The New Yorker:
A couple of months ago, in the early days of the Great Shutdown, Republicans complained that Democrats’ impeachment of Donald Trump had distracted the President from taking more aggressive action to counter the spread of the coronavirus. Trump’s Senate trial, they pointed out, began in January, just as COVID-19 was making its way out of China and the President was receiving his first briefings about it. “I think it diverted the attention of the government because everything every day was all about impeachment,” the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, told the radio host Hugh Hewitt in late March. Trump, when asked about McConnell’s comments at the time, first denied that he was distracted before allowing that the Senate trial “probably” did divert him. After all, he deadpanned, “I certainly devoted a little time to thinking about it.” The public did not buy the impeachment defense, however. Polls since then have shown that a majority of Americans hold Trump himself accountable for America’s halting, uncertain reaction to the pandemic. His belated response is all the more striking given a new model from epidemiologists at Columbia University, released this week, showing that tens of thousands of American lives might have been saved if major cities had closed down even one week earlier in March.
It’s no wonder that Trump and the Republicans are the ones trying to use impeachment as a distraction now. In recent days, the Republican-controlled Senate has not considered any major legislation related to the virus and the historic havoc it has wrought on the country’s public health and economy. Nor does it have any current plans to do so, leaving the fate of a three-trillion-dollar relief measure passed by the Democratic-controlled House last Friday uncertain. Meanwhile, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee voted along party lines to issue a subpoena that seeks to resurrect one of Trump’s main impeachment deflections—the canard that his scheme to extort Ukraine into investigating his election rival, Joe Biden, was based on criminal wrongdoing by Biden when his son Hunter was a board member at the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. At the same time, Trump has continued his systematic post-impeachment purge of independent watchdogs across the federal government. When Trump fired the State Department’s inspector general, late last Friday, it was the fifth time an inspector general had been pushed out since the Senate trial ended, in early February. After Mitt Romney, the lone Senate Republican to vote in favor of Trump’s conviction at the trial, criticized the firing, Trump hit back with a trademark tweet. “Loser,” the tweet said, attached to a video revisiting Romney’s defeat in the 2012 Presidential election.
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