Veteran reporter Carl Bernstein has branded Donald Trump a “homicidal President” who is turning his own supporters into "sacrificial lambs” by allowing them to attend large indoor rallies amidst the pandemic.
The damming comments come after Mr Trump held an indoor rally in Nevada over the weekend, during which most rally-goers were not wearing masks or observing social distancing.
Mr Bernstein, who did much of the original news reporting on the Watergate scandal that led to the investigations in the Nixon presidency, spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday about his thoughts on the controversy.
“We are witnessing a homicidal president convening ― purposefully ― a homicidal assembly to help him get re-elected as president of the United States instead of protecting the health and welfare of the people of the United States including his own supporters whose lives he is willing to sacrifice,” he said.
The journalist and author said the president is calling his supporters forward to be “sacrificial lambs" by encouraging them to come to the event.
The Trump campaign hosted supporters at rallies in the state on Saturday and Sunday nights. The first rally was held at a regional airport near Reno and the second rally was at an indoor venue in Henderson.
“Here is this president who has staked part of his presidency on the right to life, particularly of the unborn,” Mr Bernstein said.
“And every day he has sacrificed the lives of thousands of Americans because he is unwilling to deal honestly, forthrightly, meaningfully with the greatest domestic crisis in our postwar history in this country.”
In response to the comments, during an interview with Fox & Friends on Tuesday Mr Trump called Mr Bernstein "a nut job", saying that he “has been a nut job for many years.”
“He was a total nut job," the president said of Mr Bernstein. “He’ll say anything. No matter what you did. Like today, I’m doing a great deal with Israel. No matter what you do, with some of the fake news, it doesn’t make any difference.”
Its not the first time this week the president has faced intense criticism regarding the rally, with George Washington University’s Jonathan Reiner also branding the event "negligent homicide,” on Monday.
“What else could you call an act that because of its negligence results in the death of others?”, Mr Reiner said in an interview on CNN.
“If you have a mass gathering now in the United States in a place like Nevada or just about any other place with hundreds of thousands of people,” he said, “people will get infected and some of those people will die.”
Mr Trump shifted the blame for the indoor venue of the rally on Tuesday, claiming that he wanted to hold the a second outdoor event but that Nevada’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, had “forced us inside”.
“It wasn’t our fault. … We had four or five outdoor sites” for the second weekend rally in Nevada, Mr Trump alleged on Fox & Friends.
The president claimed that the Sisolak administration “rejected” each of their outdoor site proposals and forced his campaign to select “a very big building” to mitigate coronavirus fears.
Mr Sisolak called the selection of the indoor facility “selfish” and “reckless.”
During his interview, Mr Bernstein also accused Trump of “the most grievous felony committed by any president in our history, probably”, referring to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that he had “abdicated his responsibility”.
More than 6.57 million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus across the US since the outbreak began in March leading to 194,000 deaths as of Tuesday.