Senator’s cellphone seized amid federal investigation of stock trades made ahead of COVID-19 spread

Months after it was revealed that he had made dozens of questionable stock trades ahead of a global pandemic—and advised wealthy constituents to do the same—Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina had his cellphone seized by federal agents Wednesday night. The agents were at the senator’s Washington, D.C., residence.

Burr, who is a member of the “Gang of Eight” and the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sparked scrutiny in mid-March after making 33 transactions in February, that rid him of a significant chunk of his stock portfolio and netted him anywhere between $628,000 and $1.72 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. The transactions came after briefings on the potential impact of the novel coronavirus from the U.S. Department of Health.

While NPR broke the story about the private warnings to rich Tar Heels, ProPublica was the first to report on the selloff. 

ProPublica’s analysis indicated that the Feb. 13 selling spree was Burr’s “largest selling day of at least the past 14 months.”

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.

A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline.

[...]

Burr is not a particularly wealthy member of the Senate: Roll Call estimated his net worth at $1.7 million in 2018, indicating that the February sales significantly shaped his financial fortunes and spared him from some of the pain that many Americans are now facing.

The newest and wealthiest member of the Senate, Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler, also got in on the secret selloff, making 29 transactions that add up to millions.  It’s worth noting that Burr is just one of three senators (and the only one still in office) who voted against the 2012 STOCK Act, which, as McClatchy puts it, “explicitly prevents members of Congress and their staffs from using nonpublic information for insider trading.”  Both the FBI and the DOJ have refused comment, as has Burr’s team; however, as the LA Times notes, the search warrant indicates “a significant escalation” in the investigation into Burr’s possible violation of the STOCK Act.

Obama’s office slams GOP investigation into Ukraine, Joe Biden, in private letter from March

In a letter from March, the office of former president Barack Obama condemned a congressional investigation into former vice president and now presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. You likely remember the Republicans’ incessant focus on Hunter Biden’s position at Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural energy company. Trump and various Republican allies have alleged that there’s a scandal there, and alleged possible conflict of interest for Joe Biden, who was key on Ukraine policy at the time. And of course, Republicans had claimed this investigation had nothing to do with wanting to distract from Trump’s impeachment proceedings or the upcoming general election. 

In the private letter signed by Obama’s records representative and now available because the office released it to BuzzFeed News upon request, Obama’s office described it as an effort to "to shift the blame for Russian interference in the 2016 election to Ukraine” and said it was “without precedent." The letter, which was first obtained and reported on by BuzzFeed News, does not actually explicitly mention Biden by name, and does agree to release the requested presidential records.  

"The request for early release of presidential records in order to give credence to a Russian disinformation campaign--one that has already been thoroughly investigated by a bipartisan congressional committee--is without precedent," the letter, dated March 13 and sent to the National Archives and Records Administration (which maintains presidential records), says in part. 

As a quick review, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson made the record request in November 2019. The two senators have effectively spearheaded the investigation into the Bidens and Ukraine, and have been doing so since last fall. Both wanted records on meetings between Ukrainian officials and the Obama administration from the National Archives. 

The letter from Obama’s office refers to former National Security Council analyst and Russia expert Fiona Hill’s now-viral opening testimony about the notion that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that had a misinformation effort in the 2016 election. She said it’s “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

The Obama office relented and has allowed the records to be released "in the interest of countering the misinformation campaign underlying this request.” Former presidents (and technically, current presidents, though it’s no surprise that representatives for Trump wouldn’t do so) are allowed to review and use executive privileges on record requests thanks to a federal mandate. But neither Obama’s office nor Trump’s did so. Obama’s office released the records essentially to counter the message that is beneath the request.

The letter finishes: “We emphasize that abuse of the special access process strikes at the heart of presidential confidentiality interests and undermines the statutory framework and norms that govern access to presidential records.”

At the time of Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, Republicans went out of their way to distract from any perceived weakness and create an enemy—in this case, Hunter Biden and Ukraine. But it didn’t end there. For example, Sens. Grassley and Johnson have reportedly recently dug into Secret Service documents to see whether Joe and Hunter Biden ever overlapped on trips to Ukraine. It’s endless. Even now, as a global pandemic rages on and the United States continues to fumble public health crisis management, GOP senators continue to dig into the Burisma theories. 

Trump says he might use pandemic relief funding to extort so-called sanctuary cities

Oh, not this shit again. Impeached president Donald Trump on Tuesday returned to attacking so-called sanctuary cities, but with a pandemic quid pro quo twist (I guess he really learned that lesson, right Susan Collins?): now he’s threatening to condition relief funding on local policies limiting cooperation with federal deportation agents. “Now, if it's COVID-related, I guess we can talk about it, but we'd want certain things also, including sanctuary city adjustments because we have so many people in sanctuary cities,” Trump claimed.

