The desperation that has driven Donald Trump to leave hospital prematurely and theatrically pull off his mask on the White House balcony while in the throes of coronavirus infection gives some measure of how dangerous the next four weeks will be.

Many students of Trump’s life and career have warned that he would be prepared to sacrifice anyone – even those closest to him – to spare himself the humiliation of a one-term presidency, but even they surely could not have anticipated how literal that sacrifice would be.

It involved creating a culture in the White House in which the wearing of masks was scoffed at, and seen as a sign of disloyalty, the worst sin in the Trump court. Trump drove home the message on Monday night, staging a spectacle of his return to the White House maskless, with photographers forced to be in attendance. He has produced a toxic workplace to the point of potential lethality.

A super-spreader event was held there to make the most out of Trump’s nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court – exploiting the opportunity of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, and then the president and his considerable entourage fanned out around the country in pursuit of campaign funds.

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