POLITICO Playbook: President Trump and Melania have Covid-19. What now?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP — who is tested for the coronavirus daily and has downplayed its risks, mocked the use of masks, proudly held large political rallies and suggested the nation should get back to its pre-virus business — has tested positive for the deadly disease 32 DAYS before Election Day, pushing the nation’s political and governing apparatus into a historic state of flux.

TRUMP, 74, tweeted at 12:54 a.m.: “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” This comes after senior White House aide HOPE HICKS tested positive.

THE PRESIDENT and first lady will “remain at home within the White House during their convalescence,” White House physician SEAN CONLEY said in a memo released by the White House at 1:05 a.m. The doc’s memo

IT’S EXTRAORDINARILY EARLY, we don’t know much at the moment, and we all need to be vigilant about everything we say and suppose. But here are some early points to frame your thinking:

1) EVERY MOVE MADE, every word uttered and tweet published by the White House will be under a microscope as the world tries to understand the health of the most powerful man in the world. We will be looking this morning for test results and assurance from VP MIKE PENCE and Speaker NANCY PELOSI.

2) THE WHITE HOUSE does not have the public’s trust, and at a time like this, that’s important.

3) THE PRESIDENT will be quarantined for some time, so the 2020 CAMPAIGN as we knew it will be effectively paused in its final stretch. How can they allow TRUMP in a room with the 77-year-old JOE BIDEN for another debate at this point? How can TRUMP hold another in-person rally? It seems extremely unlikely.

THE ENTIRETY of the president’s political message was that he handled the coronavirus pandemic well, the end was in sight, and people should think back to before the onset of the virus when they consider their vote. TRUMP’S diagnosis will make that quite tricky. NYT’s Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman and Matt Stevens on the political implications

— NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN and PETER BAKER say this: “If [Trump] becomes sick, it could raise questions about whether he should remain on the ballot at all.”

4) ONE WOULD IMAGINE the administration and the Congress will do everything they can to preserve the health of the rest of the chain of command. That means that PENCE, PELOSI and Sen. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-Iowa) will likely have to take extra precautions. PELOSI is 80 and GRASSLEY is 87. They are No. 2 and No. 3 in the line of succession, after PENCE.

5) BIDEN will certainly be tested. Political and financial markets will be incredibly interested in his results.

6) THE PRESIDENT’S DIAGNOSIS should, theoretically, force Congress to rethink its testing regime. Reminder: Members of Congress are forced to travel to D.C. to vote, but they are not tested. THE HOUSE is going to leave after today. THE SENATE will be in next week — as of now. There will be an effort to show government can still operate with the commander in chief sidelined.

TRUMP’S ILLNESS could have long-term political and practical implications, but, as of now, it appears as if the government will continue to operate as normal in the short term. Federal agencies have been operating in a pandemic mode for months.

THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS swarming Capitol Hill. White House chief of staff MARK MEADOWS has been in contact with SCOTUS nominee AMY CONEY BARRETT, Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL and a host of other key GOP senators. Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN, who typically wears a mask, was at an in-person meeting with PELOSI on Wednesday.

PELOSI is still scheduled to be on with STEPHANIE RUHLE on MSNBC at 9:20 this morning.

A BIT OF THE BACK STORY … NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN and ANNIE KARNI: “It is not yet clear when and how Mr. Trump contracted the virus. The president and the first lady said they had both tested positive hours after one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks, also tested positive. Ms. Hicks received the diagnosis after she began experiencing symptoms on Wednesday while attending the president’s rally in Minnesota. Mr. Trump kept his appearance there to about 45 minutes, roughly half the length of one of his typical rally speeches.