“Adjustments” probably means “rescinding,” because the man can’t stand anything that remotely humanizes brown people. But can he do that? No, tweeted immigration policy expert Aaron Reichlin-Melnick. “To be clear, as multiple federal courts have already ruled, Congress has to specifically give the president the authority to condition grants on sanctuary city status in order to do this—and since they haven't, he can't.” But will he try? That’s another story.

Trump also maybe confused his own very clear contempt for U.S. sanctuary cities with the reality around these policies, falsely claiming he didn’t think they’re popular, “even by radical-left folks. Because what's happening is people are being protected that shouldn't be protected and a lot of bad things are happening with sanctuary cities.”

Immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice pointed out in 2017 that these policies are actually pretty popular among police departments. “In order for the police to be most effective at their jobs, they need to be able to work with immigrants who report crimes, give tips, or testify as witnesses,” the group said. “In order for immigrants to trust the police, they need to know that an interaction with law enforcement won’t lead to their deportation.”

And that makes communities safer for all. “Research backs this up; one analysis has shown that sanctuary cities see 15% less crime than non-sanctuary cities,” the group continued. “Another found that two-thirds of the cities that had the highest jumps in murder rates in 2016 were not sanctuary cities—in fact, they are the opposite, generally eager to hold immigrants for ICE pick-up and detention.”

But, again, just because Trump can’t do something doesn’t mean he and henchman Stephen Miller won’t try. They’ve already exploited a pandemic that has killed nearly 60,000 Americans to, in just a just a couple of examples, deport children who are supposed to be protected by U.S. law, and implement draconian immigration changes that have been the stuff of anti-immigrant leaders’ dreams.

“We cannot allow the Trump administration to exploit a public health crisis to further their anti-immigrant agenda,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted in response to Trump threatening to hold funding hostage. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, House Oversight Committee chair, tweeted a simple and concise “no.” No word on this extortion threat from Sen. Collins, however.

By making the pandemic a battle of ‘us vs. them,’ the pro-Trump media set their audience up to die

Long after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed and the bodies have been buried or cremated, historians will try to understand how a country that made up only 4.25% of the world’s population somehow managed have 22% of the worldwide number of people infected with the virus.

They’ll puzzle over statistics showing huge numbers of deaths in the rural American South and Midwest, far away from the most populated areas. They’ll consult physicians and epidemiologists for a rational explanation, but will find none. They’ll look at per capita income and marvel at the fact that this country harbored the wealthiest people on the planet, with even its middle class enjoying a (relatively) prosperous standard of living compared to other nations caught up in the pandemic.

Why then, they’ll ask, did so many people die? Why were so many infected in the first place?

As reported by Jeremy Peters in The New York Times, the media had something to do with it.

A review of hundreds of hours of programming and social media traffic from Jan. 1 through mid-March — when the White House started urging people to stay home and limit their exposure to others — shows that doubt, cynicism and misinformation about the virus took root among many of Mr. Trump’s boosters in the right-wing media as the number of confirmed cases in the United States grew.

It was during this lull — before the human and economic toll became undeniable — when the story of the coronavirus among the president’s most stalwart defenders evolved into the kind of us-versus-them clash that Mr. Trump has waged for much of his life.

The Times carefully traces back the response by the right wing in this country to what is rapidly emerging as the greatest public health threat in U.S. history. That response was striking in its knee-jerk, reactionary cynicism. From Candace Owens' sarcastic tweeting in late February, laughing about the dire warnings of medical professionals as a “Doomsday cult of the ‘Left’” (she actually doubled down just this week, advising her audience to consider the number of deaths with “a little perspective”), to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, who in February called the virus “a new pathway for hitting President Trump,” to the sudden about-face of Sean Hannity—in exact tandem with Trump’s vacillating messages about the seriousness of the pandemic.

The blaming by the right continues to this day, as media figures continue to try to concoct new distractions for Americans from Trump’s abysmal negligence and disregard, even as the horror unfolds in Americans’ living rooms, broadcast from hospital floors in living color on the nightly news. As Peters notes, this blame game is also nothing new.

The pervasiveness of the denial among many of Mr. Trump’s followers from early in the outbreak, and their sharp pivot to finding fault with an old foe once the crisis deepened, is a pattern that one expert in the spread of misinformation said resembled a textbook propaganda campaign.

A “propaganda campaign” it was, and continues to be. Modern conservatism and what we understand as the “right,” with its torch-bearer, the Republican Party, does not thrive in this country based on its inherent ideas or philosophy. The absolute dearth of legislation passed by the Republican-dominated Congress during the first two years of the Trump administration (beyond a singularly skewed tax cut for corporate America) is the best evidence of that. Republicanism and conservatism do not exist because of their “ideas,” because, frankly, their ideas are largely repugnant to most Americans. That is why they rely on inflaming division and prejudices in their base while seeking to suppress the votes of as many non-Republicans as possible. Their “ideas,” to the extent they have any, are toxic and unpopular.

