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Trump rages against foes as coronavirus spreads

WASHINGTON — On a day when coronavirus deaths passed 80,000 and top government scientists warned of the perils of loosening public health restrictions too soon, President Trump used his massive public platform to suggest a talk-show host he has clashed with committed homicide.

His baseless charge capped a 48-hour stretch in which he accused scores of political opponents of criminal acts ranging from illegal espionage to election rigging.

Since writing ‘‘HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY’’ at 8:10 a.m. on Sunday, Trump has used his Twitter account to make or elevate allegations of criminal conduct against no less than 20 individuals and organizations. Since Sunday, he has tweeted more often about alleged crimes by his opponents than he has about the pandemic ravaging the country with mass death and unemployment.


The list of alleged culprits Trump has charged include two television news hosts, a comedian, at least five former officials from the FBI and Justice Department, the state of California, a broadcast television station, and at least five top national security officials from President Barack Obama’s administration.

Trump tweeted multiple times about alleged criminal activity against him by Obama, but struggled to elaborate beyond his frequent references to ‘‘Obamagate.’’

‘‘And if you look at what’s gone on, and if you look at, now, all of this information that’s being released,’’ Trump said during a Rose Garden news conference Monday. ‘‘And from what I understand, that’s only the beginning — some terrible things happened, and it should never be allowed to happen in our country again.’’

Pressed for specifics by a Washington Post reporter, Trump demurred.

‘‘You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody,’’ he said. ‘‘All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.’’

Over the course of his presidency, Trump has responded to criticism of his performance or comments by suggesting or outright asserting that his critics are criminals. Trump, who campaigned for the White House by leading ‘‘Lock her up!’’ chants against his Democratic rival, is now reverting to a familiar political tactic as he faces the most significant challenge of his presidency, said Russell Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs.


‘‘He’s using this as a means of distraction,’’ he said. ‘‘As we’ve seen over the years, when the pressure on him gets turned up, there’s an attempt to deflect attention onto his political opponents.’’

The president, who has developed a habit of watching cable news coverage at all hours of the day, lashed out against MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, insinuating that he should be prosecuted for murder.

‘‘When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder?’’ Trump wrote on Twitter at 6:54 a.m. ‘‘Some people think so.’’

Trump’s conspiratorial claim that Scarborough killed a congressional aide who died in 2001 has been debunked by the Post and other media outlets.

Since taking office, Trump has casually accused people of treason, ranging from former FBI director James Comey to the US media. He has regularly accused people of perjury or mishandling classified information, usually without evidence.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, ripped up Trump’s State of the Union speech in February, Trump said the act of defiance was criminal in nature.


‘‘First of all, it’s an official document, you’re not allowed, it’s illegal what she did,’’ Trump said. ‘‘She broke the law.’’

She didn’t.