There are lies you can tell that will send you to prison – and not just when you’re under oath. If you mischievously decide to shout “fire” in a crowded theater when you know there’s no fire, and people get trampled to death in the resulting stampede, you’re looking at potential felony charges. Similarly, if you’re a store owner and you know the building is on fire, but you want customers to keep shopping so you lie to them when they start asking why they smell smoke, and they die as a result, you’re looking at the same criminal scenario.
This brings us to how Donald Trump is handling the coronavirus crisis. He’s handling it in highly incompetent fashion, but that’s not a crime. It’s made all the worse because he slashed the CDC budget, which should be a crime, but apparently isn’t. Nor is it illegal to try to spin a negative situation in the most positive light that the facts could ever possibly allow. But here’s where you get into a criminal element.
Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney gave a speech today and called the coronavirus threat in the United States a “hoax.” He used that word in semi-incoherent fashion; we think he was trying to assert that the U.S. coronavirus outbreak is no more real than Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. But the bottom line is that he used the word. Then Trump held a rally tonight and used the word “hoax” in reference to the virus outbreak as well.
When you’re the President of the United States or a top White House official, and you’re talking about a worldwide pandemic underway that’s now spreading in the United States, you don’t get to tell people that it’s some kind of “hoax.” You don’t get to use that word. Trump and Mulvaney know darn well that by making this false statement, they’re steering Americans toward writing the whole thing off, instead of taking the basic precautions that could save their lives. At what point are these kinds of lies an actual felony? Its worth keeping in mind, because if Trump loses this election, people like Mulvaney are going to face a whole host of criminal charges.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report