President Trump ponders, “Wasn’t the new coronavirus infection a punishment for the tariffs on China?”

Help contextualize this story by providing some background about the venue and attendees.

Former President Donald Trump, the subject of an interview that aired Monday night, needs no context. His interviewer might be: Lou Dobbs was a conservative figurehead for decades before his Fox Business show was canceled by the network after being the subject of a defamation lawsuit focused on his comments about the 2020 presidential election. He was a regular in the media. Dobbs was bubbling about the central elements of Trump’s politics even before Trump arrived on the scene. He has been an avid supporter of Trump ever since. In 2022, a Rolling Stone report suggested that President Trump might consider Dobbs for a Cabinet post if he wins re-election this year.

Now that Dobbs has been fired from Fox, you may be wondering where the interview took place. The answer is that Dobbs’ show has been revived on “Lindell TV.” You probably haven’t heard of this show unless you’re an avid student in some parts of America. As you might have guessed, this is the work of Mike Lindell, a conspiracy theorist who goes from pillow sales to promoting Trump, a kind of YouTube for tinfoil hat sets. So Lindell, whose identity is now overshadowed by his support for Trump, hired Dobbs (nearly identical) to interview Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

But far from resulting in a bland exchange of pleasantries, the format allowed Trump to let his guard down no matter how much he let it down. He approached the issue as if he were addressing a rally, offering the same well-worn, smooth rhetoric that he has delivered so many times before. (Mr. Trump is in his Las Vegas days, where he primarily performs his most popular hits to audiences.) But with Mr. Dobbs’ support, he couldn’t help but embrace things. . Just a bit Plus, it means he ended up making news when he probably didn’t intend to.

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One example went viral as soon as the interview began.

“Our economy is so fragile and the only reason it’s running right now is because we’re pumping out the smoke of what we’ve done. The Trump administration is like, what the hell — it’s just It’s just blowing smoke,” Trump said. “And if there’s going to be a crash, I hope it happens in the next 12 months, because I don’t want to be Herbert Hoover.”

(History would probably suggest that he resembles Woodrow Wilson, but that’s another story.)

Clearly, casually hinting that a crash is coming, and hoping it will happen under his anticipated opponent in November, is the kind of boost we tend to expect from presidential candidates in America. It’s not the kind of thing you would do. But it’s certainly nothing new for President Trump. President Trump’s politics are based on presenting as dark a picture of a non-Trump America as possible. He said similar things in 2016 and 2020.

“We’re going to win in the end, we’re going to blame them.” Something like that. (Two years later, he would claim that he had prevented the crash he had suggested would occur in the future.)

Trump also said something else that has gotten less attention.

“I’ve taken hundreds of billions of dollars from China,” he told Dobbs, referring to the tariffs he imposed on Chinese imports. “No president ever received a dime. It was a one-sided deal.”

“And I changed things a lot,” he continued. “Frankly, a lot of people think that’s why they got the China virus because they’ve never had the same problems as me. But I don’t think so. I think the incompetence of the Wuhan laboratory is enormous.”

“There are people who say they would do anything to get rid of me,” he said a little later.

It’s been a while, but it’s important to point out that American consumers have borne the brunt of the tariffs (fees imposed on products imported from China). A study released in May 2019 found that 95% of the cost of the tariffs was paid by Americans. According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the fees cost American households an additional $800 a year.

It’s also worth noting that President Trump signed an agreement with Chinese leaders in early 2020 that commits China to buying an additional $200 billion in exports from the United States. (The total increase by the end of the deal is zero.) When the coronavirus broke out shortly thereafter, Trump repeatedly downplayed it, in part to protect the countries that had just signed the deal.

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But now everything has changed. The pandemic is a terrible disaster, and President Trump wants people to think it’s not his fault. He quickly accepted the idea that the virus was clearly the result of activity at a laboratory in Wuhan, China. Part of the reason is that new scrutiny of the institute allows him to claim, in one of his favorite rhetorics, that he has been “vindicated.” Tactics in political exile. (It’s an interesting social experiment, and it seems that by carefully picking a cherry, anyone can prove that they were Nostradamus in their time.)

He told Dobbs he didn’t think COVID-19 was a punishment for the tariffs. But this is how he builds his defensive library. He tests the water and sees its reaction. This line ranged from “China is trying hard” to “It’s not my fault, it’s China’s fault” to “Unlike me, China was incompetent” to “Because I was too anti-China.” China is angry,” which leads him to “China is angry.” At another point, he tried to paint President Biden as pro-China by falsely claiming that Biden “gets millions of dollars from China.” He also pointed to China’s role in fentanyl production. So being seen as someone desperate to keep China out of power will help him as he speaks to Republican primary voters.

This is all nonsense, as you would expect from a conversation between President Trump and someone fired by him. fox news Because it was hosted on a fake news channel created by a pillow salesman and went far. But Mr. Trump has a good chance of becoming president by this month next year, so what he’s saying is nonsense, and it’s worth clarifying why he’s saying it.

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