“Early Friday morning, it was still unclear how many other aides who had come into close contact with Mr. Trump had tested positive, but the White House said its medical unit was conducting contact tracing. Top advisers to the president described themselves as in a state of shock and said they expected a number of additional cases among people in Mr. Trump’s orbit. White House officials had hoped to keep the news about Ms. Hicks from becoming public, to no avail. …

“On Tuesday Mr. Trump was accompanied by all of his adult children and senior members of his White House and campaign staff on Air Force One en route to Cleveland for the first presidential debate. None of them wore masks as they were seen boarding and deplaning. Bill Stepien, the president’s campaign manager, was seen on board without a mask and then was spotted getting into a staff van with Ms. Hicks.”

WAPO’S JOSH DAWSEY and COLBY ITKOWITZ: “After White House officials learned of Hicks’s symptoms, Trump and his entourage flew Thursday to New Jersey, where he attended a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster and delivered a speech. Trump was in close contact with dozens of other people, including campaign supporters, at a roundtable event.”

CREDIT WHERE DUE — The news of Hicks’ positive diagnosis was first reported by Bloomberg’s JENNIFER JACOBS, not disclosed by the White House.

MARKETWATCH … WSJ: “U.S. Stock Futures Drop After Trump Tests Positive for Covid-19,” by Chong Koh Ping

TRUMP’S, UH, UPDATED FRIDAY SCHEDULE — The president will host a phone call on Covid-19 support for vulnerable seniors at 12:15 p.m. in the White House.

HOURS BEFORE THE POLITICAL UNIVERSE SHIFTED ON ITS AXIS — “Biden flip-flops on door-knocking with just 33 days left,” by Alex Thompson and Holly Otterbein

Good Friday morning.

FOR THE RECORD — 48 HOURS. That’s how long it took for TRUMP to condemn white supremacists after coming under fire for comments during the presidential debate. Last night on SEAN HANNITY’S Fox New show: “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 said in a phone interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “But [Biden] should condemn also Antifa. Antifa is a horrible group of people.” More from Matthew Choi

— AP: “Trump debate comment pushing Black Americans, others to vote,” by Kat Stafford in Detroit, Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala., and Christine Fernando in East Greenwich, R.I.

THIS MAY BE MOOT, BUT … “As debate commission considers rule changes, Trump signals he’ll reject them,” by WaPo’s Annie Linskey, Josh Dawsey, Chelsea Janes and Bob Costa

BATTLEGROUND ROUNDUP — “Biden puts Ohio in play,” by Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki: “Joe Biden’s campaign is making Ohio a battleground again. Buoyed by polls showing him leading President Donald Trump, Biden’s campaign boosted its TV advertising budget to $4.1 million for this month, nearly quadruple what he spent last month and two-thirds of his total ad budget for the state. The day after the first debate with Trump in Cleveland, Biden made his first appearance in Ohio on Wednesday as the Democratic presidential nominee.

“A confluence of forces has made Ohio competitive again in the eyes of Democrats. The economy and health care amid the pandemic are bad. Trump is bleeding white working-class and suburban voters in polls. Conservatives in the state are warring with Republican Gov. Mike DeWine for locking down the state during the pandemic. And DeWine’s Republican predecessor, John Kasich, is backing Biden. ‘We’re going to win Ohio,’ Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) declared in an interview. ‘Biden is the most pro-worker nominee of either party in a generation.’” POLITICO

— “Democrats Mount an All-Out Effort to Get Detroit to Vote,” by NYT’s Kathleen Gray in Detroit

— BURGESS EVERETT and JAMES ARKIN: “Liebermans haunt Democrats in key Senate races”

— TIM ALBERTA in Lake Orion, Mich.: “Has Elissa Slotkin Detected Early Hints of a Biden Blowout?”

MORE GOP CRACKDOWN ON MAIL-IN VOTING — “Abbott orders counties to close multiple ballot drop-off sites,” by the Austin American-Statesman’s Chuck Lindell and Nicole Cobler: “Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Texas counties Thursday to close multiple locations where voters can drop off completed mail-in ballots. As an election security measure, Abbott said, counties will be limited to one drop-off site where poll watchers — designated by political parties and candidates — must be allowed to observe ballot deliveries by voters.

