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On Monday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of the leaders of the Democrats’ failed impeachment push to remove President Donald Trump, called the deaths from the coronavirus “casualties” of the Senate’s refusal to remove Trump from office in February. He appeared to suggest that all the deaths from coronavirus could be attributed to the fact that Donald Trump is president during this crisis.
“We certainly told the senators that he was not going to change and there was no way to constrain him, that he is who he is and he would continue to operate the way he had, and indeed that’s exactly what we’ve seen since,” Schiff told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. “Now the one thing I think we dramatically understated is when we asked the question, ‘If you found him guilty, do you really need to remove him, given that there’s another election only nine months away, how much damage could he do?’”
“We said a lot but little did we know just how great the casualties would be,” Schiff argued. “Some days we lose the equivalent of the number of people we lost on 9/11. And you know I think there’s no way we could have foreseen just how tragic his malfeasance would be in the remaining months of his administration.”
Schiff may not have meant to say all or even most of the deaths from coronavirus are “casualties” of the failure of impeachment, but that is exactly what his words suggest.
Throughout the interview, the Democrat slammed Trump. He attacked the president for having originally said that the coronavirus would be no worse than the flu — a line uttered across the media in part because experts did not understand the virus thanks to the Chinese Communist Party’s lies about it. He attacked the president for removing inspectors general such as Democratic favorite Glenn Fine.
While Trump arguably has made some missteps during the crisis, he has also arguably managed it rather well, given the knowledge available at the time. There is no reason to think most of the deaths could have been prevented, and had Trump issued a nation-wide stay-at-home order, Schiff would likely be crowing about his tyrannical overreach.
In fact, Schiff’s decision to reach for impeachment arguably undermines his attack on the president.
When the first confirmed coronavirus case in the U.S. came on January 20, 2020, Schiff was focused on prosecuting the impeachment case. Trump wasn’t acquitted by the U.S. Senate until February 5. On February 14, Democrats set their sights on Attorney General William Barr, perhaps beginning the process of impeaching him. That week, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) floated the idea of impeaching Trump again — over his tweets.
While Democrats were busy impeaching Trump and trying to tie his hands on Iran, the Centers for Disease Control under Trump issued travel notices for Wuhan, China, and it began implementing public health entry screening at U.S. airports. On January 20, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced the National Institutes of Health was already working on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus. Trump launched the Coronavirus Task Force on January 29 and declared a public health emergency on January 31. While the president did give mixed messages about the virus in his public statements, he took early decisive action to stop the spread.
In other words, the impeachment process was a distraction from the coronavirus crisis. Schiff himself did not address the coronavirus until February 25. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went so far as to tour San Francisco’s Chinatown on February 24 in order to discourage fears about the coronavirus. “We want to say to people, ‘Come to Chinatown!’ Here we are again, careful, safe, and come join us,” she said. Pelosi also stalled the impeachment process to give Congress a break over Christmas — a move that undermined Democrats’ claim that removing Trump as soon as possible was imperative for the national interest.
Schiff’s claim that impeachment would have strengthened America’s response to the coronavirus is head-scratching for other reasons as well, however.
Does Schiff really believe that the chaos of a presidential transition would have empowered the U.S. to respond to the crisis? Even if Mike Pence kept most or all of Trump’s cabinet and administration in place as is, the transition would have sucked up national attention, impeding responses to the virus.
Schiff’s suggestion is even more laughable because President Trump decided to put Pence in charge of the coronavirus response. What, exactly, would have happened differently to bolster the U.S. response if Pence had been president?
Make no mistake: The coronavirus crisis is an argument against impeachment, rather than for it. Republican senators (minus Mitt Romney) made the right decision in not removing Trump, partially because an administration in chaos would have severely hamstrung the response to the coronavirus — especially if Democrats, emboldened by removing Trump, had proceeded to impeach Pence.
It is far more likely that removing Trump would have endangered more Americans in the crisis, but in any case the tragic victims of the coronavirus are not “casualties” of America’s political squabbles. The Wuhan coronavirus from China — which spread across the world as the Chinese Communist Party lied about it and destroyed evidence of it — is responsible for this death and devastation.
The idea that Trump’s impeachment could have prevented it isn’t just absurd, it’s demented.