As death toll tops 250,000, Trump has failed by his own standards

It was almost exactly seven months ago when Trump said the pandemic's US death toll could be as low as 50,000. Today, it reached 250,000.
Image: TOPSHOT-US-HEALTH-VIRUS
A body is moved from a refrigeration truck serving as a temporary morgue to a vehicle at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, in Brooklyn, New York on April 8, 2020.Bryan R. Smith / AFP - Getty Images

Even now, as the United States struggles through a brutal third peak, Donald Trump still likes to blame testing for the heartbreaking trends. And while the president's rhetoric on this has never made any sense, the fact remains that testing does not, and cannot, explain the rising death toll.

The United States has recorded a quarter-million Covid-19 deaths, the latest NBC News numbers showed Wednesday, and the death rate has been accelerating in recent weeks as cases have been surging across the country. The 250,000th death was logged Wednesday morning, the data revealed.

NBC News' report added that there's been a 42% increase in the number of U.S. fatalities over the last four weeks.

By Trump's own standards, these gut-wrenching figures are emblematic of his administration's obvious failure.

Revisiting our earlier coverage, it was on April 20 -- almost exactly seven months ago -- when the Republican president said he believed the overall American death toll from the pandemic would be between 50,000 and 60,000 people. Later that week, the forecast had already been exposed as tragically wrong.

Exactly one week later, on April 27, Trump said the overall American death toll would "probably" be between 60,000 and 70,000 people. It took about four days for this projection to be discredited, too.

On April 29, the president suggested the number of fatalities in the United States could be as low as 65,000. Predictably, we soon after passed that projected total.

On May 3, Trump acknowledged that he was moving the goalposts again. "I used to say 65,000," the Republican said, pointing to a total he promoted just a few days earlier. "And now I'm saying 80,000 or 90,000." At the same event, the president upped the projection once more: "Look, we're going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people."

A few days later, the Republican said fatalities could reach 110,000 -- a total the United States eclipsed over the summer. In June, Trump decided it was time to move the goalposts much further, declaring his belief that the domestic death toll "could be heading" to 200,000, "depending on how it goes."

In fact, at one point, the president boasted that if the number of U.S. fatalities could be lower than 200,000, it would be proof that the White House did "a very good job." Two months ago, on Sept. 16, Trump told reporters that if the U.S. death toll remained below 240,000, that would also be proof that the administration did what he called "the good job."

As the number of domestic fatalities crosses the 250,000 threshold, it seems inevitable that the outgoing president will both move the goalposts again and eagerly boast about how pleased he is with his performance.