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'This is what government would look like without a president'

Trump is struggling to even pretend to care about his day job. The consequences of his "depraved indifference" are severe.
Image: President Trump's chair sits empty in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington
President Donald Trump's empty chair behind the Resolute Desk while he participates in a medal ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House on Dec. 3, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Common sense suggests numbers like these would be a wake-up call to even the most complacent and negligent leaders.

For the first time, more than 3,000 Covid-related deaths were recorded across the country Wednesday, according to an NBC News tally. The previous single-day record was set April 22, when 2,861 deaths were reported. More than 290,000 people have died from the coronavirus across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic this spring.

More Americans were killed by the coronavirus yesterday than were killed by terrorism on 9/11, but after the attacks 19 years ago, U.S. leaders acted.

Donald Trump, however, can't seem to overcome what MSNBC's Chris Hayes described as "depraved indifference."

The outgoing president will continue to have broad powers for the next 41 days, and the national to-do list is not short. A deadly pandemic is intensifying. Hospitals are being pushed to the breaking point. There may be a government shutdown next week. An annual military package needs to pass. Negotiations over an economic relief package have stalled and may not recover. Job growth has slowed and unemployment claims are spiking. A difficult transition process is facing unusual challenges.

It's against this backdrop that Trump is struggling to even pretend to care about his day job.

The New York Times reported a few days ago that the president "barely shows up to work" anymore, "ignoring the health and economic crises afflicting the nation and largely clearing his public schedule of meetings unrelated to his desperate bid to rewrite the election results." A couple of days later, the Washington Post quoted a senior administration official saying, "The large majority of his time has been unstructured, in the Oval [Office], just going nuts about voter fraud.... That occupies seemingly every waking moment of his day."

The Associated Press reported about a month ago that Trump's involvement in the day-to-day governing of the nation "has nearly stopped," and the Republican no longer bothers with policy briefings.

That was published on Nov. 12. Given the circumstances, we can probably remove the word "nearly" from that quote.

The president himself acknowledged during a campaign rally in Georgia, in reference to his anti-election efforts, "I've probably worked harder in the last three weeks than I ever have in my life. Doing this."

It was an extraordinary confession. By Trump's own telling, he's willing to invest more effort into claiming power through illegitimate means than anything else -- including a pandemic response or economic relief.

In January 2018, as one of Trump's government shutdowns got underway, presidential historian Jon Meacham said of the developments, "This is what government would look like without a president."

Nearly three years later, it's a quote that continues to resonate.