Donald Trump’s pandemic blindness and election denial darkens America’s desperate winter

© Evan Vucci/AP President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally for Senate Republican candidates, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., at Valdosta Regional Airport, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNN)Donald Trump’s final-days denial is darkening America’s winter of sickness and death, damaging democracy, hampering Joe Biden’s nascent presidency and jeopardizing Republican hopes of clinging to the Senate.

The President’s dereliction of duty as a pandemic that has never been worse rages out of control is depriving America of sorely needed leadership from its most powerful voice. The scale of the crisis with death rates and hospitalizations soaring was further underscored Sunday after it emerged that Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has Covid-19.

The former New York mayor has been criss-crossing the country, making baseless claims that Democrats stole the election, often flouting mask wearing and social distancing protocols suggested by the President’s own government. After news broke that Giuliani is in Georgetown University Hospital, his son Andrew, who works in the White House, tweeted that his father was resting and feeling well.

Trump took his fantastical falsehoods about the election to new heights at an untamed rally for two Georgia Senate runoff Republican candidates Saturday night, at which he spent most of his time making untrue claims he actually beat Biden and predicted he would get the result of the election overturned.

He complained of “lying, cheating, robbing, stealing” in the election and claimed to have pulled off clear wins in a string of battleground states where he lost comprehensively to the President-elect.

Georgia’s Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan warned Sunday that the President’s “mountains of misinformation” could convince GOP voters the January 5 runoff that will decide which party controls the US Senate, is also rigged and that it is not worth showing up to vote.

“I worry that this continuous, you know, fanning of the flames around misinformation puts us in a negative position with regards to the January 5 runoff,” Duncan told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

In a debate against her Democratic opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, on Sunday night, Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler repeatedly refused to say whether the presidential election was rigged but said, “It’s very clear that there were issues in this election.”

In the other Georgia Senate race, Republican Sen. David Perdue refused to show up to debate his Democratic foe Jon Ossoff. If Democrats take both seats on January 5 they will be able to pass laws in the 50-50 Senate with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting deciding votes. Republicans only need to hold one to retain a Senate majority that would allow them to blockade Biden’s legislative agenda and hold up his nominations.

The President’s determination to concentrate on his personal grievances rather than his job in his remaining days in office has also seen him largely on the sidelines as a huge week looms on Capitol Hill. A bipartisan group of senators is close to agreeing to a new and long-delayed Covid-19 rescue package that would include help for the unemployed but no new individual stimulus checks. Talks are taking place as lawmakers face an end-of-the-week deadline to agree to a broader spending package to head off a government shutdown.

Trump’s last days in office promise to be as chaotic as his first. In the latest sign of turmoil, sources said Sunday that Attorney General William Barr, who angered the President by contradicting his claims of massive voter fraud, was considering leaving before the end of the administration. The story was first reported by the New York Times.

Trump takes extraordinary step to try to steal Biden’s Georgia win

Trump’s incessant claims that the election was fraudulent, which have been repeatedly thrown out of court are doing untold damage to American democracy by convincing many of his supporters Biden is an illegitimate President and that elections — the bedrock of the political system — are corrupt.

The President on Saturday lashed out at Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp and in an extraordinary example of an American president seeking to throw out the result of a popular vote urged his fellow Republican to call a special session and to tell state legislators to overthrow Biden’s win in the state.

Senior Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, said Trump’s behavior was dangerous. “The President’s statements are false. They are disinformation. They are stoking anger and fear among his supporters — and Hell, I voted for him.”

“It undermines democracy,” Sterling said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

As Trump pursues his crusade of falsehoods and denies the reality that he will be leaving the White House next month, he is also showing that he has no interest in helping to alleviate the worst domestic crisis since World War II.

Senior members of his own government and outside medical experts are warning of a horrendous tide of infections and deaths from Covid-19 in the coming weeks as hospitals get dangerously overcrowded.

“This is the worst event that this country will face, not just from a public health side,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, who serves on the White House’s coronavirus task force. She complained that across the Sun Belt, governors and mayors were refusing to put in place preventive measures that are proven to work as the virus rages unchecked. And she implied the behavior of the President and those around him — in holding events like political rallies, holiday parties and disdaining mask use were making things much worse.

“I hear community members parroting back those situations, parroting back that masks don’t work, parroting back that we should work towards herd immunity, parroting back that gathering doesn’t result in super spreading events,” Birx said, also on “Meet the Press.” “I think our job is to constantly say those are myths, they are wrong and you can see the evidence base.”

Concerns over vaccine stock

There are two more hopeful developments on the horizon as a new week begins, one medical and the other economic.

Moncef Slaoui, who is leading Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccine drive, said he hoped the Food And Drug Administration would authorize the emergency use of the first inoculation this week.

But he admitted that production delays meant that his hopes that a few hundred million doses of the vaccine would be available by the end of the year will not come to fruition. Around 40 million vaccines — sufficient to vaccinate 20 million people since the Pfizer candidate is administered in two doses — will be available by the end of the month.

“It’s turned out to be somewhat more complicated and more difficult than we planned,” Slaoui said on “State of the Union.” “We probably are six or eight weeks later than an ideal scenario, where we had 100 million doses by the end of this year. But we are not far. And we will work very hard.”

Slaoui also praised President-elect Biden, who unlike Trump, has been demonstrating leadership as the crisis worsens and last week proposed in a CNN interview that all Americans should wear a mask during his first 100 days in office after his inauguration in January.

“I think it’s a good idea. It’s never too late,” Slaoui said. “We have a vaccine. There is light at the end of the tunnel. But we will not all have the vaccine in our arms before May or June. So, we need to be very cautious and vigilant.”

The President is also refusing to make a tangible contribution to the effort to break the deadlock on Capitol Hill over a new coronavirus rescue package, aimed partly at restoring expired long-term unemployment benefits and stopping the economy tipping back to the verge of a depression.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who is part of a bipartisan group of senators hashing out a compromise, told Tapper that an agreement could come as soon as Monday.

“I think we have got the top line numbers done. We are working right now on language so that we can have — as early as tomorrow — a piece of legislation,” he said.

Warner previewed a four-month emergency relief package with a $908 billion price tag. It remains uncertain whether Congress will vote on such a bill as Republican and Democratic leaders negotiate how much of a stimulus plan to include in a separate, massive funding vehicle to keep the government open.

The Covid relief proposal, Warner said, “will give targeted relief for the unemployed; for people in food insecurity; rental assistance; small businesses that have run out of their (Paycheck Protection Program) funds and additional funds to those minority businesses that have been extraordinarily hit hard.”