Trump Must Resign or Be Removed from the Presidency

Something kind of extraordinary happened at Monday's White House coronavirus task force press briefing. It happened when President Donald Trump asked Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma to say a few words. She stepped up to the microphone and said, "Let me start by saying, I want to convey my deepest sympathies to those that have lost loved ones to the coronavirus.  We’re all thinking of you."

What was extraordinary was that it was the first time in at least a week, if ever, that anyone in the Trump administration recognized the families of the dead and offered any condolences. I have gone through days of briefings and Trump appearances, searching for some sign of compassion for the suffering, and this was the only example I could find.

That's right. The President of the United States has not once sent his sympathy or conveyed any emotion at all about the sick or about the families of the dead, including grieving children and grandchildren. Think about that for a moment. It could have been so simple - a couple of words at the beginning of his opening remarks at one of the more than a dozen briefings he's done. But he didn't because that shows an acknowledgement that something's wrong. It moves the deaths from the abstract numbers he tosses around and gives them meaning in flesh and blood. Or maybe he's just utterly incapable of feelings beyond rage and pride and self-pity. Sociopaths aren't noted for their ability to empathize.

Here's what Trump said on March 13, one of the earliest briefings, in a strained attempt at leadership and compassion: "To those families and citizens who are worried and concerned for themselves and their loved ones, I want you to know that your federal government will unleash every authority, resource, and tool at its disposal to safeguard the lives and health of our people."

Here's what we know as of tonight: We know that Trump has just barely put into action the Defense Production Act for coronavirus assistance, despite his administration having used it literally hundreds of thousands of times for things like lasers (really) and Border Patrol protection.

We know that Trump isn't going to allow for a special sign-up period for Obamacare coverage despite the fact that millions of Americans don't have health insurance and will have to pay for COVID-19 treatment out of pocket or not go to the hospital at all, which will prevent some sick people from getting treatment and will thus help spread the virus. We also know that several states, with the Trump administration's support, are continuing with their case to have the Supreme Court overturn the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, including its pre-existing condition coverage mandate, which means that people with longterm coronavirus effects could lose their insurance.

We know that, despite Trump's constant assurances, the medical supplies and equipment that states are begging for are not getting to the places in the greatest need. We know that Trump told governors on March 16 that they were on their own, that the federal government would not act as a middleman to get them what they needed, thus leading the states to have to bid against each other for lifesaving items like ventilators. We know that states that supported Trump in the 2016 election have received more supplies than they need while states that didn't support him have received far, far less than they need. We know that large shipments of medical supplies were being sent to other countries from the U.S., even after the states started begging for masks and gloves.

So we know that Trump didn't "unleash" much of anything until absolutely pushed into a corner to do so. We know that he flatly refused to heed the advice of anyone back in January or early February, when senators were telling the administration that their states weren't ready for a pandemic. We know that Trump didn't want to hear it because it killed the high he got from his rallies.

We know so many things since March 13, like that Trump didn't really take the death toll seriously. On March 23, a week after the Imperial College report came out predicting up to 2.2 million deaths in the United States, Trump said, "You know — and again, I say we have a very active flu season; more active than most.  It’s looking like it’s heading to 50,000 or more deaths.  Deaths, not cases.  Fifty thousand deaths, which is — that’s a lot. And you look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any numbers we’re talking about.  That doesn’t mean we’re going to tell everybody, 'No more driving of cars.'" For the record, for the last few years, the number of Americans who died in motor vehicle accidents is around 37,000. The number of people who will likely die of this single strain of coronavirus will exceed the deaths from multiple strains of influenza (which is what we mean when we say "the flu") and the number of motor vehicle deaths combined.

But Trump was playing games with numbers, again failing to acknowledge the human beings behind any of the numbers. Even today, when he finally admitted that at least 100,000 people, maybe as many as 240,000, maybe fewer, maybe more, were going to die in this country, most in the next few weeks, he painted it as a victory that he was leading because it wasn't a million, ignoring that that it could have been far, far fewer had he just acted like a president instead of preening and prancing for his followers before heading to Florida to golf and schmooze with donors and hangers-on, some of whom became infected with the virus.

While some newspapers have called out Trump as being entirely unsuited to this moment in history, of failing not only to rise to the occasion, but to drag us all down with him, they have mostly said things like, as the Boston Globe did, "Come November, there must be a reckoning for the lives lost." But we can't wait until November, or, really, January for Trump to be out of office. It must happen now. It should have happened a month ago (and, yes, it should have happened as soon as he was inaugurated, but it didn't).

While I have not previously been one of the liberals calling on the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a president who is unfit to do the job, physically or mentally, I wholeheartedly advocate for it now, as Mehdi Hasan does in a recent piece. Trump can't do what needs to be done. Call it mental illness or some other cognitive impairment or whatever you like. He only thinks in transactional terms about what benefits him, and we don't have time for that anymore. Frankly, at this point, I'd be willing for someone to offer him and his terrible family immunity from prosecution in exchange for leaving office. Trump and his dreadful children will face an angry New York justice system when he's no longer president. Give him the "get out of jail free" card if we can save some lives now.

Pundits and politicians keep saying that they want Trump to act like we're in an emergency. Except Trump is simply too feckless, too narcissistic, and too arrogant to even pretend that it's an emergency. Even today he was talking about a "very, very painful two weeks," as if this is still going to be over in April. He hasn't faced the full force of reality because to do so would mean having to admit failure, and admitting failure means having to say he's wrong. He will not do that.

We have witnessed betrayal after betrayal, and we have heard lie after lie. We need to act like it's an emergency. We need to act like it's life and death on the line.

So he needs to be asked to leave or be removed. I know the likelihood of this is slim to none. But the idea should be out there. The calls for his resignation should be screaming from every newsroom and every media outlet. Democrats should be demanding he step down. He is not a president. At best, he is an accessory to murder. At worst, he's holding the knife and standing on a pile of bodies.