President Donald Trump learned Thursday morning that his longtime aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for the coronavirus but proceeded with his scheduled events for the day, including a million-dollar fundraiser at his New Jersey golf club.
The fundraiser brought in $5 million for his campaign, Bloomberg News reported. The president has trailed rival Joe Biden in fundraising.
The president did not wear a mask when left or returned for his trip. He has shown a reluctance to wear one in public and private.
There were about 100 donors at the event and they are ‘freaking out’ about the president’s diagnosis.
‘The donors have been texting and calling. Freaking out,’ a person with direct knowledge told CNBC.
Trump looked tired when he returned to the White House Thursday evening, after wooing his supporters for cash. It capped off a week where he debated Biden in Cleveland on Tuesday and held a rally and attended a fundraiser Wednesday in Minnesota.
The White House is under close scrutiny for the timeline events after Trump tweeted in the early morning hours Friday that he and first lady tested positive for COVID. Hicks was said to have experienced symptoms on Wednesday evening and quarantined herself on Air Force One when she flew back from Minnesota with the president and White House staff.
The Centers for Disease Control advises people in regards to COVID: ‘Even if you test negative for COVID-19 or feel healthy, you should stay home (quarantine) since symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.’
The president sounded vague on what happened when he talked about Hicks’ diagnosis during an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Thursday night.
‘So, she did test positive. I just heard about this. She tested positive,’ he said.
He added he and first lady Melania Trump had just been tested.
‘I just went out with a test. I’ll see what — because we spend a lot of time. And the first lady just went out with a test also,’ he said.
The White House has not given specifics on when tests were given and results were learned so it’s unclear if Trump was tested Thursday morning after learning about Hicks or Thursday evening as he said on Hannity or both.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows gave a different version of events when he said the administration learned of Hicks’ diagnosis on Thursday afternoon, as Marine One was preparing to lift off for the president’s fundraiser.
‘I’m not going to get into the tiktok,’ he told reporters at the White House on Friday when asked about the sequence of events.
‘In terms of Hope Hicks, we discovered that right as the Marine One was taking off yesterday. We actually pulled some of the people that had been traveling and in close contact,’ he added.
Meadows did not wear a face mask during his Q&A with reporters, explaining he had tested negative for COVID that morning so he did not need to.
Last photo: Donald Trump looks bedraggled as he returns to the White House from his New Jersey fundraiser; it’s been revealed he knew of Hope Hicks positive COVID test before he left for the event
White House officials wanted to keep Hope Hicks’ COVID diagnosis a secret after she tested positive for the disease – above she exits Marine One on Wednesday
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the administration learned of Hope Hicks’ diagnosis on Thursday afternoon, as Marine One was preparing to lift off for the president’s fundraiser
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she did not know of Hope Hicks diagnosis on Thursday when she held her press briefing
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and White House social media director Dan Scavino were two of the staffers pulled from that New Jersey trip. They had traveled with Hicks on Air Force One to the debate Tuesday and the Minnesota events on Wednesday.
Additionally McEnany held a briefing in the White House press room on Thursday but has said she did not know of Hicks’ diagnosis at the time. The briefing took place an hour before Marine One departed and McEnany did not wear a face mask for it although reporters in the room did.
Also being kept in the dark is the Biden campaign. PBS reports the White House never reached out to the camp of the president’s Democratic rival and they learned about the president’s diagnosis from media reports.
Biden shared a stage with Trump for 90 minutes during the debate in Cleveland on Tuesday. Neither man wore face masks but were socially distanced.
Biden was tested for COVID on Friday morning and it came back negative. As did results for Jill Biden.
Pressure is increasing on the White House to say what it knew when after reports officials wanted to keep Hicks’ diagnosis a secret.
The news comes as more Republican officials test positive in the wake of Hicks’ news and the Trump campaign staff has been told to wear masks.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tested positive on Wednesday after feeling ill. She frequently travels with the president.
‘After a member of her family tested positive for COVID-19, the Chairwoman was tested for the virus. On Wednesday afternoon, she got confirmation she was COVID-19 positive,’ an RNC spokesperson said. ‘She has been at her home in Michigan since last Saturday.’
McDaniel was last with the president on Friday, when he was in Florida, Georgia and Virginia. She was tested after a family member was ill.
And Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who traveled with the president to the debate in Cleveland on Tuesday night, sent an email to staff urging those who had contact with anyone testing positive self-quarantine.
He also encouraged staff to wear masks and said the campaign office would remain open.
‘Any campaign staff member who has had exposure to someone testing positive should immediately begin self-quarantine,’ he wrote, according to CNN, which obtained a copy.
