Donald Trump has “made it very clear” this censorship of Republican-favorable views won’t be unacceptable.

“Well, the president has made it very clear that we are not going to tolerate censorship on the Internet and social media against conservatives,” Pence told Breitbart News during an interview on SiriusXM.

RELATED: Cop Faces Termination For Upholding U.S. Constitution Against Infringement

 

President Trump Considering a Review Panel

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was thinking of forming a panel to review bias against conservatives by big tech.

“President Trump is considering establishing a panel to review complaints of anticonservative bias on social media, according to people familiar with the matter, in a move that would likely draw pushback from technology companies and others,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “The plans are still under discussion but could include the establishment of a White House-created commission that would examine allegations of online bias and censorship, these people said.”

Outspoken Hollywood conservative James Woods was suspended by Twitter earlier this month.

Pence Praises Conservative Media

Pence told Breitbart News that conservatives weighing in will be crucial to informing the public with  accurate information during the election.

“The great news is there are—in addition to Breitbart—there are great and consistent voices bringing the facts to the American people,” Pence said. “While many in the mainstream media have been after this president, after this administration, since before our inauguration, it’s been that chorus of voices on the Internet that have brought forth the truth and the facts to the American people.”

 

The Vice President continued, “Whether it be the whole Mueller investigation or the Russia hoax or whether it be the impeachment that was brought forward and rejected by the Senate, it’s been those voices that’s made a difference for America, and we have every confidence going forward that we’re going to make sure the First Amendment rights of people who cherish freedom and cherish what this president has been able to do for this country are preserved, and I have every confidence that with that great army of conservative thinkers on the Internet we’re going to drive toward a great victory come November.”

RELATED: Michael Moore Trashes Joe Biden: He Lacks ‘Necessary Enthusiasm’ To Beat President Trump

Pence later said, “Look, I couldn’t be more proud to be vice president to President Donald Trump. In our first three years, this is a president who rebuilt our military, who appointed more principled conservatives to our courts than any president in history. This is a president who revived the American economy after the slowest post-cession recovery in history under the Obama administration. Millions of jobs created through tax cuts, regulatory relief, unleashing American energy, free and fair trade.”

“And this is a president who has led our nation through one of the greatest challenges in the last century that has saved lives,” Pence said, referring to Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

The post Mike Pence Says ‘We’re Just Not Going To Tolerate’ Censoring Conservatives On Social Media appeared first on The Political Insider.

Mike Pompeo ‘urged’ Trump firing of inspector general asked to investigate Mike Pompeo

On Saturday, The New York Times reported what we probably should have presumed all along: It was Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who "urged" Donald Trump to fire the State Department's inspector general, continuing the widespread purge of government officials responsible for oversight of the impeached president and his team of corrupt incompetents.

The official non-reason Trump gave for firing inspector general Steve Linick was that Trump had "lost confidence" in him, the same catch-all Trump has used to dispense with all other watchdogs who investigated, or merely raised questions about, illegal acts by Trump's team. While the White House seems uninterested in giving any more plausible rationale for the firing than Trump's ever-vocal gut, it does appear Mike Pompeo had a specific reason why he might have wanted his department's watchdog out: Linick had been asked to investigate charges that Pompeo had been corruptly using a State Department employee to run personal errands for himself and his wife.

Mike Pompeo has remained steadfastly loyal to Trump. He was identified as a key player in Trump's withholding of congressionally earmarked military funds to Ukraine in an attempt to force that nation's government into crafting materials to help him smear his presumed election opponent, and defied congressional demands for testimony. He is quite definitely the sort of person who would use government resources to have personal favors done, and would not be the first, second or sixth of Trump's cabinet appointees to be credibly identified as doing so. He is certainly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the sort to sabotage government investigations into such wrongdoing.

House Democrats are already vowing investigation into Linick's firing; there is no plausible rationale for Trump firing inspectors general across government, immediately after his impeachment, other than as a government-wide attempt to block all remaining oversight into his team's actions. Senate Republicans, as usual, are using Trump's action to either reaffirm their loyalty to Trump over the rule of law or to reaffirm their commitment to saying Trump probably oughtn't break laws while doing not a damn thing in response.

The eternally dumb Sen. Ron Johnson, proven a traitor to his own oath and nation during impeachment, as well as both before and after it, suggested that he was comfortable with the firing because Linick had not been sufficiently helpful in assisting Senate Republicans with an unidentified Senate investigation almost certainly pertaining to continued election-year efforts to smear Trump opponent Joe Biden.

