News that President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE has tested positive for the coronavirus shook Washington and resonated around the world on Friday, provoking concern about the president’s health and raising questions about the continuity of government with the 2020 election only one month away.
White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsJan. 6 panel plans vote to censure Trump DOJ official Clark Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Schiff: Jan. 6 panel decision on charges for Meadows could come this week MORE said the president is experiencing “mild symptoms” from the virus and that contingency plans are in place to ensure the government continues to function while the president is in quarantine.
Trump has not appeared on-camera since the news of his positive test broke early Friday morning.
“I fully expect that, as this virus continues to go on, other people in the White House will certainly have a positive test result, and we’ve got the mitigation plan in place to make sure the government not only continues to move forward but the work of the American people continues to move forward,” Meadows said.
First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden's message on the 'omicron' variant Jill Biden unveils traditional White House holiday décor Jill Biden to reveal theme for White House's annual holiday decor Monday MORE, White House senior adviser Hope HicksHope HicksWhite House orders release of Trump records to Jan. 6 committee Grisham calls Kushner 'Rasputin in a slim-fitting suit' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US prepares vaccine booster plan MORE and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel have also been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
Hicks’s case was revealed late Thursday, preceding news of President Trump’s diagnosis. The White House learned of her positive test before the president departed for a fundraiser in Bedminster, N.J., on Thursday afternoon.
Vice President Pence and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceMcCarthy, Ducey speak at Pence fundraiser: report Jill Biden takes starring role at difficult Olympics Pence refused to leave Capitol during riot: book MORE have tested negative.
The 25th Amendment stipulates that Trump could assign the powers of the presidency over to Pence if he were to become incapacitated.
The coronavirus has been deadliest for seniors and those with preexisting respiratory conditions. Trump is 74 years of age and overweight, factors that place him in a high-risk category for falling ill from the virus.
On Tuesday night, Trump shared the debate stage with Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenDearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized Pfizer to apply for COVID-19 booster approval for 16- and 17-year-olds: report Coronavirus variant raises fresh concerns for economy MORE, who is 77 years old.
Biden will be tested on Friday. His running mate, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBuilding back a better vice presidency Stacey Abrams nominated to board of solar energy firm Emhoff lights first candle in National Menorah-lighting ceremony MORE (D-Calif.), has tested negative.
Others who have been in close contact with the president in recent days have tested negative, including Meadows and Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, as well as daughter Ivanka TrumpIvanka TrumpBiden celebrates start of Hanukkah Meadows comes under growing Jan. 6 panel spotlight Tucker Carlson rips Graham over report he told officers to shoot Jan. 6 rioters MORE and her husband Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerBiden celebrates start of Hanukkah Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report Watchdog finds no money has flowed out of agency tasked by Trump admin to fight pandemic MORE, both senior White House advisers.
The president is expected to continue working in some capacity while in quarantine. He has a phone call scheduled for Friday afternoon on providing COVID-19 support to vulnerable seniors.
Trump canceled a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., and a campaign rally in Sanford, Fla., that had been scheduled for Friday.
White House officials have said the president is “energetic” and that they expect a full recovery.
However, there are deep wells of distrust between this administration and the news media, including with respect to the president’s health.
Past administrations have routinely sought to talk down the severity of health crises presidents have faced.
The New York Times reported that the president appeared lethargic at a Thursday fundraiser and that he fell asleep on the airplane ride back from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday night.
The diagnosis also draws attention to the president’s own handling of the pandemic.
Trump has repeatedly sought to talk down the severity of the virus, pushed to swiftly reopen the economy and has underplayed the importance of wearing masks while holding large campaign rallies. During a prerecorded speech to a Catholic charity dinner Thursday, Trump declared that “end of the pandemic is in sight.”
Across town on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears MORE (R-Ky.) said the president’s diagnosis “underscores that the coronavirus is not concerned about the American election and that's it not going away until we get a vaccine.”
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNews media's sausage-making obsession helps no one Klobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-Calif.) said she's hopeful the news will ignite an urgency in Congress to "crush" the deadly virus.
“Maybe now that people who see the president of the United States with all the protection that he has, and the first lady, still having this exposure, it might be ... a learning experience,” Pelosi said. “But more than learning, it has to be something that is acted upon.”
The political implications of the diagnosis could not be ignored with only 32 days to go before the election, which has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump trails badly against Biden in the polls and some Republicans are beginning to worry about a landslide loss that also costs the GOP their majority in the Senate.
The president is fresh off a debate that set off alarm bells for many Republicans given Trump’s frequent interruptions of Biden and moderator Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceBret Baier confirms his 'concerns' about Tucker Carlson's Jan. 6 documentary Rittenhouse says Biden defamed his character Surgeon general warns of uptick in COVID-19 cases as cold weather arrives MORE of Fox News. The next debate with Biden is scheduled to be a town hall event with voters on Oct. 15.
Republicans reached by The Hill on Friday morning said they were hopeful the nation would rally around the president as he recovers.
But the electoral clock was already working against Trump, and now he will be pulled off the campaign trail for at least the better part of two weeks as he recovers. Sources close to the Biden campaign told The Hill there are no plans for him to scale back his campaign activities for as long as he and those around him continue to test negative for COVID-19.
William Howell, a political scientist and professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, said there would be immediate implications for the already volatile presidential campaign.
“He obviously can’t do his rallies. We should expect the next debate to be canceled. There are going to be natural questions about his cavalier attitude towards this pandemic and what this means for his own kind of reckless behavior,” Howell said. “On the other hand, there will be many people — as we should be — worried about the president’s health.”
The stock markets were rattled by the news of Trump’s positive case on Friday. Howell also noted that the developments would create uncertainty for foreign governments and potentially help drive conspiracy theories in the U.S.
Amie Parnes contributed.