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President Trump Has COVID-19: Here Is What Happens Next

President Trump Has COVID-19: Here Is What Happens Next

President Trump has just become the latest in a growing list of world leaders to havae contracted SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Trump broke the news that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive via Twitter early Friday morning hours after Bloomberg reported that Hope Hicks, one of the president’s closest aides, had tested positive, and was symptomatic.

Trump will begin a quarantine process that will see him and the First Lady remaining in the White House, where President Trump will continue to handle his presidential duties, much in the same way that Canada’s Justin Trudeau did after he and his wife tested positive. A note from Trump’s personal physician, Dr. Sean Conley, was also released.

As the MSM fixates on whether Trump knowingly violated CDC guidelines when he traveled to New Jersey Thursday morning to meet with a group of donors…

…President Trump’s tweet announcing the news has already become his most shared and most liked Tweet ever.

Bloomberg has published this clip show Hicks and a handful of other senior Trump aides board Marine One with the president earlier this week.

All of the donors and senior White House staff who have been in contact with Trump, the First Lady, and Hope Hicks will now be contacted and tested as quickly as possible. Former FDA head Dr. Scott Gottlieb said he believes the administration will perform serial tests on the president, while bringing in the most sensitive testing equipment possible to monitor the donors and Trump’s staff.

VP Mike Pence will almost certainly need to quarantine given his close contact with Trump (they shared a stage earlier this week). That could create serious problems for the upcoming VP debate, while Trump’s quarantine period would also overlap with the second presidential debate vs. Joe Biden. Doctors are saying that Joe Biden should also get tested, which he almost certainly will be.

As a reminder.

Speaking of the market reaction, PredictIt told Bloomberg that the news would lead to unprecedented action in online political betting markets, as pundits weigh whether Trump being infected improves his chances of victory, or not.

The news that US President Donald Trump has tested positive for Covid-19 just a month before the presidential election will ripple across political prediction markets throughout Friday and into the weekend as forecasters grapple with the implications, according to PredictIt. “I have no doubt that today will be one of the biggest trading days in political prediction market history,” Will Jennings, a PredictIt spokesperson, said via email.

PredictIt said on Twitter that there’s an 80%-85% chance that Friday will be the biggest day it’s ever seen. The most interesting reaction to the news on PredictIt’s platform was the market for who will carry Ohio, which flipped to Joe Biden.

A chart from Bloomberg showed that perceived odds of a Biden victory spiked on the news.

As US futures followed European stocks lower, Treasuries rallied Friday morning. Here’s RaboBank with more on that.

There are obviously an extreme range of possible scenarios regarding U.S. President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, and such uncertainties explain why U.S. stocks are down while the dollar and Treasuries are up, according to Rabobank. On one hand, Trump’s illness could be fatal and at an extreme, he might have passed it to Joe Biden; this is very unlikely, but not a zero possibility, says Michael Every, head of Asia financial markets research in Hong Kong at the bank On the other hand, Trump might recover, backed by the best White House doctors, and use the next two weeks’ media attention to focus on how the coronavirus is something that can be overcome. He could also gain a sym

Moving beyond the market implications, millions of Americans are now wondering: If Trump gets seriously ill – which is possible, even likely, given his age – what happens next. Well, as Brookings Institute scholar John Hudak explains, if Trump is incapacitated, or feels he soon might become incapacitated, the 25th Amendment would then come into play. It has two relevant sections: Section 3, and Section 4.

Already, Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Grassley – the first three individuals in the line of presidential succession – are likely being given additional protection. If Trump falls seriously ill, he could elect to temporarily deputize Pence to serve as commander-in-chief. If the president is somehow incapacitated before that can happen, Pence and the members of Trump’s cabinet have another option: they could vote to initiate Section 4 of the 25th Amendment – remember, all the MSM’s speculation about Trump’s mental state was intended to strengthen the case for a Section 4 “coup”, as Steve Bannon once called it. After a successful vote, Congress would be notified, and Pence would take the reins.

Here’s Hudak, who explains that, while rare, there is precedent for this situation (courtesy of Brookings.edu):

A positive COVID-19 test for the president, in itself, is not a cause for emergency action. Millions of people around the world have contracted the disease and have been asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. The president would likely be able to continue his everyday activities and manage the office either undisturbed or with mild challenges. A presidential diagnosis would create some challenges for those around him. The need for 24-hour Secret Service protection could put agents at risk for contracting it. But given modern technology, the president could quarantine and have remote or sufficiently distanced contact from most, if not all, aides, including the individual(s) who would be involved in the presidential daily brief.

