Following Donald Trump’s overnight announcement that he and Melania tested positive for COVID-19, health officials have been scrambling to identify close contacts who were exposed while they were infectious. It’s one thing that Trump has been interacting closely with others (including his top aide, Hope Hicks, who earlier tested positive) without masks. But there is something Trump did yesterday that is particularly dangerous and inexcusable.
Yesterday afternoon, Trump insisted on traveling to his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey for a scheduled fundraiser. We now know that, according to CNN’s Kaitlin Collins, a “small group of officials” in the White House learned by Thursday morning that Hicks was positive. This critical piece of knowledge came after Hicks isolated herself on the trip back from Trump’s Minnesota rally Wednesday evening after showing symptoms.
Given that Trump was a close contact of Hicks while she was infectious, why did Trump insist on going to the fundraiser? There are two possible answers for this, and neither one of them is good. The first possibility is that these officials kept the news of Hicks’ diagnosis a secret from Trump (while it was still unknown to the public). It is hard to imagine this possibility, especially since Trump must have at least noticed that one of his closest aides was feeling sick the night before.
The other possibility, which is far more likely, is that Trump knew Hicks was positive yet insisted on attending the fundraiser anyway to keep up appearances and because he thinks he’s invincible. Particularly given Trump’s famous disregard for health protocols, his visit no doubt exposed more people to the coronavirus—people who were not privy to the vital information the White House had about Hicks.
Even if Trump got tested Thursday morning and was negative, he should have canceled the fundraiser, knowing that a later test could yield a positive result (which, in fact, it did). Curiously, “a smaller staff” than usual accompanied Trump to New Jersey, “indicating they knew there could be a problem,” according to CNN’s Anderson Cooper. He also pointed out that “if the President of the United States wasn’t immediately tested once Hope Hicks was positive, that is criminally negligent. That would be a huge breach of security.”
An earlier Trump campaign e-mail invited supporters to enter a contest to meet Trump at yesterday’s fundraiser and “take a picture with President Trump so you can remember it forever.” Hopefully, the winner and everyone connected with Trump’s latest act of extreme recklessness are negative. Regardless, this new scandal underscores the alarming fact that trusting Trump can be deadly—and Americans will remember that forever.