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From The New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro. This is a special episode of The Daily. Today, the disease that has infected millions of Americans and killed more than 200000 has now reached the president. I spoke with my colleagues, White House correspondents Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. It's Friday afternoon, October 2nd. Maggie. Peter, thank you for making time for us in the middle of a very big and very fast moving story, I should say that it is around four o'clock.
Things about this story may keep changing throughout the day, but at this point, what exactly do we know about the president's health? At this point, we know that he is symptomatic, we're told that the symptoms are mild, one person described them to me as like a cold, including some fatigue that he was exhibiting yesterday. There had been discussions at the White House very early this morning and then later into the morning about the possibility of the president giving some sense to the public that he's fine and that the government is continuing and that he is leading.
So far that has not happened.
Well, good afternoon to all of the leaders in the nursing home community assisted living.
He was supposed to get on a call with governors around the country to discuss the coronavirus and vulnerable seniors and treating them. And he abruptly was not on that call.
I know many people are expecting to hear from President Trump today, but I'm sure you are all aware President Trump and the first lady last night was Mike Pence, who was the president asked you to take this call and say there are more questions than answers about how he is right now.
But, of course, the president is in a vulnerable age bracket. So this is a serious situation.
He it's very serious at age 70, for he's in the most vulnerable category. Eight out of 10 deaths we've seen in the United States from the coronavirus have been people 65 and older. And while most people who get it at that age do recover, the risk factors go up. If there are what they call comorbidities, comorbidities being things like your weight. In this case, the president is classified by his weight officially as obese. That would be a risk factor for him.
So it's a worrisome thing for anybody and a particularly worrisome, obviously, when the United States has a disease that has been so tormenting for so many people.
So let's talk about how we came to know that President Trump had the virus. My understanding is that it was a somewhat roundabout process. I wonder if you both can walk us through that.
So, Michael, we didn't learn that the president has the coronavirus until very early Friday morning. The reasons that there were questions about whether he had it was that one of his senior advisers, a person who is constantly around him, who picks tested positive earlier on Thursday, that was not information that White House aides wanted out. They had tried keeping it quiet, to their credit to reporters at Bloomberg News, broke the story and made it public. And from there, it became very hard for the White House to keep it under wraps.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions, Michael. We don't know when the president was tested, at what time, whether he took more than one test when he first started experiencing symptoms. Again, a lot of this is still just unknown.
And what do we know about the exposure of the president and of Hope Hicks, the kind of background that preceded either of them testing positive?
Well, obviously, this is something people are still trying to research and figure out. Did hope Hicks give it to the president? Did the president give it to Hope Hicks? Any of these things are certainly possible. There are a number of positive results we're now learning about from people who were at Saturday's event at the White House announcing the president's nomination of Amy CONI Berrett Supreme Court.
I want to thank the members of the Senate. We have so many of them here today. Thank you very much.
Senator Mike Lee, who was there, is now confirmed he's tested positive. The president of Notre Dame who was there has now tested positive, obviously, the president and hope. Oh, interesting.
We're also joined by Amy's husband, Jesse. Thank you, Jesse, very much and are seven beautiful children. Congratulations.
At least one person who was on the plane following that event when the president went off to a rally has now tested positive. So I think a lot of attention right now is being paid to that Saturday event and whether that was sort of a spreader moment for this virus with us as well, the first lady and first lady.
And you know how many people were at that event, along with Vice President Mike Pence and his amazing wife, Karen. Thank you very much.
I don't know for sure. I mean, I was it was a number of people in the Rose Garden, I think because it was outdoors, people had the assumption that it would be safer than indoors. But people most people there were not wearing masks. They were getting awfully close to each other in a number of cases. I think some people were seen shaking hands and, you know, getting up close. Social distancing, of course, has not been a priority for this White House.
Masks have not only been not a priority, but almost actively discouraged in this White House. And so other than the fact that it was outdoors, this event was sort of a case study in what public health people would tell you not to do.
So, Maggie, tell us about what happens once this news breaks in Bloomberg News about the fact that hope has the virus. Michael, initially there was an effort by White House aides to try to avoid confirming it. They were trying to keep from allowing the news to spread. That became untenable after a very short amount of time and then started the scramble about what was going on with the president, the president of the United States.
Hello, Iowa. I love Iowa. The president at around 730 on Thursday night, did a tell a town hall with voters in Iowa will crush the virus.
Our opponent will crush America and thriving and we are thriving as a nation. We are thriving. And his voice was noticeably low and sounded unlike him.
President of the United States is on our newsmaker line. Mr. President, thank you for being with us. I know you've been busy all night. Thank you for taking the time. Thank you very much. Thank you.
He then did an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News where, again, his voice sounded off.
By the way, some news broke earlier this evening. Hope Hicks, who's worked for a long time, is tested positive for Coronavirus.