There would need to be other precautions taken, even if the president were to be asymptomatic. First, those in the line of succession would need to be protected. It would be important to keep Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Grassley (President Pro Tempore), and members of the cabinet isolated from the president. It would be especially important to ensure that the vice president have limited contact with individuals generally to reduce his chances of contracting the virus as well.

Second, it would be important for the president to continue to communicate with the American public, especially if he is mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic. Seeing the president on camera can restore faith in his wellness, calm nervous Americans, stabilize stock markets (that would surely see a dip in the event of a positive test), and project to the world that the president remains well enough to execute the office.

We’ve experienced something like this before. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a serious stroke, and his wife kept even his closest advisers from seeing the president, likely out of fear that they would find him incapacitated and thus throwing the nation into a serious leadership crisis. Such a scenario (hiding the president’s condition) would not be possible today, but an extended absence of a president—especially during a pandemic—would raise serious questions and become a destabilizing force in politics, the economy, and the public.

Contingencies for a seriously ill president

Although the president has access to some of the best and most immediate health care in the world, his age and obesity put him into higher risk categories for more serious symptoms for COVID-19. Patient experiences range dramatically, but some of the most serious courses of treatment include use of a ventilator. When a patient is put on a ventilator, the patient is non-verbal because of the insertion of the tube through the vocal cords and they are given some level of sedation, ranging from minimal to deep sedation. During this time, a patient’s cognitive abilities would at least be affected or completely absent. More intensive sedation therapies, including drug-induced paralysis, can be used in the treatment of severe COVID-19 complications.

In an unfortunate scenario in which the president were to contract COVID-19 and need therapies such as a ventilator and/or the use of other therapies that would impair his cognitive abilities and/or abilities to communicate, there are a few procedures in place to deal with that situation. If the president is given notice that he is to be administered therapies that will impair his ability to perform the duties of office—for functional reasons, cognitive reasons, or both—under Section 3 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, the president can transmit to the House and Senate “his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

The invocation of Section 3 of the 25th Amendment has happened multiple times. President Reagan did so in 1985 and President George W. Bush did so twice in 2002 and 2007. Each time was for medical procedures in which anesthesia or heavy sedation was used. President Clinton likely should have invoked Section 3 during a 1997 knee surgery, but opted not to, claiming he was never put under general anesthesia. When Section 3 is invoked, the vice president becomes “acting president” until the president notifies the House and Senate that he is able to perform his duties once again.

In the event that the president were sick, his condition declined rapidly, and he was unable to invoke Section 3 of the 25th Amendment, Section 4 provides a solution to such a crisis. Under Section 4, the vice president and a majority of the cabinet can send notice to the House and Senate “that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” And as in the case of invoking Section 3, the vice president will serve as acting president. Once a president recovers, he can transmit that to the House and Senate, and he will re-take the powers unless the vice president and a majority of the cabinet tell Congress that the president remains incapacitated—at which point Congress would vote on incapacity.

The latter is the intended use of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. While some of the president’s opponents have fantastically called for the vice president and cabinet to declare the president incapacitated based on disagreements with his behaviors, amateur diagnoses of non-specific medical issues, or dissatisfaction with his temperament, that should not diminish the importance of the provisions of Section 4. There can be real scenarios in which the president’s medical condition suddenly creates an incapacity, and in that situation, the country will have an individual who is able to execute the full powers of the office of president—in that case, Acting President Mike Pence. While presidential incapacity would be a serious national situation, the government would be able to function in a largely uninterrupted way until the president is recovered.

* * *

Moving on to the next critical issue: the Supreme Court. Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee, stood next to the president on Saturday when he unveiled her nomination during a briefing in the Rose Garden. Before the press conference, which was held outside, although neither Barrett nor Trump wore masks, the federal judge and her family spent “hours” at the White House, while her children entertained themselves in the Roosevelt Room. Barrett will likely need to quarantine, and if she, too, is sickened, it could delay the confirmation process, possibly until after election day.

CNBC’s Eamon Javers speculated that President Trump may have held his final rally of the campaign, although there would still be two weeks or so left in the campaign once the 2-week quarantine period is over.

With markets in turmoil Friday morning ahead of the last jobs report before the election, Fundstrat’s Thomas Block appeared on CNBC Friday morning to opine that Trump’s COVID-19 status could change the political arithmetic for the stimulus bill, opening a new possibility that a deal might get done.

“I think it really hits home that this is real, this is not going away…and that even the president of the United States…that even he and his wife could get it…it really brings home that…this is a wake up call. This isn’t going away…there’s a bill ready to go and they’re so close,” Block said.

Others said that Trump being sickened would undermine the administration’s anti-mail-in-ballot push, which could make it more likely that the outcome of the vote is known on election day, or shortly thereafter.

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