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On the day Rep. John Lewis was lying in state on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump dismissed his legacy and complained that the civil rights leader made a “big mistake” in declining to attend his inauguration more than three years ago.
Trump made the criticism of Lewis in an interview with Axios that was recorded last week but aired on Monday night.
“He didn’t come to my inauguration, he didn’t come to my State of the Union addresses, and that’s OK, that’s his right. And again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have. He should have come. I think he made a big mistake.”
When asked what he thought Lewis’ legacy would be, Trump appeared to dismiss the long-serving Georgia congressman.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. I never met John Lewis.”
Trump’s only concession to Lewis’ memory was saying he wouldn’t object to the petition to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama — where Lewis and hundreds of other peaceful marchers were beaten by police in 1965 — after the late congressman.
But dismissing one of the U.S. most iconic civil rights leaders was not the only controversial thing Trump said during the interview.
He also suggested China sent the coronavirus to the U.S. on purpose, revealed he never challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin about bounties on U.S. soldiers, claimed “too much” coronavirus testing is a bad thing, made unfounded claims about mail-in voting fraud, and poured fuel on the conspiracy theory that Jeffrey Epstein didn’t take his own life in jail.
‘The U.S. is lower than the world’
Much of the 30-minute interview focused on the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus, which has been widely seen as disastrous.
Rather than accepting criticism of his administration’s failure to address the pandemic and the number of deaths it has caused, Trump attacked Beijing and focused on the damage the lockdown has done to the U.S. economy.
“The virus was sent to us by China, and let me tell you we’re never going to forget it,” Trump said, lamenting that he “closed down the greatest economy ever in history.”
The president claimed the U.S. had the virus under control, but when challenged on the rising death tolls, Trump produced a series of charts he said proved the U.S. was among the best countries in the world when it came to death rate.
"If you look at death, the United States is lowest in numerous categories. We're lower than the world. We’re lower than Europe.”
The charts Trump was showing were comparing deaths to the total number of confirmed cases. But when challenged that the more accurate figure was deaths per capita, Trump said: “You can’t do that.”
Trump claimed that “those people that really understand it say that we have done an incredible job.” When asked who those people were, Trump didn’t say.
‘Read the manuals’
Trump was also challenged on testing but refused to say when the entire U.S. population would have access to same-day testing.
He then claimed the U.S might be doing too much testing.
“There are those that say ‘You can test too much’ you know that?”
When asked who said that, Trump replied: “Read the manuals, read the books.” When pressed on what manuals or books he was referring to, Trump just repeated: "Read the books, read the books.”
‘A lot of things could happen’
He reiterated that suggestion during the Axios interview, claiming that the scale of mail-in ballots that will be required this year due to the coronavirus pandemic will lead to widespread fraud — without providing any evidence to back up the claim.
“You could have a case when this election could not be decided on the evening of November 3. You could have a case when this election is decided two months later. You know why? Because lots of things will happen during that period of time.”
When it was pointed out that Trump’s own campaign is urging supporters to vote by mail and that Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump was conducting robocalls in California to tell people voting by mail was safe and secure, Trump ignored the comments.
‘I wish her well’
Last week Trump was criticized for saying he wished Ghislaine Maxwell well after she had been arrested on charges of child sex trafficking.
When challenged on that, Trump doubled down and fueled conspiracy theories suggesting that her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein didn’t commit suicide in jail last year.
“Her friend or boyfriend was either killed or committed suicide in jail. She’s now in jail. Yeah I wish her well, I’d wish you well, I’d wish a lot of people well. Good luck, let them prove somebody was guilty.”
Trump continued: “Her boyfriend died in jail and people are still trying to figure it out, was it a suicide, was he killed, and I do wish her well. I’m not looking for anything bad for her.”