The less dumb Sen. Chuck Grassley, also a traitor to his own oath and nation for the same multi-year patterns of behavior, issued the now bog-standard sternly worded statement noting that Congress requires explicit written reasons for such a firing, and that he will continue to be slightly huffy about that until the precise moment somebody asks him to take an actual action upon which he will fold like an origami swan.

Sen. Mitt Romney, alone in his impeachment opinion that perhaps if top administration officials are doing crimes it would behoove the Senate to at least momentary feign an interest in acting as check against such acts, gave a similar statement. Trump’s actions are a “threat to accountable democracy,” Romney warned, without suggesting he would engage in even the smallest of acts to combat that threat.

So the answer is no. No, it does not appear that the Republican Senate is willing to take any action as Trump continues his purge of those who have been investigating, or who have merely been charged with watching over, his team's continued pattern of grossly unethical and/or criminal acts.

It is likely that Grassley and other Republican concern-bearers will take no actions to support House efforts to call witnesses and probe the reasons for the firings, much less engage in such probes themselves. The party has made it absolutely clear that Trump and his allies are allowed to use government for their personal gain, and are allowed to sabotage any government effort or fire any government employee necessary in order to obtain that gain. They betrayed their country unforgivably in refusing to even conduct a trial or hear from direct witnesses, during impeachment; the play now will be to allow Trump to commit any number of further crimes, rather than conducting oversight between now and November. Trump's corrupt acts will not disappear then, whether or wins or loses, but for Johnson, Grassley and the others, putting off judgment day is paramount. Even if it is only temporary, it is now a party necessity.

Tapper to Senator Johnson: I find it hard to believe that if President Obama had gotten rid of four Inspectors General in six weeks that you would have the same attitude that you seem to have right now pic.twitter.com/7e9sBsVUT1

— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) May 17, 2020

Senate Republicans move to quietly confirm lying Trump toady Rep. Ratcliffe during pandemic chaos

The rise to power, for ambitious conservatives, has been greatly simplified in the last few years. Attach yourself to crackpot far-right and conspiracy theories; use the fame to propel yourself to a House seat in a noncompetitive, always-Republican district; do your best to attract the attention of Donald Trump, who carefully sifts through the candidates and selects only the most toadying, dishonest, and conspiracy-riddled for new administration positions. If it worked for Mike Pompeo, it'll work for anyone.

While the rest of the nation is distracted by a true national emergency, Senate Republicans are taking the opportunity to quietly schedule hearings for fervent Trump acolyte Rep. John Ratcliffe's confirmation as Trump's new director of national intelligence. Ratcliffe had to bow out of the nomination in scandal the last time Trump attempted it; after the Senate nullification of impeachment charges, however, Senate Republicans seem to be signaling that there's no "scandal" left that they won't pave over to do Trump's bidding.

CNN reports the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr, intends to hold a confirmation hearing for Ratcliffe next week. Burr has been mired in his own, far worse scandal of late after it was disclosed that he responded to secret government briefings on the likely severity of the upcoming pandemic by dumping his own stock market holdings before the resulting market crash. Burr had opposed Ratcliffe's prior nomination last year, but has now evidently changed his mind.

CNN implies Burr's change of heart might be because he has been under heavy attack from Trump, who views him as disloyal for his unambiguous recognition that yes, the Russian government did indeed act to manipulate the 2016 elections. But it may be that Burr, at least in theory being investigated by the Justice Department for his stock dumping, has come to the same post-impeachment conclusion as every other non-Romney Senate Republican: In for a penny, in for a pound. If we're going to erase Trump's proven extortion attempt against a foreign nation, using the tools of government to brazenly abuse the office in a manner long recognized, unambiguously, as corrupt, it's impossible to argue that merely installing a Trump-loyal sycophant of sketchy record as top intelligence official is an authoritarian-minded bridge too far.

But CNN also implies that the move forward to install Ratcliffe is because the current part-time acting Trump pick, odious hyperpartisan Twitter troll Richard Grenell, is deemed so universally unacceptable that both parties would rather install a rotting tuna in the post than leave him in it. There may be more truth to that one.

