Trump once defined success as keeping US COVID deaths below 200,000. When he failed, he said real failure would be 2.5 million dead.

  • On Tuesday, the US' Covid-19 death toll surpassed 200,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
  • In March, President Donald Trump said that if the US could keep the death toll between 100,000 and 200,000 that would be a "very good job."
  • At the time, the figure was seen as a distant prospect, and a way to distract from the rate at which the virus was spreading.
  • Months later, when 200,000 had indeed died, Trump instead switched to a new criterion.
  • He claimed instead that because the US made the "right" decisions, a hypothetical 2.5 million deaths had been prevented. 
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The United States hit a grim milestone on Tuesday, recording 200,000 coronavirus deaths and 6.8 million infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The figures are the worst in the world.

Throughout the crisis, President Donald Trump's criteria for what constitutes success in battling the pandemic has shifted as the number of infections and death toll has continued to mount. 

As the virus first began to spread through the US in February, the president said that it would just go away. 

And later, as the death toll reached 2,400, Trump said that he would have done a "very good job" if the US could keep its death toll between 100,000 and 200,000.

At the news conference in the White House on March 29, Trump cited a study by London's Imperial College, projecting that 2.2 Americans could die if not action was taken to suppress the spread of the disease. 

"You're talking about 2.2 million deaths," Trump said. "So if we can hold that down, as we're saying, to 100,000, it's a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 [thousand] and 200,000, we altogether have done a very good job."

By his own standard, Trump has failed. 

On Tuesday when asked about the number of deaths having tipped 200,000, Trump said "it's a shame" and "a horrible thing."

He went on to claim that because the US had not reached the 2 million or more deaths number he cited before, that his decisions had been correct.

"I think if we didn't do it properly and didn't do it right, you'd have two and a half million deaths," he said.

Under Trump's new set of criteria, it would seem anything below 2.5 million deaths could be hailed as a success. 

After his comments to reporters Tuesday, he set off for a rally in Pennsylvania, where few supporters wore masks or observed social distancing.

At the rally, he largely avoided the topic of the coronavirus death toll.

Instead, he attacked his rival for the presidency, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, claiming Biden has received plastic surgery which his mask conceals. Biden has consistently advocated wearing masks.

"What the hell did he spend all that money on the plastic surgery if he's going to cover it up?" said Trump. 

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