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Editorial: With Nov. 3 looming, Trump is more dangerous than ever

President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departing on Marine One last month.
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departing on Marine One last month. As he faces a tough re-election campaign, watch for desperate acts.
(Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

The nation could well be entering an especially dangerous period in Donald Trump’s presidency. His poll numbers are embarrassingly low for an incumbent seeking reelection, even some of his loyal supporters question his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and the economy he had planned to ride into a second term has been battered by shuttered businesses and stay-at-home orders.

All of which has made the president unhappy. He scolds the usually supportive Fox News over polling numbers he dislikes. He reportedly was angry at his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, after Trump’s much ballyhooed campaign-relaunch rally in Tulsa fizzled. He continues to blast away at media outlets and journalists he doesn’t like. It’s immensely worrisome that revelations of a possible Russian scheme to pay a bounty to Taliban troops for killing U.S. soldiers drew outrage from Trump — not at the practice, but at the press coverage of it.

On Wednesday Trump called “the Russia Bounty story” “just another HOAX!” — even as his national security advisers were briefing members of Congress on it. Remember, Trump’s initial response was deflection — his aides had not briefed him on the issue, he said, though news outlets report that the White House had been briefed. No, it’s not the president’s fault that the Russians engaged in such atrocious behavior, but it is his responsibility to do something about it. Which he has not.

The current resurgence of COVID-19 infections began Memorial Day weekend. July Fourth weekend revelry will make things worse.

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This is where the danger bubbles to the surface. Trump feels he needs some wins, and he has shown us for the past four years that he doesn’t care how he gets them. He lies to downplay the scope of a crisis; he brags about minor achievements and takes credit for things beyond his control; he exploits the nation’s racial tensions for his political advantage, making it ever harder for progress to be achieved.

He at one point forced the shutdown of the U.S. government to try to pressure Congress into approving funding to extend the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. When that failed, he declared a bogus national emergency, then began moving around money to pay for it, sacrificing infrastructure upgrades, including housing for military families.

Most Americans say they don’t want the wall, and experts argue that it ultimately will have little effect on illegal immigration, which these days tends to involve people who enter the country legally then don’t leave. And it’s not that hard to defeat a 30-foot wall with a 32-foot ladder. And with Election Day looming, he is accelerating construction because it appeals to his base, and he’s desperate to report that he has delivered on his promise to build 450 miles of new wall by the end of the year (never mind that his promise to get Mexico to pay for it will never happen).

With deplorable cynicism, the administration has used this global health crisis to circumvent the original purpose of the asylum system and impose hard-line anti-immigration policies after many years of stalemate in Congress. This week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it intended to pursue regulations that would let the government “consider public health concerns based on disease” when reviewing asylum applications, effectively barring admission to people from countries facing epidemics — regardless of whether the asylum-seeker has been exposed. That would allow the government, post-pandemic to continue to shut out asylum seekers.

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When council members hold concentrated power over decisions that can cost developers and companies millions of dollars, it just invites corruption.

There may be legitimate public health reasons to shut the border during a pandemic, but the Trump administration has too deep a history of lying about pretexts to get the benefit of the doubt here. Especially since the shut border did not keep the government from deporting hundreds of foreign nationals who returned home with the coronavirus, adding to the global spread and undermining the administration’s claim that it was focusing on halting the march of the pandemic.

Trump is a flailing demagogue who sees his grip on power slipping away. With the Republican-controlled Senate serving as his raincoat, the shame of being impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives rolled off him. But the Senate’s refusal to remove him from office did nothing to dispel the clear evidence that the president put his personal interests, and his reelection, ahead of the national interest. America, don’t let your guard down.


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