Ratcliffe is, in typical Trump adviser fashion, about the last person you would want in the role of director of national intelligence. He has little relevant experience. As a House Republican, he has proven a pathetic and dishonest partisan, aggressively promoting Trump-favoring conspiracy theories like the notion that the intelligence community's probe of 2016 Russian election hacking was actually a Democratic-led plot against Trump. These conspiracies were enough for Senate Republicans to signal Ratcliffe's nomination would be a heavy lift even for them last time around, but it was the discovery that Ratcliffe had "embellished" his resume by a considerable amount that led to his eventual withdrawal from the nomination.

Ratcliffe had claimed terrorism experience, claiming that as U.S. attorney he had "convicted" terrorism-linked individuals—but the federal officials who actually prosecuted the case disputed that, saying they couldn't identify Ratcliffe as having "any" role in that prosecution. Ratcliffe similarly claimed he "arrested over 300 illegal immigrants on a single day" as U.S. attorney—the case he was apparently referring to actually swept up only 39 workers, was widely considered an embarrassment and a failure, and had no apparent involvement by Ratcliffe whatsoever.

That was enough, back in August, to send the seemingly perpetually dishonest Ratcliffe packing. After Trump's renomination, however, it seems that everyone involved, from Ratcliffe to Burr to Trump, have decided that "shame" is no longer something Republicans can have.

The confirmation hearing will be eventful, however, with at least Democratic senators eager to probe Ratcliffe's claims that the investigation into Russian hacking was a Democratic plot against the glorious ascendant Trump. And Republican estimations that Ratcliffe's confirmation can be sneaked through a busy news cycle might instead find that news-starved, entertainment-starved Americans stuck at home might not have anything more pressing to do than watching Richard Burr and other Republicans again humiliate themselves for Donald's benefit.

Fascism: Personnel director quits in ongoing Trump purge of non-loyalists from government

Every single paragraph of this Politico report on the resignation of Office of Personnel Management (OPM) director Dale Cabaniss somehow manages to be its own special brand of terrifying.

The short version is that ex-Trump "body man" John McEntee, who Trump appointed to head the Presidential Personnel Office despite zero qualifications other than the requisite suck-up-ness, seems to have so infuriated Cabaniss that he bailed out with zero notice on Tuesday. The longer version is that McEntee and allies seem to be a rolling catastrophe, combining demands for absolute loyalty with what appears to be a fairly solid attempt to reactivate the Hitler Youth.

There are, bizarrely, now three college undergraduates moved by McEntee and crew into positions of new appointee vetting, with no good (or any) explanations from McEntee as to just why some of the most sensitive hiring decisions in government are going through Trump-loyal college seniors taking a break from doing their coursework. John Troup Hemenway, James Bacon, and Anthony Labruna are all college seniors with no apparent qualifications for their positions other than, again, Trump loyalty.

But there's also the arrival of a new "White House liaison" to the OPM, Paul Dans, who appears to be assisting McEntee in his fascist-premised purge of disloyal-to-Trump government officials but, again, has seemingly little relevant experience for his new position or duties. Reading between the lines, it appears Dans' performance so far is not impressing the people in government with actual work to do.

All of this, in other words, is becoming a complete sh-tshow in the post-impeachment days of Trump attempting to remove anyone and everyone in government who is not loyal to him while, simultaneously, a pandemic sweeps through American cities on a six-week head start due to the astonishing incompetence of Dear Leader and his boot-licking loyalists.

It doesn't seem possible to imagine how the Trump team's response to the current crisis could get worse than it currently is, but Trump's ex-soda-bringer is assembling a team to make sure it absolutely does get worse, and that anyone with subject-matter expertise who might have slipped through initial appointment cracks is quickly replaced with new, invariably compliant toadies who know better than to contradict Trump's various imaginary pronouncements about how Actually he is doing the best job of anyone who ever lived, so shut up.

Again, with no pushback from Republican lawmakers or anyone else in the party. With no worry, on the part of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate, that Trump's purge of non-loyalists will further wreck an already incompetent government response to a pandemic that could kill untold numbers of Americans. Not a peep.

Reuters: White House classified COVID preparedness meetings, blocking experts and hampering response

At every possible moment Donald Trump and his team of Republican incompetents chooses the worst possible path. Reuters is now reporting via four administration sources that the White House "has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified."

"The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions" have been held in a secure room—excluding government experts who did not have the requisite security clearances, says Reuters. The administration has literally been keeping coronavirus response discussions secret from some of the government's own experts.