“The new order takes effect Friday, and it modified Abbott’s July 27 order that acknowledged the pandemic’s danger by adding six days of early voting and waiving a state law that limits mail-in ballot drop-off to Election Day only. Democrats blasted Thursday’s change as a thinly veiled effort to suppress votes in a tight election. ‘Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Gov. Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last minute,’ said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.”

— “As Trump Sows Doubts on Mail, Democrats Push More In-Person Voting,” by NYT’s Nick Corasanti and Reid Epstein

BIG EYES EMOJI — “A TV ad tidal wave in Florida: Nearly $250M and counting,” by Gary Fineout in Tallahassee: “Florida’s record-breaking campaign season continues to scale stunning new heights, with the presidential campaigns and their allies preparing to spend at least a quarter of a billion dollars on television ad time between now and Nov. 3.”

ON THE TRAIL — BIDEN will travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., where he will give a speech on rebuilding the economy at 1:20 p.m. He will attend a virtual fundraiser in the afternoon. Biden will also attend a mobilization event at 4:40 p.m.

— SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-Calif.) will travel to Las Vegas. She will attend a virtual fundraiser in the afternoon. She will also participate in a voter mobilization drive-in event.

TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week” with Bob Costa: Peter Baker, Stephanie Ruhle and Rachel Scott.


  • Sinclair

    “America This Week with Eric Bolling”: Megyn Kelly … Peter Navarro … House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy … Carrie Severino … Corey Lewandowski … David Bossie.

  • Gray TV

    “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren”: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) … Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

  • FOX

    “Fox News Sunday”: Doris Kearns Goodwin … Douglas Brinkley. Panel: Steve Hayes, Gillian Turner and Charles Lane. Power Player: Alan Alda.

  • ABC

    “This Week”: Panel: Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Donna Brazile and Alice Stewart.

  • NBC

    “Meet the Press”: Panel: Peggy Noonan, Jeh Johnson, Jennifer Palmieri and Rich Lowry.

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “Trump cuts refugee cap to lowest level ever, depicts them on campaign trail as a threat and burden,” by WaPo’s Nick Miroff: “The Trump administration has capped the number of refugees it will admit into the United States at 15,000 during the next year, a historic low that reflects the president’s increasing vilification of immigrants on the campaign trail.

“Refugee advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers reacted with outrage and disgust after the State Department sent its notification to Congress late Wednesday, issuing the decision hours before the start of the government’s 2021 fiscal year Oct. 1.”

— MEANWHILE: “Judge Partially Blocks Trump Administration From Enforcing Visa Ban,” by WSJ’s Michelle Hackman: “A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked the Trump administration from enforcing its ban against many of the biggest U.S. companies bringing in foreign workers under H-1B and other employment-based visas.

“The ruling applies to workers for companies represented by the plaintiffs in the suit: the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation and TechNet. Together, the four organizations represent hundreds of thousands of companies, including major Silicon Valley technology employers, significant names in manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, and some small businesses.” WSJ

BREONNA TAYLOR LATEST — “Breonna Taylor grand jury recording slated to be released,” by AP’s Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Ky.: “An audio recording of grand jury proceedings that ended with no criminal charges against police officers for the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor was slated to be released Friday. A court in Louisville ruled that the content of the proceedings, typically kept secret, should be made public by noontime.

“Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, whose office led the investigation into police actions in the Taylor shooting, did not object to the file’s release. On Wednesday, his office asked for a week’s extension to redact personal information from the recording before it is heard by the public. The judge gave him two days.”