So the right wing always needs an enemy to blame, someone "conspiring" against them, and they need a media apparatus to stoke fear of that enemy in their supporters. The enemy can be African American, Latinx, Muslim, or a member of the LGBTQ community; the villains can be teachers, government employees, or even college professors. More generically, that enemy can be the “media,” “liberals,” or “Democrats.” And even more broadly, “financial elites”—which, roughly translated, usually means “Jews.” It really doesn’t matter.

Tobin Smith, a former Fox News contributor and anchor, explained last year in an op-ed for The New York Times how the network deliberately creates enemies for its viewers, to bind them to the network by providing them a sense of grievance, of someone conspiring against their interests. He explains the psychology as activating the Fox viewer’s “fight or flight juices,” making the viewer feel as if he is being attacked. He compares it to the administration of a highly addictive drug, prompting the viewer to come back again and again for another “conspiracy fix.”

Believing in conspiracy theories is a psychological construct for people to take back some semblance of control in their lives. It inflates their sense of importance. It makes them feel they have access to “special knowledge” that the rest of the world is “too blind,” “too dumb” or “too corrupt” to understand.

The COVID-19 pandemic has offered the right a litany of enemies on whom to place blame. The Times identified a systemic pattern among right-wing media’s response to the coronavirus—so systemic that the Times was able to categorize four stages of blame-shifting at various times by the right, as they continued to deny, deflect, and above all, defend Donald Trump. The stages were, in the order they were rolled out: 1) Blaming China; 2) minimizing the risk (and in some instances, ridiculing it); 3) sharing “survivor” stories to further minimize the risk; and 4) blaming the left (or “Democrats”).

The Times amply documents all of these tactics, as evidenced by Fox News, Limbaugh, Hannity, and the entire right-wing apparatus. China-blaming started early on, with Fox News as the “launching pad” for halting all travel from China, the promotion of the phrase “Chinese virus,” and the conspiracy theories of Republican politicians such as Tom Cotton, who suggested that the virus had been concocted in a Chinese bioweapons lab. This China-bashing continues to this day, with administration officials peddling the “Wuhan virus” designation to inflame their base’s sense of xenophobia and anger.

As the Times reports, minimizing or ridiculing the risk was a staple of right-wing propaganda from January onward, with recent Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh exclaiming: “Flight attendant working L.A.X. tests positive. Oh, my God, 58 cases! Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” and Sean Hannity gleefully feigning fear: “The apocalypse is imminent and you’re going to all die, all of you in the next 48 hours. And it’s all President Trump’s fault,” the Fox News star said, adding, “or at least that’s what the media mob and the Democratic extreme radical socialist party would like you to think.” Limbaugh claimed that the coronavirus “appear[ed] less deadly than the flu,” but warned that the media kept “promoting panic.” The Times notes that a Breitbart news editor named Joel Pollak merrily published supposedly “scientific” articles minimizing the threat and emphasizing the “best possible outcomes.”

Just one day after Pollak urged Americans to “chill out” about the pandemic, the first American died.

Their audience smiled and nodded, sure that this was all a liberal plot. While thousands around the world were becoming sick and dying from the virus, the “tone of the coverage from Fox, talk radio and the commentators who make up the president’s zealous online army remained dismissive.” This is probably what will be most remembered by those future historians, perplexed at the startling body counts in places like Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, because governors in all these states took their cues directly from such dismissiveness from people in power, and people with a platform.

The idea that this was all a “liberal hoax” was not only articulated by Trump himself, but amplified a thousand times over by Fox News and its ilk. That this cynical gamesmanship was occurring not in reference to a political campaign but a dire public health threat seemed not to matter to any of these people. They were collecting their fat paychecks, and that was apparently all that mattered to them.

After the deadly effects of COVID-19 became impossible to ignore, Fox & Friends ran a segment happily celebrating how its impact would really be quite minimal. “Survivor stories” such as Jerri Jorgensen’s were highlighted, suggesting to viewers that the virus was not a “big deal.” Limbaugh picked that one up, joking to his 15 million listeners that callers expressing concern about potential exposure weren’t phoning him from “beyond the grave.”

Finally, as the pandemic became more and more prevalent and could not be disregarded, came what Peters characterizes as the “Blame the Left” phase.

By the middle of March, the story of the virus on the right was one of how Mr. Trump’s enemies had weaponized “the flu” and preyed on the insecurities of an emasculated America.