And in that interview with Sean Hannity, he confirmed that Hope Hicks had tested positive and expressed surprise that she's tremendous.
I was a little surprised, but she's she's a very warm person. She has a hard time when soldiers and law enforcement up comes up to her. You know, she wants to treat them great. And I'd say stay away. I can't get near you.
But he appeared to blame law enforcement or a soldier or who she had come in contact with outside of the White House who wanted to be near her for getting her sick. He then tweeted that he was going to begin the quarantine process and he was awaiting test results. That was at around 10, 45 pm. And then we got the test result after that. But the lack of communication from the White House with reporters during that time was pretty profound.
Do we know if the president potentially exposed anyone after he and the people around him understood that Hope Hicks had tested positive and therefore that he might also have the virus? Yeah, that's a great question, actually.
Good morning. Obviously, Mark Meadows told us today, I can tell you in terms of hope, Hope Hicks, we discovered that right. As the Marine One was taking off yesterday, we actually put that they learned about hope.
Hicks is positive test result on Thursday, just as they were getting on Marine One to fly to New Jersey for a fundraising event at the president's Bedminster Golf Club. He went ahead with that event, even though that they knew that Hope Hicks was positive and therefore they had some risk of being positive themselves. There were a couple hundred people there. I think Maggie knows better than I do who are both outdoors and indoors. Some proximity to the president at that point.
We'll have future updates. I'll be glad to do that. But any other specifics for the president?
So the chief of staff is acknowledging that that he and the president understood that going to a fundraiser might mean exposing people. Correct, they knew that they were letting the president go into a crowd with other people when he had been exposed to Hope Hicks, we don't know exactly when he started feeling sick himself, but he went off and did the exact opposite of what his own government recommends people should do in that situation. Mm hmm.
And Peter, you're a student of government. Let's walk through all the scenarios that could play out under these pretty extraordinary circumstances a month before the election in the event that the president is just recovering in the coming weeks. What happens?
How would that change how he fulfills his presidential duties, if at all? What happens to the campaign? Well, we're at a really extraordinary time for this to be happening for any president. He's thirty two days away from an election. He had a relatively robust schedule of campaign rallies. He's already had to cancel his appearance at one in Florida today. We have one in Wisconsin tomorrow and another in Arizona on Monday that he obviously won't be at. And I think that this just throws a campaign up into the air.
The next debate is October 15th. Will he be able to make that or not? We don't know. Assuming he's not terribly sick or recovers fast, he'll still be off the campaign trail for probably a couple of weeks. You would imagine I'm not a doctor if obviously it's worse than that. He could be off the campaign trail all the way up to the election. We've known that a number of people who recovered but still took a long time to get their strength back and get past the the aftereffects.
Now, in terms of his duties, as long as he's able to discharge them, he can do them from the the residence. It doesn't he didn't have to show up at the Oval Office every day. There's no requirement if for some reason he gets to the point where he feels like he cannot discharge duties, then that that's where the 25th Amendment comes in. Under the 25th Amendment, he can sign a letter to the speaker of the House and the Senate president pro tem transferring his powers temporarily to the vice president.
That would last for as long as the president decided it would last. Now, that's only happened three times since that amendment was ratified in nineteen sixty seven, once under Reagan, twice under George W. Bush, all three cases where the president was put under anesthesia for like a colonoscopy and they for a couple hours transferred their powers. We've never had a circumstance like this where a president was facing an illness of uncertain intensity and duration, where this has been an issue.
So we're not at that stage yet, but that's what would happen if things got bad.
Mm hmm. And so staying just a moment longer in this scenario with the president is sick, but he's recovering. We also have a Supreme Court nomination underway. What do we know about how this might affect that proceeding, especially given what you have just told us about this Saturday event at the White House that involved key figures involved in that nomination confirmation, including Senator Mike Lee, who is on the Judiciary Committee, and, of course, Amy Barrett herself.
Amy Barrett herself has been tested and she is negative. We are told there are reports out there that she had previously actually had the coronavirus and recovered so she would presumably have some immunity. That's the theory, of course, on these things. But she has been meeting with a lot of senators and I think there's a lot of uncertainty at this point. The Republicans certainly would like to proceed with the Supreme Court confirmation regardless of what's happening here. But this will add one more note of uncertainty to an already rushed process that was going to be challenging for Republicans under the best of circumstances.
And let's just quickly tick through other known test results that you two have learned in the past few hours. Mike Pence has tested negative. That's correct. Joe Biden has tested negative. Yes. Is there anybody else whose results have just come in or we are awaiting yet?
Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, has tested positive. She was last with the president, we understand, last Friday, which would have been the day before this announcement of the Supreme Court nomination. But most of the others who have tested themselves, who are close to the president in the last few days have for the moment at least tested negative, including the chief of staff, the vice president, the Treasury secretary of state, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Baron Trump have all tested negative so far.
