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Jeremy Scahill on Trump’s “Homicidal” Pandemic Response & What’s at Stake in November Election

StoryOctober 19, 2020
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As President Trump campaigns in swing states that are also coronavirus hot spots, The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill argues he is directly responsible for the poor U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed almost 220,000 people in the country so far and sickened millions. “I don’t know how else to describe what Trump has done except homicidal,” says Scahill, host of a new seven-part audio series that examines the Trump era.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the number of people who have died. There’s a different kind of battleground now in the United States and around the world, and it’s an ICU. It’s a hospital bed. It is right now what? Something like close to 220,000 people in the United States, a fifth of the death toll of coronavirus in the world right here in the most powerful country on Earth, and a fifth of the infections at something like 8 million, when we surpassed the 40 million mark for infections around the world. Jeremy, your parents are both nurses in Wisconsin, a crucial swing state, that’s recorded its highest number of new coronavirus cases on Friday. According to an internal government report, many of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are now considered sustained COVID-19 hot spots. On Saturday, Trump rallied in Janesville, Wisconsin, said it was time to open up the state for business as usual. Your response to what Trump has done around the coronavirus, with his handpicked adviser, coronavirus adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas — he has pushed aside Dr. Fauci — tweeting this weekend, which Twitter deleted, “Masks [work]? NO.”

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know how else to describe what Trump has done except “homicidal.” And it could be even on a literal level, with Trump having — you know, he said he was diagnosed with coronavirus. He was at Walter Reed. Now he’s running around, claims he’s not infectious. I mean, how do we know? How do we know when Donald Trump’s last actual negative test was? And has he just been running around spreading this? I mean, is the president of the United States — we talk about presidents being murderers on a policy level, but this president may actually be killing people. And I think that that is really a metaphor for how this entire thing has unfolded. Trump believes that as long as he and his people have the good medical care and that they can weather this, it doesn’t really matter who dies, because at the end of the day the point is to stick it to the Democrats and maintain power. And this is also a very racist response. If this was just wiping out the kind of Trump family or his inner circle, instead of disproportionately affecting Black and Brown and poor people in this country, I think we would see even a greater level of outrage at this administration.

You know, my mom has a very serious lung condition. And she, I think rightly, blames President Trump, because she can’t set foot outside of her house. She can’t see her grandchildren. And I think that that’s a big motivating factor for people, particularly older people, who are now increasingly saying that they support Joe Biden, is that they recognize that it didn’t have to be this way.

And to me, it’s really an indication of the kind of presidency that this has been. It’s all been one huge grift. It’s all been one huge scam. And I think that perhaps the most long-term danger — the short-term crisis is unconscionable, the number of people that have been killed and made sick because of incompetence. But on a long-term level, if Joe Biden wins and becomes president and we don’t reckon with how we got here, with how Donald Trump was created, nurtured in this system and able to seize power, then I really fear for the future of this country, because this is the tip of the iceberg, seeing someone like Trump take power and bring all of this to the fore. I think if we don’t reckon with history, we are in deep, deep trouble as a country, no matter what happens during these elections.

AMY GOODMAN: You talked about Black Lives Matter, the movements of immigration rights. I wanted to end with the Catholic Workers, the Catholic peace activists in Georgia, Catholic peace activist Patrick O’Neill sentenced to 14 months in jail Friday for breaking into the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia to protest nuclear weapons policy. He’s part of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 group of Catholic peace activists who entered the base on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King. Can you talk about the significance of this, in the last 20 seconds we have?

JEREMY SCAHILL: I’ve said for a long time the greatest danger that the world has faced from Donald Trump is the possible threat of a first-strike nuclear weapon that happens as a result of some tweet that Trump doesn’t like from a foreign leader. These Catholic peace activists, during the Trump administration, tried to confront that nuclear threat, and there was a total media blackout on the action that they did. And, you know, if we lived in a just society, the Kings Bay Plowshares activists’ trial would have been reported on as one of the most brave confrontations of the most dangerous aspect of this government, and particularly this administration.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept. We’ll link to your American Mythology series, podcast, Intercepted. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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