Mr. Limbaugh blamed “wimp politics — which is liberalism.” Mr. Pollak, whose tone grew more serious, said the virus had spread while Democrats stretched out the president’s impeachment. “We now know the cost of impeachment,” he wrote.

Frank Luntz, the veteran political strategist who advises Republican leaders, said many on the right were applying the scornful, “own the libs” mentality of social media to a deadly and frightening health crisis.

We’re still at the tail end of that phase now, with conservatives and rightwing trolls attacking coronavirus task force expert Dr. Anthony Fauci with death threats, and others who have successfully punctured the right’s toxic bubble blaming January’s impeachment proceedings for Trump’s gross negligence and inaction, and, once again, blaming the Chinese. It’s not clear who the right will blame next for Trump’s colossal failure. But by the time they get around to it, many of their followers will already be dead.

Because all of this had an impact—in our politically polarized nation, how could it not? It caused millions of Americans who trusted such sources—who trusted Donald Trump—to let down their guard, to throw caution to the wind. It caused Republican governors to ignore the harrowing warnings of established science and advise their constituents to carry on as if the threat did not exist. It led those citizens to genuinely believe everything was going to be all right.

But we’re not going to be all right. Thanks to these monstrously amoral and unconcerned purveyors of Republican propaganda, many, many people are going to die who could have and should have lived. Families that should have remained intact are going to suffer the loss of people they love. And people who did actually understand the gravity of this pandemic are going to be infected by those who were lulled into complacency by that propaganda.

The full horror of what the right-wing media has done is just now becoming apparent, but in the coming weeks it will be impossible to ignore.

Flipping the Senate, and more you might have missed

It’s the end of my third week in quarantine and I’ve gotta admit folks, I’m starting to lose track of time. Mostly I’ve just been obsessively reading the news and playing a lot of Animal Crossing. But hey, at least one of those makes writing up this story a lot easier. (Though I will say playing Animal Crossing makes reading the news more tolerable so, it’s a give-and-take.) Anyway, enough of my rambling: Here’s what you might have missed this week.  

The path to flipping the Senate—and ridding us of Mitch McConnell—starts in North Carolina

By David Nir 

With the coronavirus pandemic bearing down on us and the nation in dire need of urgent congressional action, what did Sen. Mitch McConnell do? He sent the Senate home and went on vacation for a long weekend in Kentucky, accompanied by none other than Brett Kavanaugh.

While McConnell dallied—it took him five days to pass the House’s first coronavirus bill—the number of sick and dead grew, and our ability to flatten the all-important curve shrank. But McConnell doesn’t care: He was too busy swearing in another unqualified Trump judge.

That’s why we must have new leadership in the Senate as soon as possible, and we can start in North Carolina by electing Army veteran Cal Cunningham.

Mitch is a horrible, corrupt, inept, true villain and although all we can hope to do during a pandemic is take care of each other, maybe taking care of each other includes making sure he’s unemployed come next January. Please donate $3 now to help Cal Cunningham flip the Senate and boot Mitch McConnell.

The bucks, the deaths, the misery, the chaos, are 100% on Donald Trump

By Mark Sumner

The United States is in a very bad place in the novel coronavirus pandemic. With more cases than any other nation on the planet, health care systems under strain in cities across the nation, and a rising case fatality rate to accompany that growth, the outlook is nothing less than dire. As Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned, the U.S. could be looking at between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths related to COVID-19 before the primary pandemic is past. And there are reasons to believe those numbers may be optimistic.

No matter that Donald Trump says, that does not mean he did a “good job.” It means that, with months of warning and near-infinite resources, he did a worse job than every other government on the entire planet—a job so awful that when a decade from now someone is unlucky enough to think of Trump, this is what they will remember. This is all they will remember. There was a crisis, Trump failed the nation, and the cost was many, many times worse than 9/11.

It’s on him, and he needs to pay dearly for it come November. 

Trump has the gall to insinuate that doctors and nurses want more masks so they can steal them

By Meteor Blades

“How do you go from 10 to 20, to 300,000—10 to 20,000 masks to 300,000—even though this is different? Something’s going on, and you ought to look into it, as reporters,” Trump said. “Where are the masks going—are they going out the back door? Somebody should probably look into that, because I just don’t see from a practical standpoint how that’s possible to go from that to that, and we have that happening in numerous places.”

That’s right, this hoax of a president, the nation’s faker-in-chief, who has failed to move whatever mountains it takes to get adequate quantities of personal protection equipment into the hands of the people who are risking their lives as they try to save others, has dared hint that they are requesting more masks than they need so they can steal them.