DEEP DIVE — “How Trump amassed a red-state army in the nation’s capital — and could do so again,” by WaPo’s Aaron Davis

MEDIAWATCH — David Greene, host of “Morning Edition,” is leaving NPR at the end of the year. NPR

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

SPOTTED at a Zoom party Thursday night for Jon Meacham’s new book, “His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope” ($18 on Amazon), hosted by Sally Quinn: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Valerie Biden Owens, Bob Woodward, Tammy Haddad, Peter Baker, Walter and Cathy Isaacson, Jane Harman, Mike Allen, Robert Draper, Margaret Carlson, Ruth Marcus, Steve Case, Kevin Sullivan, Carol Melton …

… Mitch Landrieu, Ken Auletta, Molly Ball, Katherine Bradley, Rita Braver and Bob Barnett, Anne Finucane, Andrea Mitchell, Betsy Fischer Martin, Elisabeth Bumiller, John McCarthy, Joanna Coles, E.J. Dionne, Laura Tyson, David Ignatius, Stephanie Ruhle, Steve Rattner, Chris and Kathleen Matthews, Jon Leibowitz, Jonathan Capehart, Tim Wirth, Christiane Amanpour, Heather Podesta, Franco Nuschese, Phil Rucker and Kevin Merida.

SPOTTED at a virtual forum hosted by the Institute for Education at which Margaret Brennan discussed how journalists are covering the election during the pandemic: William and Lynda Webster, Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall, Albanian Ambassador Floreta Faber, Estonian Ambassador Jonatan Vseviov, Singaporean Ambassador Ashok Mirpuri, Bahamian Ambassador Sidney Collie, Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador Bojan Vujic …

… Bulgarian Ambassador Tihomir Stoytchev, Ivorian Ambassador Mamadou Haïdara, Cypriot Ambassador Marios Lysiotis, Marshallese Ambassador Gerald Zackios, Nicaraguan Ambassador Francisco Campbell, Kathy “Coach” Kemper, Brit McCandless Farmer and John Paul Farmer, R. David Edelman, Marci Robinson, Kaivan Shroff, Joanne Ke Edelman and Amy Geng.

TRANSITION — Thomas Rice will be government affairs lead at GoodRx. He currently is legislative director for Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), VP of Winning Connections, is 59. A trend he thinks doesn’t get enough attention: “Covid-19 has brought to the forefront the reality of health care disparities in America, a clear example of institutional racism. Our daughter is a certified lactation consultant working with new moms and babies. There is a dire need for community-based breastfeeding services, especially for women of color. It is a small but important investment in increasing the chances for many kids.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) is 66 … Doug Andres, press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is 36 … Barry Bennett, CEO and partner at Avenue Strategies … John Donnelly, COS for Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) … NYT’s Lynsea Garrison … Lauren Belive, director of federal government relations at Lyft … Nicole Runge D’Ercole of House Majority PAC (h/t Jennifer Poersch) … Bloomberg’s Lisa Fleisher … Michael Sinacore, staff director of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy (h/t Evan Williams) … Michelle Sara King, president and CEO at King Consults, celebrating with a golf invitational round and dinner outside … Cathy Isaacson … Julie Burton, president and CEO of the Women’s Media Center (h/t Jon Haber) … David Wilhelm is 64 … Eric Cuoto … Emmett Beliveau (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … AP’s Tom Krisher is 63 …

… David Gura, anchor and correspondent for MSNBC and NBC News (h/t Lee Lilley) … Taylor Berlin … Greg Scanlon … Ryan Stitzlein, deputy political director at NARAL Pro-Choice America … POLITICO’s Shannon Young and Thomas Zhang … Dave Walker, former comptroller general, is 69 … Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold … Ed Cox is 74 … Lauren Willis … Hamlin Wade … Annie Keating … POLITICO Europe’s Eddy Wax … Sejal Hathi … Charles Savarin, president of Dominica … Courtney Hazlett … North Carolina state Sen. Deanna Ballard … Lindsey Mertz … Marlena Baldacci … Danita Ng … Joey Kalmin … NYPIRG’s Blair Horner … Kristen Van Dusen … Ken Bazinet … GOP fundraiser Mackenzie Smith … Minhas Majeed Khan … Jacklin Rhoads, comms director for the office of the Pennsylvania A.G. … Scott Hochberg … Andrew Weinstein is 51 … Annie Leibovitz is 71 … Mike Corbelle

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