‘While we do not believe anyone else without symptoms needs to self-quarantine at this time, it is on all of us to continue to exercise the smart judgement and practices the campaign has long encouraged: wear a mask, wash you hands, socially distance.’
He added the work of the campaign would continue: ‘While some public events will be taken down, the campaign office remains open and our nation-wide team will continue with our efforts to re-election President Trump.’
The White House and Trump’s campaign are still grappling with the news of Trump’s positive COVID test which came after his long time aide tested positive.
Only a very small circle of people knew that Hicks had tested positive, and senior staff had hoped to keep that information private, reported Bloomberg News, which broke the news of her diagnosis.
It’s unclear when and how Hicks, 31, contracted the disease.
Hicks tested positive on Thursday but sees the president on a daily basis and travels with him frequently.
She joined him – and several senior White House aides – on Air Force One on Tuesday to travel to the presidential debate in Cleveland and she was with the president on Wednesday when he traveled to Minnesota.
Hicks was quarantined away from others on the president’s plane on the return trip from Minnesota and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday, an administration official told the Associated Press.
But Trump continued with his schedule Thursday and traveled to and from his Bedminster, New Jersey golf resort to take part in two campaign events. They were held behind closed doors to a select audience.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tested positive on Wednesday after feeling ill
Hope Hicks wears a face mask aboard Marine One in mid-September
Hope Hicks hours before her diagnosis: Hope Hicks, far right, is pictured boarding Marine One on Wednesday. The President was also on board alongside Stephen Miller, second from right, Jared Kushner, center. Her coronavirus diagnosis was announced the next day. They were on their way to Minnesota when this photograph was taken. She started feeling unwell on the way back
Trump then flew then back to the White House later Thursday evening, when it was then publicly confirmed Hicks had the virus.
His social media director Dan Scavino and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who were originally set to join him on the Thursday trip, were replaced at the last minute by other aides. Those two had traveled on Tuesday and Wednesday with the president.
It was not until shortly before 1am EST Friday that Trump confirmed he had the virus, writing: ‘Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!’
Senior staff have been tested for COVID-19 daily since two people who work at the White House complex tested positive in early May, prompting the White House to step up precautions. Everyone who comes into contact with the president also receives a quick-result test.
Testing for White House staff increased after a military valet who had close contact with the president contracted the virus.
In the same week, Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller – who is married to Trump adviser Stephen Miller – also tested positive.
It is not known why the president’s test took so long to come back or whether he was tested Wednesday evening when Hicks first began displaying symptoms.
Trump only said he and Melania were in quarantine on Thursday evening, writing: ‘Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for Covid 19. Terrible! The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!’
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 quarantine for 14 days, White House staffers are considered essential workers.
CDC’s guidelines for exposed essential workers allows them to return to work if they take precautions, including taking their temperature before going into work, wearing a mask at all times and practicing social distancing.
The positive test comes a month before the election and after the president has spent the year largely downplaying the threat of the virus.
TUESDAY: President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wave before boarding Air Force One to travel to the first presidential debate in Cleveland
THURSDAY: President Donald Trump walks from Marine One to the White House in Washington, Thursday
A TIMELINE OF THE PRESIDENT’S TRAVEL
Saturday, September 26: President travels to a rally in Pennsylvania with Hope Hicks
Tuesday, September 29: Hicks is aboard Air Force One with the president and Melania to travel to night’s first presidential debate in Cleveland. She is seen leaving the jet without a mask
Wednesday, September 30: Hicks travels on Marine One and on Air Force One to a rally in Minnesota Wednesday.
She is understood to have felt poorly on the way back, quarantining on the presidential plane to get home.
Thursday, October 1: Trump still travels to New Jersey for a fundraiser
Hicks tests positive
Trump says he is awaiting test results before confirming he and wife Melania have tested positive for COVID-19
Friday, October 2: A political rally in Sanford, Florida is cancelled
Trump was last seen by reporters returning to the White House on Thursday evening and looked to be in good health.
At 74 years old and obese, he is at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has now killed more than 205,000 people nationwide.
‘Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!’ Trump tweeted.
In a memorandum, the president’s physician said that the president and first lady ‘are both well at this time’ and ‘plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.’
‘Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering,’ he added.
The diagnosis marks a major blow for a president who has been trying desperately to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them even as cases continue to rise just weeks before the November 3 election.
And it stands as the most serious known public health scare encountered by any sitting American president in recent history.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the first couple was in good spirits and the president has ‘mild’ symptoms.
‘They remain in good spirits, the president does have mild symptoms,’ he told reporters at the White House Friday morning.