Trump Aides Frustrated After Meadows’s Silence on Infection
(Bloomberg) -- Some of Donald Trump’s White House and campaign aides are frustrated that the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, didn’t issue a statement after he tested positive for coronavirus this week, instead informing only a close circle of advisers.
His infection was not widely known across Trump’s staff until late Friday, when Bloomberg News reported it. He tested positive on Wednesday, according to a senior administration official.
A small circle of people were aware earlier in the week that Meadows had become infected but were told to keep it quiet, several people said.
The White House Medical Unit conducted contact tracing during the latest outbreak, according to people familiar with the matter. Throughout the pandemic, the unit’s guidance for contract tracing has been to reach out to people who’d been in close proximity with the infected person for 15 minutes or more, within 48 hours of the diagnosis.
That excluded many aides who had crossed paths with Meadows at large events around Election Day, including a visit to campaign headquarters in Virginia on Tuesday, and a party at the White House that night.
Photos of the events showed few people wearing masks. Meadows, who has seldom worn a mask, was not seen wearing one on Tuesday.
He spent time upstairs in the White House residence on Tuesday with Trump’s family, including all of his adult children, according to people familiar with the matter. He helped persuade Trump to deliver brief remarks to the country at 2:30 a.m. from the White House East Room. Meadows attended the speech, where the president claimed he had won the election before races had been called in key battleground states where votes were still being counted.
Meadows returned to campaign headquarters on Wednesday, again without wearing a mask, two people familiar with the situation said.
It isn’t clear whether Meadows, 61, has developed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
At least five other White House officials have been infected in recent days, including Cassidy Hutchinson, one of Meadows’s closest aides, and Charlton Boyd, an aide to senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner, according to several people.
A senior Trump campaign aide, Nick Trainer, is also infected, according to people familiar with the matter.
Meadows and White House spokespeople didn’t respond to multiple emails and phone messages requesting comment. Trainer and campaign spokespeople declined to comment.
More than three dozen people associated with the president or the White House have been infected by the virus, including the president, his wife, Melania, and his youngest son, Barron. Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, and other aides tested positive for the virus late last month, shortly before the election.
A Trump political ally, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, said Saturday he had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, rebutting a report by Politico that he had told people he’d contracted the virus itself. The Politico reporter, Jake Sherman, responded with a tweet saying Gaetz had told people in the White House and on Capitol Hill that he had Covid-19 last week.
The White House has been forthcoming in only a few cases when aides tested positive. For example, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany revealed her diagnosis on Twitter, and Trump himself announced that Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, had contracted the virus in May.
Meadows has remained involved in Trump’s post-election effort to challenge votes in several states, where the president trails former Vice President -- and now president-elect -- Joe Biden, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The people familiar with the matter asked not to be identified because the cases had not been announced.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic has been rated poorly by most Americans in public opinion surveys, and is seen as a major reason he lost to Biden in the Nov. 3 election, which was finally called for the Democrat on Saturday.
Meadows was also at Trump’s bedside when the president was hospitalized last month with Covid-19.
Nearly 127,000 people in the U.S. were infected by the novel coronavirus on Friday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, a record. About 9.7 million Americans have contracted the virus and at least 236,000 have died.
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