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It's the NPR Politics podcast. I'm Scott Detro. I cover the presidential campaign. And I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House. It's just after eight thirty on Friday morning. And the president of the United States has the coronavirus. Both President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive. This could have enormous implications for both the chain of command of the federal government and for the final weeks of a presidential election where more than a million people have already voted.
Tamme Let's just start with what we know.
And when we found out, yeah, so we found out that the president had tested positive about one a.m. with a tweet from the president that was followed quickly with a memo from the White House physician. He said that both the president and the first lady are doing well at this time, though they are both positive for covid and that the medical team will maintain a vigilant watch.
And he added that he expects the president to continue to carry out his duties without disruption. So what we know is that the president and the first lady are going to be staying at home.
A White House official told me that they're in good spirits, but we don't know how the president or the first lady will be affected by this.
We just don't know.
And what we do know is that there is documented evidence at this point that older people are more susceptible to serious cases and heavier people are more susceptible to serious cases.
President Trump fits both of those conditions. But, Tim, a major storyline of the entire year has been the fact that President Trump has downplayed, has dismissed, has ignored the basic precautions that many people recommend, including wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, things like that. I mentioned that because this could have real implications, because President Trump was on a stage for 90 minutes with former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday with a couple hundred people in the room at this debate.
And while everyone there was wearing masks, I was standing in the room watching the notable glaring exceptions where President Trump's family and his top aides, who sat in the front couple rows unmasked, which is a pattern, we should say, for this president and this White House.
The president being able to convince the American public that we have turned the corner on the coronavirus is a key part of his reelection pitch. And for months, he has created a bubble around himself where there was this image that covid wasn't a real concern.
President Trump just yesterday held a fundraiser at his Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey the day before he was in Minnesota. At a rally, Hope picks the close aide to him who tested positive earlier. She was on that flight with him.
And in contrast, Joe Biden's campaign has taken this extremely seriously. I spent the last few days traveling with them. Everyone who was on that whistle stop tour train had to wear. And 95, everyone on the train had been tested multiple times. When Joe Biden does hold campaign events, the crowd is extremely limited and there are designated circles placed on the ground for people to stand in order to socially distance. But the fact is, Joe Biden, who was also older, he's 77 years old, was standing on that stage with the president for an hour and a half on Tuesday at eight three.
Now, we have not heard anything from the Biden campaign in terms of just response to this news and also in terms of what they are doing as a precaution for their candidate. He is scheduled to travel to Michigan today. There's no word yet on whether that trip is canceled.
So let's shift here and talk about what we don't know. But the major questions that this raises, there's two there's what this means for the campaign. There's what this means for the country. Let's start with the campaign.
Yeah, the election is is a month and a day from today. More than a million people have already voted.
And now the president of the United States has a virus that could be incredibly serious.
Well, the president had a rally that was supposed to take place tonight, more rallies over the weekend, including in some coronavirus hotspots. But he's definitely not going to those rallies.
He's stuck at home.
We also now have word that Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, have been tested for the coronavirus and they tested negative this morning there. Pence, the vice president, is tested every day, they said, and he is negative.
There's another thing to think about. There's a debate in two weeks, a presidential debate in two weeks.
The vice presidential debate is even sooner.
I don't know how that debate happens at this point. I mean, it's hard to fathom at this moment.
And now we've gotten our very first response from Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, on Twitter just now, Jill. And I said our thoughts to President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for us. If recovery, we will continue to pray for the health and safety of the president and his family. OK, let's talk about the honestly, the scarier hypothetical here. The president of the United States, we've talked about the fact that he is an at risk person.
When you look at coronavirus, he's the head of the government. He's the commander in chief of the of the military.
He now could potentially have very serious, very serious symptoms in the coming days.
Yeah. And and let me tell you something else I'm worried about that may be a little provincial, but, you know, we didn't find out that hope picks this top aide to the president was had coronavirus from the White House. We found out because a reporter broke the story and the White House didn't confirm it until the president went on TV and said, oh, by the way, I'm getting tested.
There has not been a lot of reliable, straightforward, transparent information coming from this White House about the president's health in the past, about people in the White House, whether they've gotten sick or not.
The other thing is that Amy CONI Berrett, the president's pick to be the next Supreme Court justice, has been making the rounds, along with Vice President Pence and the chief of staff and others who've had exposure to the president making the rounds of the Senate, talking to senators.
And she spent a lot of time at the White House in the last weeks or so as she was as she was named to be the pick. And again, that's why we said that even though she looked like she was on a clear path to easy confirmation, you know, factors that we don't know are coming can come into play, I think, as we start to get more and more hypothetical.
Yeah, it can go a lot of directions. Let's just say that as facts develop, we will keep you posted on what it means for the country and what it means for the campaign when we know hard facts. I think this is about all the hard facts we know for the exact moment. We have been covering this across NPR's platforms on Up First, which you can check out, Unpeg will be on your radio all day. And we will be back in your podcast feed later today with more developments on this.
For now, though, I'm Scott Detro. I cover the presidential campaign. And I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.
Thank you for listening to the NPR Politics podcast.