Senate Republicans have no excuse for their piss-poor coronavirus response. No excuse whatsoever

By Kerry Eleveld 

As the U.S. death toll due to the novel coronavirus climbs, congressional Republicans want to make sure they aren't left holding the bag for the federal government's piss-poor response in the early days of the burgeoning crisis. This week, GOP lawmakers have been trying out a new excuse: impeachment. That's right—that moment when 52 of 53 Senate Republicans voted to acquit Donald Trump, ensuring he would be at the helm right as the country was facing a burgeoning public health crisis unlike any seen in decades.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave their new excuse a test run on Tuesday during an interview with a conservative radio host, arguing impeachment had "diverted the attention of the government.” Later Tuesday, Trump himself shot that idea down, saying, “I don't think I would have done any better had I not been impeached." But after being singularly responsible for voting to keep the most incompetent president in history in charge of the federal response to a pandemic, Senate Republicans are pretty desperate to pin the blame on Democrats. 

That’s all for this week, folks. What’s a story that you think did not get enough attention this week? Let me know below. Looking forward to talking to you in the comments below. 

A day after mocking self-distancing, Trump-supporting ‘evangelical’ leader closes Liberty University

Nothing says Christian hypocrisy like evangelical figurehead Jerry Falwell Jr. His Liberty University has a large online student body but is also home to around 15,000 students on the Lynchburg, Virginia, campus. On Friday, Falwell Jr. was talking to Fox & Friends, where he downplayed the severity of the coronavirus and the need to close Liberty’s campus. His appearance on the show included Falwell’s speculation that all of the “hype” around the coronavirus was some kind of Democratic Party plot against Trump. Well, life comes at you fast, and Falwell is now closing the campus, according to HuffPo:

“We originally believed it was safest to return our students following their spring break instead of having them return following greater exposure opportunities from leaving them in different parts of the country for longer periods. But, the Governor’s recent decision to limit certain gatherings has left us no practical choice because we have so many classes of more than 100 students.” 

Falwell didn’t feel this way over the weekend, when he wasn’t acting very Christ-like toward his online detractors.

Well, not exactly, Jerry. Falwell Jr.’s appearance on Fox & Friends was something to watch, including his explanation of how landowners should have more rights than others, and his allegation that the coronavirus alerts being sent out by everyone except Fox News and Donald Trump were a lot of bunk, saying: “It’s just strange to me how people are over-reacting. The H1N1 virus of 2009 killed 17,000 people. it was the flu, also I think. And there was not the same hype. You just didn’t see it on the news 24/7. It makes you wonder if there’s a political reason for that. It’s a, you know, impeachment didn’t work, and the Mueller report didn’t work, and Article 25 didn’t work, so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump.” He then spouted a theory that North Korea got “together with China” and created this as a conspiracy to … destroy their own economy?

Well, conspiracy or not, hoax or not, it seems like even Falwell Jr. serves to lose a little of the very money that has been driving the unforgivable Trump and Republican response to this global emergency.

Republicans are trying to get people killed (and are being stunningly effective)

The situation in Italy is spiraling out of control, with infections and deaths spiking by the hour. 

BREAKING: Another HUGE increase in #CoronaVirus infections in Italy �� 3 590 infected and 368 dead today alone. - 24 747 infected. - 1 809 dead. - 7.3% death rate. This is a human tragedy �

— PeterSweden (@PeterSweden7) March 15, 2020

The United States is on track to emulate Italy, both in the reach and severity of the human and economic toll. One party is doing its best to save lives. Unfortunately, it’s not the party in control of the White House, Senate, or wide swaths of the media. And those Republican efforts to confuse, obfuscate, and obstruct a real response are dismayingly effective. Let us count the ways. 

Impeached President Donald Trump

From disbanding the White House pandemic preparedness task force to refusing to let the U.S. use the World Health Organization COVID-19 test, to his daily lies, it’s obvious that the rot starts at the very top. What did people think was going to happen when they put a bigoted, serial sexual harasser reality TV star in charge of the country? Those who vote on racial animus and misogyny are getting a daily reminder of what that costs our country. And ironically, or perhaps not so much so, they are the ones who will bear the brunt of the coming pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Trump continues to model poor behavior; he shows on a daily basis that he is the single biggest impediment to the kind of national behavioral changes we need to see to arrest this disease with the least amount of damage possible.

Trump has decided the entire coronavirus mess is a dastardly plot to deny him a second term. He is incapable of considering the human toll of the disease, or the economic ramifications to everyday Americans. He’s concerned only about how it affects his reelection. And again, his acolytes take their cues from the top, such as the Trish Regan abomination that adorns the top of this post. 

