Donald Trump admitted to committing second-degree murder in his interview with journalist Bob Woodward, a former federal prosecutor claims.
The president has come under fire for the release of tapes that showed him discussing the severity of the coronavirus in early February, which appeared to contradict statements he made at the time downplaying it and predicting that it would quickly pass in the U.S.
In the snippet of the taped interview, published by CNN this week, Trump said he knew at the time that the coronavirus had an airborne spread and that it was significantly deadlier than the seasonal flu.
“It goes through the air,” Trump told Woodward. “That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
In the weeks that followed, Trump would go on to publicly compare the coronavirus to the seasonal flu and cast doubt on the recommendations of public health experts to practice social distancing measures like wearing masks.
Another interview from March showed he admitted to actively playing down the virus to the American people.
Trump has defended the approach, saying he did not want to create panic. But Glenn Kirschner said that the tapes revealed criminal behavior on the part of the president. Appearing on SiriusXM’s The Dean Obeidallah Show, the former federal prosecutor-turned-MSNBC legal analyst said that the president’s behavior and statements legally constitute a murder charge.
“There are only two elements for second-degree murder. The first is you caused the death of another,” Kirschner said, via The Week.
Kirschner said that Trump caused deaths by lying to the American people about the dangers posed by the virus. He said that Trump also fulfilled the second requirement for a criminal charge: having intent. The legal analyst said this element would be difficult to prove were it not for the taped admission that he was downplaying the virus.
Other critics have attacked Trump for his statements, accusing him of directly contributing to the deaths of Americans. Democratic opponent Joe Biden has already turned the audio of the president’s admission into a campaign ad and launched attacks. Biden has also sought to show a contrast to voters, saying he would never lie to them as he claimed Trump had done.