Ann McFeatters: Under cover of coronavirus, corruption runs amok in Washington

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U.S. President Donald Trump did not attend the meeting on climate change and the catastrophic fires in the Amazon during G7 in France. - Michael Kappeler/DPA/Abaca Press/TNS

Corruption, pandemic style.

Such ugly words. So appropriate.

After two Boeing 737 MAX airplanes crashed, killing all on board, the Federal Aviation Administration, overseen by the Department of Transportation, which is headed by Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a tremendous apologist for Donald Trump., started an investigation.

Although it was clear from whistleblowers that the FAA at part was at fault for leading Boeing certify its own planes, the FAA, worried about the public’s lack of interest in flying because of the virus, just published a report vindicating itself and letting Boeing continue to certify its planes.

Congress has provided $500 billion in bailouts for big corporations in the wake of the onset of the virus, but the federal government has decided they won’t have to account for how they spend it.

The government also has decided businesses that received loans of $2 million or less don’t have to prove the money was not misused. And Congress decided against banning corporations from getting bailout money unless they promised not to use the money for personal benefits or bonuses.

With the nation’s attention focused intensely on the rampaging pandemic, warning flags about other government missteps are being ignored.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Trump ritualistically has fired inspectors general, whose bipartisan offices were set up after Watergate to protect the American people from government corruption. Any IG who investigated anything Trump did not want investigated seemed to be in his crosshairs. So far, five watchdogs have been fired in the middle of investigations.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo illegally used a State Department employee to run personal errands and sent money to Saudi Arabia to buy arms to fight an unjust war in Yemen, thwarting Congress.

The watchdog investigating both allegations, and other possible malfeasance such as whether Pompeo used department funds for political purposes, was fired by the White House at Pompeo’s request. Pompeo flatly said he didn’t know about the investigation — after he had answered the inspector general’s written questions about it. He continues to refuse to say why he had the inspector general fired.

Now, of course, the world knows that the U.S. secretary of state is a prevaricator. But his boss, Trump, has told 18,000 documented lies since taking office.

When states began opening up after Trump declared governors could decide for themselves what to do about local businesses, some states, such as Georgia, put out misleading graphs that made it appear the virus was not spreading as fast as it was. The graph listed cases in descending order, not by date. Trump said he distrusts scientists’ data because it counts too many deaths.

After it was clear people should wear masks to protect others, a host of unscrupulous, unprepared companies, some freshly separated from the Trump administration, sprang up to manufacture masks, ventilators and other protection gear. Millions were poorly made, ineffective, overpriced or just undelivered. States were left with empty shelves after paying out millions. Consumers were conned into buying improper, expensive masks or lulled into a false sense of safety through inaccurate diagnostic and antibody tests. The drug Trump personally recommended has been proved to be potentially dangerous for COVID-19 patients.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who recently stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was given top-secret briefings at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. He then sold from $600,000 to $1.7 million worth of stock in January and February just before the stock market began to plunge. He says he did nothing wrong.

After calling for churches to open on Memorial Day, despite the continuing threat of the coronavirus, Trump left the White House, not for church but to play golf. Since becoming president, he has played golf at least 251 times, at a cost to taxpayers of at least $134 million. Trump had promised that as president he would not have time to play golf.

Most recently, bored by long hours in the White House, Trump has been tweeting storms of bizarre observations. Trump tweeted 109 times on May 10, much of it unfounded attacks on others.

But he went too far. He tweeted out lies about a young staffer who died in 2001 while working for Joe Scarborough, then a Republican congressman and now an MSNBC anchor. Trump, who has an ongoing feud with Scarborough, tweeted out false conspiracy theories about her death by heart attack. The woman’s family is devastated that Trump turned their tragedy into an unfounded political attack on a critic.

He also tweeted falsely that mail-in ballots result in widespread fraud.

Trump retorted that free speech gives him the right to tweet whatever he wants to say, even if it is wrong. For the first time, Twitter said no and pointed out the egregious errors in Trump’s obnoxious ways with words.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at amcfeatters@nationalpress.com.

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©2020 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Ann McFeatters is a TNS op-ed columnist. - HANDOUT/TNS/TNS