One of Donald Trump’s primary gripes with the novel coronavirus is not that the virus has killed more than 60,000 people in the U.S. and more than 230,000 worldwide, but that he feels he hasn‘t been given enough credit for his handling of the crisis. There’s a reason for that, of course, which is that he’s done a historically terrible job, and at this point, we still live in a country where the press is not obliged to write, for example, that his suggestion that chugging bleach might cure COVID-19 was a genius idea. Unfortunately, Trump has no interest in changing the narrative by buckling down and doing the hard work required to spare as many lives as possible, empowering scientists and health officials to do their jobs without fear of reprisal, and telling supporters to cut the shit with their social distancing protests. Instead, he’d rather spout ridiculous lies about how the coronavirus is just going to miraculously be “eradicated” and blame literally anyone but himself for the situation at hand, just like he’s done his entire life. And according to a new report, his latest idea re: deflecting responsibility comes straight from his longtime bag of tricks.
The Washington Post reports that senior administration officials are “beginning to explore proposals for punishing or demanding financial compensation from China” for its handling of the pandemic, after Trump “fumed” to aides that this is all Beijing’s fault and that he should be able to sue the country of 1.4 billion people like it’s a comedian who made fun of him on late-night TV, a beauty queen who sullied the Miss USA Pageant’s good name, or an ex-wife who violated her NDA. Officials across multiple federal agencies are said to have met Thursday to “begin mapping out a strategy” for retaliatory measures, one of which would be to strip China of its “sovereign immunity” with the aim of enabling the U.S. government or civilians to sue the country for damages, which legal experts warn would be nearly impossible and also likely require congressional legislation. During a briefing on Monday, Trump suggested that the government would seek hundreds of billions in damages, in addition to other punitive measures. Some advisers also reportedly discussed the U.S. canceling debt obligations, though the idea was apparently ruled out at some point Thursday, perhaps because it was completely absurd. (As New York noted, the blowback of such a move “would be so enormous—other potential buyers of Treasury bills would be demanding higher interest rates forever—that this would be more like an act of financial self-harm than the collection of reparations.”)
While there is no denying that there should be a conversation about what China knew and when they knew it—it’s largely accepted that the government initially concealed the extent of the outbreak and censored negative stories—like most of Trump’s ideas for retribution, this one would be pointless at best and incredibly damaging to the U.S. at worst: