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While we have a First Amendment right to free speech, we don’t have the right to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater. But what if a fire exists and the one who sees it stays silent? Worse yet, what if they downplay the dangers and it goes on to cause injury or death? That’s the picture painted by Bob Woodward’s recordings of President Donald Trump. Here’s a condensed timeline.

Jan. 20: First U.S. case of coronavirus confirmed.

Jan. 22: Trump said, “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control.”

Jan. 28: According to Woodward, Trump was told by his national security adviser, “This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency. This is going to be the roughest thing you face.” The deputy national security adviser agreed. He told the president that the world faced a health emergency on par with the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

Jan: 31: Trump bars many travelers from China from entering the United States, with the exception of citizens, lawful permanent residents and close family members. According to Fox News, about 430,000 exceptions flew directly from China to the United States since Jan. 1.

Feb. 5: Trump is acquitted after impeachment trial.

Feb. 7: Trump said on tape, “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. ... It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. ... this is 5% [fatalities] versus 1% or less than 1% percent [in strenuous flus]. This is deadly stuff.”

Feb. 26: 58 cases. Trump said, “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

Feb. 29: First U.S. coronavirus death.

March 4: 217 cases. Trump says the 3.4% fatality rate is false.

March 6: 402 cases. Trump claims, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.”

March 9: Trump tweeted, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths ... .”

March 11: 1,700 cases. Trump suspends travel from Europe.

March 13: 2,700 cases, 40 deaths. Trump says, “We have 40 people right now. Forty. Compare that with other countries that have many, many times that ... but we’ve done a great job because we acted quickly. We acted early. And there’s nothing we could have done that was better than closing our borders to highly infected areas.”

March 14: Trump declares a national emergency.

March 15: 2,726 cases, 54 deaths. Trump said it’s a very contagious virus but claimed it’s “... something that we have tremendous control over.” That week, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and organizations from the National Basketball Association to Disney canceled or postponed events. Cities worldwide asked residents to quarantine.

March 19: Trump said on tape that it wasn’t just old people who were affected, and that he deliberately minimized the danger, adding, “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

March 23: 43,667 cases, 552 deaths. Trump pivots to the economy. He laments restrictions preventing economic growth. More than 3 million people file for unemployment.

March 3: 213,400 cases. Trump’s tone changed, saying, “This is not the flu. It is vicious.”

June 20: Trump holds Tulsa political rally with 6,000 people. Officials report record number of COVID-19 cases three weeks afterward.

July 11: Trump wears a mask in public for first time.

Sept: 9: Trump tapes revealed.

Sept. 12: 6,551,061 cases and 196,228 deaths recorded. Senate Republicans scrambled to contain the fallout from the tapes. The president said Woodward should have said something sooner.

Well, it’s time for Republicans to say something about dishonesty as a leadership style.

Tom Crouser is a business consultant

who lives in Mink Shoals. Reach him at and follow his tweets

on Twitter @TomCrouser.

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