Being impeached has not slowed down Donald Trump’s attempts to weaponize intelligence agencies and foreign policy against political opponents. In fact, receiving a free pass from Senate Republicans in spite of overwhelming evidence of guilt has made it clear to Trump that he really can dragoon the whole mechanism of the federal government into the Trump 2020 campaign. For months, Attorney General William Barr and special Q-spiracy pal John Durham have been jetting around the world, trying to convince foreign governments to help Trump out by backing up conspiracy theories that he can use in his campaign against Joe Biden.
But as Trump prepares to kick the 2020 campaign into high gear, the situation in the world has changed. That’s going to require a whole new level of conspiracy theory. Now Ukraine is tired and China is wired as Donald Trump prepares to connect Joe Biden to the coronavirus.
Trump is preparing to launch his first major ad campaign for the 2020 election. Doing so at a time when the United States has over 1 million cases of COVID-19 and the death toll has just passed 61,000 may seem somewhat … problematic. But as Jared Kushner proved on Wednesday, the Trump White House is fully prepared to point out that there are still 327 million Americans who are not dead. Yet. That somehow makes saddling the U.S. with a third of all cases around the globe a “great success story.”
According to Politico, the first flight of ads will depict Trump as “showing leadership” despite having to fight against those darned Democrats and that enemy of the people, the free press. Undoubtably, these ads will focus on how Nancy Pelosi distracted Trump from preparing to face the novel coronavirus by moving forward with impeachment. It was, in fact, such a distraction, that Trump could barely manage to fill the entire months of January and February with golf and rallies.
The ads will also focus on just how eager Trump is to bring back the pre-virus economy. That’s a position that might also be a bit of a hard sell considering that the 4.8% shrinkage of the economy that was reported for the first quarter is likely to look like robust growth when the second quarter numbers come in. Donald Trump personally oversaw a disaster that is the biggest national health crisis, the biggest economic crisis, the biggest crisis since World War II, and he blew it—at a cost in lives that won’t be reckoned for months to come and a cost in damage to the economy that may genuinely bring conditions worse than the Great Depression. That is not a tenable position from which to start a campaign. Not even if it comes with a whole new motto.
Clearly what Trump needs is a solution, not one that can cure the virus or bring back jobs, one that allows him to pin the whole thing on someone else. With someone else being Joe Biden.
That’s why the ads won’t just blow the patriotic Trump-ets for more jobs and how-about-that-stock-market. The Republican National Committee has already been engaged in cranking out ads, especially on right-wing outlets, to keep Trump supporters pumped about his bigly leadership in the midst of the crisis. But the angle of those ads is about to change. Coming soon to a television, computer, and phone screen near you: ads that connect Joe Biden with China, along with accusations that China both created the coronavirus and covered up its spread.
Trump has already been laying the groundwork in his daily briefings. He’s repeatedly accused China of hiding information about the origins of the coronavirus and of being responsible for its spread to the rest of the world. Trump has extended these claims to the World Health Organization, cutting off funds to this critical resource in the midst of a pandemic. And over the last week, Trump has made multiple cryptic remarks that “someone a long time ago” made the decisions that caused the COVID-19 epidemic. The introduction of these lines into the daily briefings is absolutely sitting up the next phase of blame-pinning.
As The New York Times reports, the White House is forcing intelligence agencies to dig into Trump’s conspiracy theories in China, just as they did when chasing his claims about Biden and Hillary Clinton across Europe. In particular, Trump has intelligence assets trying to find some connection between a lab in Wuhan, China that tried to prevent the spread of novel viruses, and the release of this virus. It’s part of an escalating campaign to tie what Trump has insisted on calling the “Chinese virus” to the epidemic inside the United States.
The character of that campaign goes beyond just the idea that a virus under study accidentally slipped away from researchers. Almost from the outset, Republicans like Senator Tom Cotton have been pushing the idea that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was created as a bioweapon. In truth, there’s no evidence that the coronavirus came, in any sense, out of a laboratory. Multiple studies have looked at the virus’ genetic structure and found no sign of tinkering. And while much has been made of a letter warning that the Wuhan lab needed more experienced personnel, there is no evidence that it was either studying the novel coronavirus before its release, or had anything to do with that release. That hasn’t stopped Trump from retweeting claims that the virus did come from a lab, or halted the constant stream of White House officials and Republican senators making such claims in social media, on Fox, and on right-wing radio.
But as Trump starts to crank up his campaign, both the White House and right-wing media are warming up to the idea that this weapon had one real target—Donald Trump 2020.
Trump has already falsely claimed that Hunter Biden “walks out of China with $1.5 billion in a fund … and he’s there for one quick meeting, and he flies in on Air Force Two, I think that’s a horrible thing.” Trump has also called for an investigation into the activity of both Hunter Biden and Joe Biden in China. China has refused. Which will surely be pointed at as evidence that there’s a problem.
Neither Biden actually got billions from China. It’s not clear that either ever got anything from China. But don’t be surprised to see not just ads, but an increasing theme on the right that the coronavirus was weaponized to take down the “Trump economy.” That only the biggest crisis in a century could hope to stop the inevitable reelection of Dear Leader Donald Trump. And that both Hunter Biden and Joe Biden have connections to the people who murdered tens of thousands of Americans.
Distractions are Donald Trump’s specialties. And the biggest disaster in ages, demands the biggest, most damnable lie imaginable.
In the meantime, enjoy the ads that are giving Trump heartburn right now.