Did it make a difference? It likely did. Reuters quotes an anonymous official as saying "some very critical people" were not allowed in those discussions, which began in January. It also seems evident that the classification was used by the White House, yet again, to withhold information from the public that the White House believed could be damaging to Donald Trump: The news that the now-pandemic was all but certain to arrive here, would have real and damaging effects, and would cost American lives.

This is Sen. Moscow Mitch McConnell's fault, and the fault of the other Republican senators. They knew full well during impeachment that the White House was improperly classifying his discussions with foreign leaders so as to avoid disclosing them to the public. They knew full well he was placing his own interests, and his own ego, over public safety. They gave him full authority to continue doing it.

Trump’s self-absorbed incompetence continues to drive federal coronavirus response

Hello there. It is whatever day of the week it is, and Donald Trump's blazing incompetence is still severely hampering a federal coronavirus response that should have been in full swing many weeks ago.

But don't worry: Things aren't as bad as they seem. The Washington Post reports,"Inside the White House, some officials privately acknowledged Monday that Trump has exacerbated the problem with his misleading and false statements, as well as his callous comments."

See there? We may have lost our only chance to keep a new coronavirus from reaching epidemic levels throughout the nation, but White House staffers are willing to at least privately acknowledge that Trump may be screwing things up, even if they aren't willing to say so publicly. Feel better? No? Huh. Well, they tried.

Since the coronavirus emerged in China, the Trump administration's response has been focused largely on massaging Donald Trump's ego. Trump did not want virus concerns to disrupt the stock market, so Trump played down those concerns. Trump went further, claiming that those warning of the virus' danger were partisans whose only aim was to damage him.

Public officials either went along with these claims or did not—and when they did not, Trump appointed Mike Pence the new head of COVID-19 communications so that the administration's messaging could be better monitored and shaped.

That initial stalling for Trump's own personal benefit may turn out to be tremendously costly. Trump's blustering press conference performance on Monday, speaking almost exclusively in economic terms before bailing from the room early, didn't help. On Tuesday the White House continued to flog economic concerns, suggesting a vague program of tax cuts would soon be revealed but being stubbornly opaque about the status of virus testing and other medical details.

The common refrain throughout from White House officials has been the “bold” and “decisive” decision-making of Dear Leader. Mike Pence lathers it on thick and heavy in every televised appearance: Every decision Dear Leader has made has been bold and decisive and not at all similar to or worse than those of a potted plant. Even now, the primary concern of Trump's White House team is the stability of the notoriously unstable Trump; all other coronavirus concerns are voiced only after the requisite cradle-rocking to soothe Trump's nerves for another few hours.

It might be self-serving on the part of the coronavirus "task force." But it also might be necessary. Trump's incompetence and unwillingness to take the epidemic threat seriously has damaged the public response, but he is still incompetent and unstable, and can still damage the public response much, much more. If he believes public health experts are not properly praising him, he can replace them with full-time toadies, as he has elsewhere in his post-impeachment sweep of insufficiently loyal public officials. If he watches Fox News and sees people being angry about containment measures affecting their lives, he can go on television or on Twitter and demand that containment measures be lessened simply because he believes the public would praise him for it.

Trump's incompetence doesn't just matter. It's the driving force behind the federal government's disaster preparedness efforts, or lack thereof.

That continues, every day. Trump's reluctance to issue an emergency declaration in Washington state, for example, is hampering state efforts to expand medical capacity.

Trump's history of bold, decisive lying matters as well. During a public health emergency in which it is vital that the public believe and listen to health officials, Trump is a literally unbelievable figure. Trump has surrounded himself with liars proven on countless occasions to be willing to lie to the public; the White House has little credibility now, regardless of its declarations. Trump has claimed that any number of world events are "fake news," a conspiracy against him. His mocking dismissals of the seriousness of the virus have already spread to his supporters; will experts be able to reverse any of that damage?

This is what Republicans voted for when they ignored Trump's self-serving behavior, even when it became criminal. This is precisely the sort of national emergency that any president can face, at any moment: Republicans either presumed that this one would not face one, or that he would rise to the occasion (he cannot), or simply made the estimation that the damage done to the nation by having a president incapable of non-self-centered calculations would be worth it, because that damage would not be done directly to them.

That's quite the risk. But they knew, from Mitch McConnell down, that they were taking it.