Regan did end up losing her prime time show over that segment, showing that at least someone at Fox corporate realizes that killing off their core demographic (their median age is 65). But she’s not the only pushing the theory that this is all one big political ploy to damage Trump. Trump’s very own outgoing chief of staff has been making that case for weeks. “The press was covering their hoax of the day because they thought it would bring down the president,” Mulvaney told attendees at the conservative CPAC conference, at the same time the disease was spreading among its attendees. “The reason you’re seeing so much attention to [the coronavirus] today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the president. That’s what this is all about.” 

And of course, let’s not forget Trump: 

�They�re trying to scare everybody, from meetings, cancel the meetings, close the schools � you know, destroy the country. And that�s ok, as long as we can win the election,� POTUS told guests at Mar-a-Lago last weekend. https://t.co/UxZb0GumFU

— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 15, 2020

He literally says it’s okay if the country is destroyed as long as he wins reelection. He doesn't give a shit about the economic or human toll of the pandemic and will act only to safeguard his electoral effort. And that’s why we don’t have testing. He thinks a higher number of confirmed cases makes him look bad. 

President Trump "did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks [because] more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president" https://t.co/aa2QHQVbPk

— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) March 12, 2020

We all knew this. Even Republicans knew this when they acquitted him during the impeachment trial. Yet they didn’t care. So they own this: Every death, every job lost. It’s all on them. 

The Trump executive branch

Donald Trump had white nationalist Stephen Miller and idiot-boy Jared Kushner whip up a random-ass “I’m doing stuff” speech just hours before airing, with little regard to any consequences their spur-of-the-moment “proposals” would create. Among them, a complete ban on all travel and commerce between the United States and Europe that single-handedly almost completely crashed the US economy. Embarrassingly, the administration had to walk that back—no, it didn't apply to the cargo. And no, it didn’t apply to Americans. (So … what’s the point? Americans have super awesome immunity powers?) Yet in the panic that situation created, Americans rushed back home and … created these kinds of scenes at US customs points of entry:

#BREAKING: Passengers stuck in long lines for immigration at @DFWAirport tell us there are no offers of hand sanitizer, gloves, or masks from U.S. Customs / Immigration. Travelers say they�ve had no screenings of temp yet and no one following #coronavirus protocols. pic.twitter.com/9viCnWdncz

— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) March 15, 2020

By supposedly acting to prevent the disease from entering the United States (even though, um, it’s already here), those morons in the executive branch didn’t think “maybe we should bolster staffing at customs checkpoints. Maybe we should create a plan to space out people, so we wouldn’t create the Petri dish we’re supposedly trying to prevent.” 

Conservatism

It is in precisely older, rural counties that hospitals are being closed in record numbers. “The hospital closure crisis is most pronounced in states that have declined Medicaid expansion, the policy in the Affordable Care Act that offers coverage for individuals whose income is at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line,” reported Mother Jones. “Of the 106 rural hospitals that have shut down since 2010, 77 were located in states that hadn’t expanded Medicaid, the study found.” In their zeal to stick it to Obamacare, those older rural areas are losing exactly the one thing that saves the lives of the elderly and those with compromised immune systems once infected—hospital beds. 

This novel coronavirus is treatable as long as severely impacted patients can be hooked up to respirators. But given available hospital beds, that becomes impossible once a critical mass of patients is infected, they outstrip the supply of hospital beds, and they are then left to die, gasping for air. That’s why the Italian death toll has climbed so high, with doctors having to perform battlefield-style triage—is this patient too old? Too (otherwise) sick? Do they have small children at home? Even patients who survive initial triage may be unplugged if someone with a greater survival chance shows up. It is beyond nightmarish. 

And you know what? The United States has fewer hospital beds, per thousand people, than even Italy

    South Korea: 12.3

    China: 4.3

    Italy: 3.2

    United States: 2.8

South Korea has handled the virus better than anyone else, and guess what, having hospital beds is part of the answer. Meanwhile, thanks to conservative hostility to the Affordable Care Act and its fealty to a for-profit health care system, our number of beds has fallen between 2010 and 2017, despite the population having grown by 16 million in that time frame. 

Republican elected officials

The Democratic House passed a coronavirus response bill on Friday. Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went on vacation over the weekend, adjourning the Senate as a result. He doesn’t plan on checking on that House bill until Tuesday, lunch, at the earliest, even though Trump has signaled that he will sign it. 

They just don’t give a shit. 

Here’s Oklahoma’s Republican governor Kevin Stitt, Friday night, in a now-deleted tweet: 

Of course, it stands to follow that if Trump doesn’t think this is a big deal, then those who blindly follow him will shrug off any attempts to contain the virus, or “flatten the curve.” Flattening the curve is slowing the rate of transmission so that people don’t get sick all at once. The more you can spread it out, the less stress on those limited hospital beds. 

