Trump’s announcement early Friday that he has COVID-19 came only after Bloomberg News reported that Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s closest advisers, became ill during Trump’s Wednesday night rally in Duluth, Minnesota, and had to be quarantined aboard Air Force One on the return flight to Washington. Hicks went on to test positive for coronavirus early on Thursday, though the White House did not report her illness. A number of reporters who were with Hicks and the president on the flight say no one from the White House reached out to them to perform contact tracing or to inform them of their risk of COVID-19. One HuffPost reporter was visibly shaken after learning of Hicks’s positive test result from news reports.
On Thursday afternoon, President Trump flew to his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, for a campaign fundraiser where he delivered a speech while wearing no mask, coming in close contact with dozens of staffers and campaign supporters. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reports aides who would normally travel with the president did not go with him to Bedminster because they already knew about Hope Hicks’s positive test result. Among those aides was White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who made no mention of Hicks’s illness — or her recent close contact with Hicks — as she spoke to reporters for 25 minutes from the White House Press Briefing Room podium while wearing no mask.
Trump’s positive coronavirus test result has raised concerns about the line of presidential succession. Vice President Mike Pence met with Trump at a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Monday. On Friday morning Pence’s office said the Vice President tested negative for coronavirus, though some people take longer than four days to register a positive result after exposure to an infected person.
President Trump is 74, has elevated blood pressure and is over the threshold for obesity — three factors linked to higher morbidity and mortality among COVID-19 patients. Early in the pandemic, Trump repeatedly downplayed the severity of COVID-19, publicly claiming the virus would go away “like a miracle,” even as he privately told journalist Bob Woodward it was airborne and far deadlier than the flu.
President Donald Trump: “This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you’re the wrong person, you don’t have a chance.”
Bob Woodward: “Yes, yes, exactly.”
President Donald Trump: “So, this rips you apart.”
Bob Woodward: “This is a scourge. And” —
President Donald Trump: “It is the plague.”
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Thursday limiting absentee ballot drop-off locations to just one per county, in the latest effort by Texas Republicans to make it harder for people to vote — especially in urban areas home to a greater proportion of Democrats. Abbott’s proclamation leaves 4.5 million residents of Harris County with just a single location to drop off their completed ballots. This is Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center’s voting rights program.
Myrna Pérez: “We’re obviously concerned that any additional barrier to the ballot box are going to hurt those members of our community that have been traditionally disenfranchised: poor folks, people of color, students — folks who traditionally have had a harder time overcoming the kind of barriers that have been placed in front of them systematically.”
In Michigan, conservative hoaxers and conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman face four felony charges over robocalls targeting Black voters in Detroit and other cities. The recorded messages falsely claimed that voting by mail could subject voters to arrest, debt collection and forced vaccination.
In Pennsylvania, Republican lawmakers have advanced a state resolution that would create a so-called select committee on election integrity that Democrats warn could be used to disrupt the November 3 election by giving Republicans the power to subpoena elections officials — even before all the votes are counted. On Wednesday, Democratic state Representative Malcolm Kenyatta blasted Republican plans at a committee meeting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta: “This, I guess we’re calling it, committee on election integrity has no integrity, has none. And what it would do — and you can laugh, Representative — but what it would do is allow people, allow the folks on this committee, that are actively up for reelection, to subpoena ballots, to subpoena elections officials, during an election of which they are participants. Nothing about that screams of integrity.”
Last week, The Atlantic magazine revealed Republican Party officials are looking at ways to subvert the election process to ensure Trump stays in power — including a plan to have Republican-led state legislatures claim the results of the election to be fraudulent, then choose a slate of Republican electors to vote in the Electoral College regardless of the outcome of the actual vote.
President Trump on Thursday said he disavowed the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity.
President Donald Trump: “I condemn the KKK. I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys. I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that.”
Trump’s comment came two days after Tuesday’s debate, where he told the far-right Proud Boys organization — which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group — to “stand by.”
