The Slatest

The White House Knew Trump Had Likely Been Exposed to the Virus. He Traveled and Held Events Anyway.

Trump at a campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota, Wednesday night.
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

After months of coronavirus recklessness, President Donald Trump revealed early Friday morning he had tested positive for COVID-19. The White House—or at least Trump himself—seems pretty certain the president contracted the virus from one of his closest advisers, Hope Hicks. We will never know for certain exactly how the president—or Hicks—contracted the virus, but we do know how the president acted after knowing he had been in close contact with someone exhibiting symptoms of the virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans during his presidency.

The New York Times reports Trump advisers knew it was likely that Hicks had contracted the coronavirus Wednesday when she publicly began exhibiting symptoms during a presidential campaign trip to Duluth, Minnesota. After the rally, Hicks reportedly quarantined for the return flight to Washington on Air Force One, and on Thursday, a test officially confirmed what senior White House officials already believed to be the case. The White House, however, hoped it could keep Hicks’ diagnosis from becoming public, Trump aides told the Times. It’s hard to overstate how closely Hicks works with the president and how intertwined their days reportedly are. Instead of taking precautions to protect those around him, however, Trump basically did nothing different. Instead of laying low, he traveled; instead of isolating, he met with people at campaign events; instead of protecting those around him, he knowingly risked spreading the virus further. [CNN and the Wall Street Journal both confirmed the White House was aware of Hicks’ positive test before Trump traveled Thursday on campaign business.*]

From the Washington Post:

After White House officials learned of Hicks’s symptoms, Trump and his entourage flew Thursday to New Jersey, where he attended a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster and delivered a speech. Trump was in close contact with dozens of other people, including campaign supporters, at a roundtable event.

The president did not wear a mask Thursday, including at the events at his golf course and on the plane, officials said. He was tested after he returned to the White House, but he also appeared on Sean Hannity’s TV show from the residence by telephone.

It wasn’t just Trump who carried on, potentially harming those around him—it was the rest of his staff, too. And they knew about Hicks; they knew what was coming. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who was also on the plane to Minnesota with Hicks, held a briefing with reporters without wearing a mask as if nothing was wrong. The utter carelessness of it all is staggering. And it obviously starts at the top with a president that derides mask-wearing as a sign of weakness.

*Update, 12:15 p.m.: This posted was updated to include media reports confirming when the White House got the results of Hope Hicks’ Covid test.

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