Trump’s favorite bootlicker, Rep. Devin Nunes, went on Fox to tell viewers to go out on the town. “One of the things you can do, if you're healthy you and your family, it's a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant,” he said, dooming who knows how many people to death. “Likely you can get in easily. There's, you know, let's not hurt the working people in this country that are relying on wages and tips to keep their small business going. [...] Go to your local pub.”

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Republicans are refusing to postpone an election even though the state’s Democratic governor has ordered a statewide lockdown. 

Conservative media

It’s no surprise that most of the irresponsible dismissing of COVID-19 featured above is happening on Fox News. The network has prostrated itself before Trump, effectively becoming like a state-run propaganda arm. They won’t do anything to get on the wrong side of Trump. It’s a feature, not a bug. 

On Fox & Friends, Jerry Falwell Jr claims people are "overreacting" to coronavirus, the national response is "their next attempt to get Trump," and the virus itself is a North Korean bioweapon. pic.twitter.com/2JPuNBW7C3

— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) March 13, 2020

Or how about this? 

But it obviously goes far beyond Fox News. Just two days ago, Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show, “We’re shutting down our country because of the … cold virus.” The Christian Right and their media machinery are praying away the coronavirus. They’ve been so effective at dismissing the threat that even pastors who take this seriously are dismayed, “One pastor said half of his church is ready to lick the floor, to prove there’s no actual virus,” one pastor told The Washington Post. Alex Jones is selling fake coronavirus cures. Idiot #MAGA types on Twitter are having their own, er, fun.

How do #MAGA & #KAG folks have fun during a pandemic? Apparently some like licking airplane toilet seats in a SAD attempt to show the #coronavirus is a hoax. Perhaps to also prove they'll make good tRump supporters!#COVID19 Found at @AwardsDarwinpic.twitter.com/y9jAqRrpbx

— McSpockyâÂ�¢ ðÂ�Â�½ðÂ�Â�Â�ðÂ�Â�Â� #VoteBlue2020 (@mcspocky) March 15, 2020

If you’re sitting here wondering what the hell is wrong with these people, you’re not alone. Trapped in their conservative anti-science media bubble, they’re whipping themselves up into a fervor of denialism and frothy conspiracy theories. 

The results

The results are devastating. Republicans simply don’t believe that they should take COVID-19 seriously.

The coronavirus partisan divide is real. Twice as many Democrats (60%) are changing plans or taking precautions than Republicans (31%). 88% of Republicans are satisfied with the government's response. Among Democrats? 11%. Survey report @Civiqs 3/8-11: https://t.co/sGoSTbhEsI

— Drew Linzer (@DrewLinzer) March 14, 2020

And it’s even worse among Fox News viewers, only 9% of which are “extremely concerned” about the virus. These are the same people who live in mortal fear of an “illegal” coming and murdering them. The big difference? They will definitely end up knowing about someone who died of the novel coronavirus, while those mythical hordes of undocumented murderers only exist in the imagination of the network’s most bigoted hosts. (48% of MSNBC viewers are “extremely concerned,” which is still low. It should be 100%. But that network isn’t sowing misinformation.)

I used to joke that Republicans would come out in favor of cancer if President Barack Obama ever declared his opposition to it publicly. At least, it was supposed to be a joke. Now we find out that a global pandemic killing tens of thousands has become a partisan issue. Not because it is a partisan issue. There is nothing Republican or Democratic or liberal or conservative about a deadly disease. But because Trump’s botched handling of the pandemic makes him “look bad,” and there is no greater sin in the world than making Trump look bad. 

It might be funny or the material for easy partisan points, except people are dying, and a lot more will die before scientists find a vaccine. And while we could be making efforts to mitigate the carnage, both in human and economic terms, we have an entire half of the country’s divide refusing to accept our new reality and demanding we pretend all is well, nothing to see here, please carry on, preferably at your local pub or cruise ship. 

It’s staggeringly irresponsible. The final culmination of an ideology so divorced from reality, that it will literally kill, disproportionately, the older and rural people that form its base. And—this is legitimately ironic—it is liberals trying to save their lives. 

Republican leader puts out racist coronavirus tweet and gets demolished in the process

In lieu of doing their jobs to protect the American public, Republican Party officials are working very intensely to misinform the public, while also blaming China for COVID-19. One of the top GOP officials today is Republican House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. You might remember his grotesque displays of fealty during the impeachment inquiry and trial of Donald Trump. If you know anything about Rep. McCarthy, you know that he will tow whatever party line Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump think up for him. And since the GOP’s brand these days is “Being racist assholes,” McCarthy decided on Monday to help out with the public health effort by tweeting out the government’s CDC.gov url along with this thinly veiled racist statement: “Everything you need to know about the Chinese coronavirus can be found on one, regularly-updated website:”

Fellow Californian and Democratic Rep. Katie Porter was justifiably pissed off at the leading GOP stooge.

