Trump is “in good spirits” but is experiencing mild symptoms related to Covid-19 as of Friday morning, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters.
“The President does have mild symptoms,” Meadows said, describing him as “very energetic.”
“The great thing about this President is not only is he staying committed to working on behalf of the America people,” Meadows said. “We have a president that is not only on the job, will remain on the job, and I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.”
Trump appeared tired over the course of Thursday prior to testing positive for coronavirus, according to people who interacted with him, but was not displaying severe symptoms of the disease.
A senior administration official said Friday that Trump wasn’t showing major symptoms and planned to work from the White House residence. A White House official also said aides were looking at ways for Trump to speak to the nation Friday, though no final decision had been made by mid-morning.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who acts as an informal adviser to the President, said he spoke to Trump on Friday morning.
“The President was in good spirits,” Graham said, adding he asked about the Supreme Court hearings.
“Full steam ahead,” McConnell said of the nomination, rebutting any speculation Trump’s positive test could delay the confirmation process.
Attended fundraiser Thursday and traveled with Hope Hicks
Following Trump’s positive test, questions swirled over why the President proceeded with his schedule on Thursday, including flying to attend a fundraiser in New Jersey, despite being in close contact with an aide, Hope Hicks, who was known by a small group of aides to have tested positive on Thursday.
Meadows conceded Friday that people knew of her positive diagnosis before Marine One took off for the fundraiser.
Some staffers, he said, were pulled from Marine One, raising further questions about why the trip proceeded, with the President coming into contact with numerous supporters at his Bedminster club.
“I’m not going to get into the tick tock,” Meadows said. “I can tell you, 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 have been traveling and in close contact. The reason why it was reported out, just frankly, is that we had already started to contact tracing just prior to that event.”
A person who attended the fundraiser in New Jersey said he seemed subdued when speaking to an indoor roundtable event and later to a group of supporters gathered outside. The person said the assumption among the attendees was that Trump was exhausted from recent campaign travel.
Other people who interacted with Trump said his voice sounded hoarse, though the assumption before he tested positive was that it was because of his recent rallies.
Trump’s roundtable occurred indoors at a socially-distanced table. Guests did not wear masks, but a person familiar with the matter said the attendees were tested ahead of time. A separate, larger event was held outdoors, with the President speaking from behind a podium set in front of the club’s main doors. Most guests at that event also did not wear masks.
Meadows claimed the the White House acted quickly to inform the public of the President’s diagnosis.
“As you know, last night, even in the early hours of this morning, the minute we got a confirmatory test on the President, we felt like it was important to get the news out there at that time, and so that’s why we sent out a tweet late, late or early this morning,” he said.
Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Barron Trump test negative
A hurried effort was underway to trace people who had interacted with the President over the course of the past days, including Cabinet secretaries and senior West Wing officials.
Both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, senior advisers to Trump, tested negative for coronavirus Friday morning, the White House said.
Barron Trump, the President and first lady’s 14-year-old son, tested negative for coronavirus, according to Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s chief of staff.
“I can tell you that Mr. Kushner, Mr. (Dan) Scavino, myself, a number of us have been tested and have come back with negative results,” Meadows said.
But he also tempered expectations, acknowledging more positive results from White House aides were likely.
“I fully expect that as this virus continues to go on, other people in the White House will have a positive test result,” he said.
The first couple’s positive diagnosis has caused ripples of anxiety inside the West Wing and the White House Executive Residence, where the Trumps are currently isolating.
Residence staff are “nervous,” a source familiar with the matter told CNN. Other staffers at the White House described deep concerns about potential contagion.
One White House official said White House staff were instructed to “max telework,” though other officials within the complex said they were still awaiting guidance as of 9 a.m. ET. Staff learned of the diagnosis through tweets and the media, administration officials said, but have received no internal notices about it, even from the public health standpoint.
“We’re all sitting around wondering, ‘OK, now what?'” an official told CNN.
In light of the President’s positive test, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who shared a stage with Trump in their first debate Tuesday, is expected to get tested for coronavirus Friday morning, according to a source familiar with his plans. He tweeted Friday morning wishing the President and first lady “a swift recovery.”
Only hours before announcing his diagnosis, Trump told a virtual audience the pandemic was nearing an end.
“I just want to say 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,” Trump said during pre-recorded remarks given to the Al Smith Dinner, convened virtually this year because of the outbreak.
Election and world stage
Four hours later, the President’s schedule for Friday — which had included a fundraiser in Washington and a campaign rally in Florida — was scrapped. The only remaining event will come at 12:15 p.m. ET when the President hosts a phone call on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors.
It was the first indication of how this year’s presidential race will again be reshaped by surprise circumstances, this time about a month before Election Day. Trump will likely be required to cancel a slew of scheduled campaign events next week, including in Arizona. Any attempt to shift attention away from the pandemic and his response — which has caused his poll numbers to plummet — now seems unlikely.
Trump has repeatedly sought to downplay the pandemic — he told journalist Bob Woodward in February he “wanted to always play it down” — contradicting his administration’s own health experts pleading with Americans to take the virus seriously.
Even as some of his closest global allies, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, came down with the disease, Trump continued to downplay it and shrug off the notion that he could contract it himself.
Since the spring, Trump has pressured governors to allow businesses to reopen and has recently pressed for schools to allow in-person learning. He has railed against restrictions on indoor churches and lambasted Democratic governors who continue to uphold rules against large gatherings.
Through it all, Trump has insisted that the extensive testing regimen at the White House would protect him from contracting the virus himself.
“Tonight, as an example, everyone’s had a test and you’ve had social distancing and all of the things you have to,” he said during Tuesday’s debate in explaining why masks weren’t necessary in that setting.
“They plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence,” he wrote of the President and first lady.
“The White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions,” Conley went on, without elaborating what assistance was being provided to the White House doctors.
The diagnosis amounts to the most serious known health threat to a sitting American president in decades, at least since President Ronald Reagan was non-fatally shot in 1981.
In a readout of his physical, Conley said this spring that Trump was in “very good health,” but listed a height and weight that placed him in the obese category. He is also known to have a common form of heart disease.
A temporary transition of power from the commander in chief to the vice president is laid out in section three of the 25th Amendment, a constitutional change brought on by the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It has been used periodically since when presidents are required to go under anesthesia for medical procedures.
There were no indications that Trump was preparing to use the 25th Amendment.
“Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any further developments,” Conley wrote in his memo.
If both Trump and Pence become unable to carry out their functions, the Presidential Succession Act designates the House speaker as next in line. Asked in May whether the White House was making contingency plans to hand power to the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany scoffed.
“That’s not even something that we’re addressing,” she said. “We’re keeping the President healthy. We’re keeping the vice president healthy, and, you know, they’re healthy at this moment and they’ll continue to be.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Jim Acosta, Paul Murphy, Betsy Klein, Kate Bennett and Jamie Gangel contributed to this report.