The forecast for President Trump’s scheduled campaign stop today in Freeland, Mich., is cloudy, appropriately enough.
Mr. Trump, a politician who almost always generates his own weather, finds himself trapped in a self-spun tempest just as he tries to recapture the momentum that led to big victories in the battleground Midwest four years ago.
He endured one of the most turbulent days of his presidency on Wednesday, with the emergence of two highly dangerous late-campaign story lines — the revelation (via the veteran presidential chronicler Bob Woodward) that he intentionally downplayed the lethality of the coronavirus and an accusation from a whistle-blower that his Homeland Security team had tried to intentionally downplay other threats — Russian interference in the 2020 election and violent white supremacy.
Each story has its distinct narrative. But they both converge on a single, damning conclusion, in the view of his critics: that Mr. Trump puts his own welfare, political and personal, above the interests of the country.
“I wanted to always play it down,” the president told Mr. Woodward, as the pandemic built in intensity early this year. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Later, Mr. Trump seized on the “panic” part, saying he was simply trying to marshal national morale at a fearful moment.
The counterpoint: “He knew how dangerous it was,” said Mr. Trump’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., during his own stop on Wednesday in Michigan, a state that the president won in 2016 but where Mr. Biden now holds a modest yet stable polling advantage. “It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people.”
A few hours after the Woodward excerpts were published, word came that Brian Murphy, the former head of the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence branch, had said in a complaint that he was ordered to stop producing assessments on Russian interference. He added that the Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, had ordered him not to disseminate a report on a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate Mr. Biden’s mental health because it “made the president look bad.”
Mr. Trump’s appearance in Michigan will take place at the M.B.S. International Airport outside Saginaw. As president, Mr. Trump has shown a preference for staging events at airplane hangars — they are weatherproof, don’t expose him to heckling crowds and, above all, they allow him to get in and out quickly.
He likes to do the same with news cycles.
Will the stories linger, or be swept away in the amnesia winds of Trump-era politics?
Mr. Trump is banking on the latter. By Wednesday night, he was furiously working to change the subject, unveiling his list of second-term Supreme Court finalists, celebrating the life of the baseball great Roberto Clemente (the Puerto Rican vote is critical in Florida’s I-10 corridor) and announcing on Twitter that the Navy would “NOT” be canceling its contract with Catholic chaplains.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan laced into Mr. Trump Thursday as he prepared to travel to her state.
“His failure to act has cost so many lives and sent our economy in a tailspin,” she said during her weekly briefing on the coronavirus. “It’s just devastating to hear that. The biggest threat to the American people is the American president right now.”
Trump will head to Michigan amid multiple controversies. Wire Services/ New York Times.