Mm hmm. OK, so you have taken us through the scenarios if the president is recovering from the virus and it remains pretty mild and a delicate question, but one that I think is on a lot of people's minds is if the president were to become very sick, if the president were to succumb to the virus at this late stage of the campaign, what happens? Just logistically, hundreds of thousands of Americans have already started casting their ballots. Early voting has begun.
What would happen to his nomination?
Yeah, it's a great question and it's a real unexplored territory. We've never experienced this at a presidential level. My understanding is that the Republican National Committee has the power to declare another candidate if they decide they need to do that. But as you point out, ballots have been printed and many, many have already been cast, which would then raise all sorts of questions. And I think that lawyers probably looking at this even as we speak, I think you would presume if for some reason the president weren't able to complete the election cycle, that Republicans would almost certainly put a Mike Pence, I would imagine.
I don't know how that would affect ballots that have already been cast. If you cast a ballot for Donald Trump and Mike Pence, does that ballot get counted for Pence as a candidate for president or does get thrown out? I don't know the answer to that question right now. And it's a little confusing at this point. We have to hope, obviously, it doesn't come to that.
I want to talk to you about the conspiracy theories that have been flying around on both sides. They started almost immediately early this morning when news broke. Is there anything to say about that? So, look, there has been a pretty persistent buzz on the Internet and in my inbox from smart, educated people asking, does he really have the coronavirus? Could this be some kind of an effort to distract from something else or could he be lying? How do you know he really has it?
I think that this is a reflection, unfortunately, of the disorienting effect that this White House has constant falsehoods and lies has had on the general public. But to be clear, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the White House is in on a giant conspiracy to pretend that the president, who considers sickness to be a sign of weakness, is sick.
Maggie, as someone who covers this president, this White House so closely, what are you thinking at this moment? I'm thinking that this is an astonishing and yet somewhat predictable end to this year. Wow.
Well, look, obviously I and I think everybody else hopes that the president and the first lady and hope Hicks get better and get better quickly and recover fully. It is awful for anybody to be diagnosed with this virus. But the president has at almost every turn played down the threat of the virus. He was doing it as recently as yesterday. He has made fun of Joe Biden for wearing a mask and taking precautions, like laying low. And there were people around the president, including, I would say, the campaign manager.
He demoted, Brad Paskeville, who were really concerned he was going to get sick. And that was back in March. And that is what has happened now. Mm hmm.
And Peter, as someone who covers the presidency as an institution and has for decades, what are you thinking in this moment?
Well, I'm thinking that we're once again in a position that we haven't seen in modern times. How many instances have we seen in the four years of the Trump presidency where we were confronting something we had never really fully experienced before? Here we are again, just 30 days out from an election where the president, who has contracted an illness that has killed two hundred thousand of his fellow countrymen and a virus that he himself had downplayed, as Maggie just said so much just last night, he gave a speech.
It is a profound honor to address the seventy fifth annual Al Smith dinner. For generations, this wonderful event has been a revered institution in New York and New York.
Life to the Al Smith Dinner via video. As president, I want to thank the Catholic community for the magnificent generosity you showed in America's hour of need. We mourn for all of those who lost a loved one, and in their memory we will defeat the virus through advances and treatment. We have reduced the fatality rate by 85 percent since just April.
We are on track to develop and distribute a vaccine before the end of the year and maybe substantially before, in which he said the end of the pandemic is in sight, that the end of the pandemic is in sight and next year will be one of the greatest years in the history of our country from the very beginning of our republic.
So the idea that now he has caught the virus that he himself spent so much time downplaying is an extraordinary situation. And it raises all kinds of questions. And it obviously upends the election campaign that we thought we were covering it up ends this stage of the presidency in a way that we can't fully comprehend at this point or predict. Maggie. Peter, thank you very much, I know we will be back in touch with you both. Thank you. Thank you, Michael.
On Friday afternoon, the Times reported that President Trump was headed to Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland, where he was expected to remain for several days. The state was described by the president's press secretary as being, quote, out of an abundance of caution. Earlier in the afternoon, the president's daughter, Sean Connelly, had released a memo saying that the president was fatigued but in good spirits and had received a single infusion of an experimental treatment, an antibody cocktail, and that he was also taking vitamin D, zinc, melatonin, aspirin and Pepcid.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who would be third behind Vice President Mike Pence to step in and lead the country in the event it became necessary, has now also tested negative for the coronavirus. That's it for now. I'm Michael Barbaro. See you on Monday. As we plan for the future, city provides you with the financial expertise and agility you need to help you bank like your best days are ahead. That's tomorrow thinking empowering you to bank like you visit Citi Dotcom to get started.