President Donald Trump: “What do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me a name.”
Chris Wallace: “White supremacists and right-wing” —
Joe Biden: “White supremacists.”
President Donald Trump: “Go ahead. Who would you like me to condemn?”
Joe Biden: “Proud Boys.”
Chris Wallace: “White supremacists and right-wing militia.”
Joe Biden: “The Proud Boys.”
President Donald Trump: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
The Proud Boys are now selling T-shirts with the president’s words: “stand back and stand by.” On Thursday, a Proud Boys leader told CNN he’s also the leader of the grassroots group Latinos for Trump.
The Trump administration has ordered federal law enforcement officials to publicly defend Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged with fatally shooting two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during Black Lives Matter protests in August. That’s according to internal Department of Homeland Security talking points obtained by NBC News. The documents instruct federal agents to say Rittenhouse took a gun to Kenosha to “help defend small business owners.” Last week, Rittenhouse’s mother — who drove her son across state lines with an AR-15 assault rifle to the Kenosha protests — received a standing ovation at a Republican Party event in Wisconsin. If convicted of first-degree murder charges, Rittenhouse faces up to life in prison.
A secretive religious group has scrubbed its website of all references to President Trump’s nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Amy Coney Barrett is a longtime member of the Catholic group People of Praise, whose members pledge a lifelong loyalty oath assigning each member a personal adviser, known as “heads” for men and, until recently, “handmaids” for women. People of Praise has a strictly patriarchal structure in which men are the heads of household with power over their wives and families.
Senate Republicans have promised a swift confirmation process for Amy Coney Barrett. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was pressed by reporters after she falsely claimed Barrett was a recipient of a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship from Oxford University.
Justin Sink: “You said Judge Barrett was a Rhodes scholar. I’m not sure that that’s true.”
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: “Um, I — that’s what I have written here, but” —
Justin Sink: “She attended Rhodes College. She attended Rhodes College.”
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: “Attended Rhodes College. So, my bad.”
In New York, over a dozen housing activists were arrested Thursday as hundreds of protesters took to the streets demanding local lawmakers take action on a full eviction moratorium and tenant protection during the pandemic. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has failed to extend a pandemic eviction ban, which expired yesterday as rent came due.
In immigration news, over 3,000 people fled Honduras yesterday in a caravan with the hopes of reaching the United States. This comes just days after the region reopened its borders after months of a strict coronavirus lockdown that left thousands without jobs sinking further into poverty. The caravan made it to Guatemala yesterday afternoon, where they headed north to the border with Mexico. Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei announced he had ordered the immediate apprehension of caravan members. Meanwhile, the Mexican government threatened asylum seekers with prison time if they enter Mexico without following proper health protocols, citing alleged concerns due to the pandemic.
CNN has released audio recordings of first lady Melania Trump in 2018 dismissing the harm of separating asylum-seeking families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff recorded the comments while working on her book “Melania and Me,” about her relationship with the first lady.
Melania Trump: “You know, who gives a [bleep] about Christmas stuff and decoration? But I need to do it, right?”
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: “Yeah, but” —
Melania Trump: “Correct?”
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: “A hundred percent. You have no choice.”
Melania Trump: “And, OK — and then I do it, and I say that I’m working on Christmas, planning for the Christmas. And they said, 'Oh, what about the children, that they were separated?' Give me a [bleep] break. Where they were saying anything when Obama did that?”
The New Yorker reports Fox News paid up to $4 million to settle sexual harassment claims made by a staffer to former anchor Kimberly Guilfoyle. The former assistant claims Guilfoyle showed her lewd images of men’s genitals and forced her to work at Guilfoyle’s apartment, where Guilfoyle would sometimes be naked. In July 2018, Guilfoyle abruptly left her position as co-host of Fox News’s “The Five.” She now serves as President Trump’s campaign finance chair and is the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr.