The White House Correspondents Association is having a full-blown fit over President Trump’s decision to leave Walter Reed and do a little drive-by visit for the “Great Patriots” gathered outside.
And as if that weren’t enough, WSJ late Sunday published a “scoop” reporting what anybody who watched Dr. Conley’s Saturday press briefing probably had already expected: That President Trump didn’t immediately inform the public of the results of a rapid COVID-19 test taken Thursday.
Trump revealed in a tweet sent early Friday morning that both he and the First Lady had tested positive for the virus. But in a press briefing on Saturday, Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, “misspoke”, saying Trump was 72 hours in already, suggesting that Trump may have known about his illness as early as Wednesday.
So far, there’s no evidence to suggest that Trump tested positive Wednesday. But according to WSJ, Trump first tested positive via a rapid test (probably the Abbott Labs rapid test) for the first time on Thursday evening, shortly before he sat for an interview with Fox News Host Sean Hannity. During the interview, Trump acknowledged that his aide, Hope Hicks, had tested positive. But he claimed that he wouldn’t get his test results back until “either tonight or tomorrow morning”.
“I’ll get my test back either tonight or tomorrow morning,” Mr. Trump said during the interview. At 1 a.m. on Friday, the president tweeted that he indeed had tested positive.
To be sure, WSJ reported that the White House protocol is to first test Trump and his staff with the Abbott Labs test, then – if that test comes back positive – they’re tested again with a more accurate test. WSJ’s sources claimed that Trump’s tests followed this protocol. After testing positive for the first time, Trump reportedly told one of his aides: “Don’t tell anyone”.
Apparently, “anyone” included other top officials in the West Wing and the Campaign. One source told WSJ that Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, wasn’t aware of Hope Hicks’ positive test until he read about it on Twitter.
Stepien has since tested positive. Now, other WSJ sources are saying that a sense of anxiety has gripped the West Wing, as nobody is willing to talk about positive tests, even among their colleagues.
The initial secrecy within Mr. Trump’s inner circle has created a sense of anxiety within the West Wing. Publicly, the White House has issued evolving and contradictory statements about the president’s health that has some officials worried about their own credibility.
“I’m glued to Twitter and TV because I have no official communication from anyone in the West Wing,” an administration official said.
The White House didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.
Before closing out the story, WSJ offered a hint that Trump’s team was already curtailing access to the president on Wednesday. Despite this, when Trump arrived in Minneapolis, he shook hands and posed for photos, confounding his greeters’ expectations.
Minnesota state Rep. Kurt Daudt said Saturday he was awaiting a Covid-19 test after greeting Mr. Trump at the Minneapolis airport on Wednesday. Mr. Daudt and other greeters had been tested before meeting the president, and were instructed not to shake hands with him or get close to him, but when the president came down the stairs from the plane, he offered to take photos.
“You’ve been tested, right?” Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Daudt.
Several of the greeters posed for photos with the president, with some standing less than a foot away from him, according to photos from the event. None wore a mask. Mr. Trump then attended a fundraiser at the home of Mike Davis, owners of a quartz countertop company, according to his campaign schedule.
None of this is damning evidence that Trump lied to the country, of course. Though we wouldn’t be surprised to see the NYT follow this up with a similarly anonymously sourced report claiming that Trump actually tested positive Thursday morning – or perhaps even Wednesday evening.