Will stop spread of coronavirus: � washing your hands � staying home if you�re sick Won�t stop spread of coronavirus: � racism � xenophobia Delete this tweet, @GOPLeader. https://t.co/hd6VX3RuHo

— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) March 10, 2020

The Trump administration and the Republican Party, having stripped down and rolled back Obama-era development of our CDC, and specifically our infectious disease research and response, is now trying to use the age-old defense that they shouldn’t be in trouble because it’s someone else who “started it.” Unfortunately, they have a racist base who will likely eat up this xenophobic handling of a public health crisis. But the Republican base is a minority in our country, and the majority of people know Rep. McCarthy is a craven prick. And the responses to his lack of leadership were fast and furious.

As one responder to McCarthy’s racism explains: this is just the same playbook we’ve seen out of these incompetent grifters for years now.

Racism is the GOP Trump card. Calling it a hoax didn�t work because people keep dying. Blaming it on Obama never got off the ground. We�re now at stage three: xenophobia.#CPACcoronavirus

— Chris Alexander (@hoos30) March 10, 2020

And here are some simple facts: 

w00f

— Liz Garbus (@lizgarbus) March 10, 2020

Our government is super racist: also they really suck at keeping US safe and prosperous.

— David Rothschild (@DavMicRot) March 10, 2020

Your swastika is showing � �

— ImpeachmentForDummies (@Canadiancentri2) March 10, 2020

Of course, maybe Kevin misspoke?

Kevin, you misspelled #CPACVirus also known as #TrumpVirus. Get your facts straight you racist asshole.

— Comfortably Numb (@YGalanter) March 10, 2020

Of course, here’s a side note reminder:

Vote for @KimMangone and dump treasonous �Steve� McCarthy! pic.twitter.com/RmSoPXT7kR

— Medusa (@MedusaSeesYou) March 10, 2020

And finally, the tragically comic reality of it all.

I live in the US. Is there a website for the American coronavirus? In particular is there info on the Republicans quarantined and potentially spreading it? pic.twitter.com/JSjWXiaVvU

— Rob Jackson (@muh_thoughts) March 10, 2020

And an honest piece of advice for the GOP Leader.

You're a racist, a coward, and a sycophant. Resign.

— Dr. Jack Brown (@DrGJackBrown) March 10, 2020

Man who visited China during coronavirus outbreak says he’s more afraid of being in the U.S.

Most Americans are holding their breath while we wait for the incompetence of our current administration and their gutted health infrastructure to catch up and reveal—by way of more comprehensive testing—how much COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, has penetrated our country. Every day news cases are reported, new people are being monitored, but anyone paying attention to the news should understand that no one can fully know how many people are at risk. The anxiety has led to runs on supplies across the country, and a general unease about what we are, and are not, doing to take preventative measures. Business Insider interviewed a 36-year-old Bay Area man from Cupertino, California, who has been self-quarantined since returning from Kunming, China, on Feb. 2.

The man, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that he arrived in China on January 25, when at least 217 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were publicly known. According to the man, the differences between his experience in China and in the U.S. are alarming.

Starting with the difference at the airports, the man explains that full-body screenings with infrared thermometers were performed at the Kunming airport while most people were wearing masks.* Upon his arrival at San Francisco International Airport, he says that no one was wearing masks and no one was taking temperatures. He waited for hours in customs before his temperature was taken, and according to the man, the paperwork he was asked to fill out was handwritten and photocopied. "They literally had no idea what they were doing."

He tells Business Insider that since he and his family were not experiencing symptoms of the virus, no testing was done. Instead, he was given a “verbal recommendation” to stay home for 14 days. If he were in China he would have been given a test and quarantined pending the outcome of that test. Most importantly, he said that the CDC never contacted him to see how he and his family were doing, and that the school where his son attended would not allow him to be excused, so the boy returned a day after returning from China. 

Luckily, it seems, he and his family were not carrying the virus. But the man has still considered returning to China simply because, "As someone who was in China during the initial outbreak/lockdowns and restrictions and seeing the situation develop here in the US I am 100x more concerned for my own safety during this crisis than I ever was in China."

Conservatives have held up passing much-needed funding in order to insure that pharmaceutical companies can price gouge. The president of the United States has continued to say stupid, misleading, and scientifically fictitious things in order to possibly keep the economy from going into a panic. Right-wing media has attempted to not directly communicate to their audience, instead they have pulled out their impeachment notebook to negate the problems we are facing in order to strictly attack the Chinese and Democratic leadership. Meanwhile, getting testing done, the first step toward figuring out the best way to handle containment of this problem, remains chaotic.

*While masks can help prevent the spread of the virus by individuals with the illness, it is not a prophylactic against infection.