President Trump will spend the next few days at Walter Reed National Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19 and showing “mild symptoms.”
He tweeted a video message from the White House before departing for the hospital.
“I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support. I’m going to Walter Reed hospital. I think I’m doing very well,” he said. “But we’re going to make sure that things work out. The First Lady is doing very well. So thank you very much, I appreciate it, I will never forget it – thank you.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany released a statement Friday explaining that “out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days.”
The revelation of President Trump’s positive coronavirus test result shocked the world and is roiling a presidential campaign cycle that has already seen historic disruptions — a prolonged presidential impeachment battle, the onset of the pandemic, natural disasters, and protests across the country about the deaths of Black people at the hands of police. And it’s now hurtling towards the finish line with the president and First Lady Melania Trump testing positive for COVID-19.
On Friday morning, hours after receiving their results, President Trump, 74, had “mild symptoms” but remained “energetic” and “in good spirits,” chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters at the White House. Meadows added that “doctors continue to monitor both his health and the health of the First Lady.”
At the White House, a senior official described the mood and atmosphere to CBS News White House producer Fin Gomez as “pretty scary.” Another said it was “crazy” adding that there has been a lot of prayer from the staff for the first couple.
With less than five weeks until Election Day, President Trump is now quarantining and his previously scheduled in-person campaign events are being postponed or moved to virtual formats. Campaign events involving members of the first family are also being postponed, according to Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien.
“All other campaign events will be considered on a case-by-case basis,” Stepien said.
Earlier on Friday in an email, Stepien urged staffers who had been in contact with anyone who had contracted the virus to self-quarantine, according to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga.
“Any campaign staffer who has had exposure to someone testing positive should immediately begin self-quarantine,” Stepien said in the email. The campaign manager added that staffers who have not exhibited symptoms did not need to self-quarantine, but should still take precautionary measures such as wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.
“While some public events will be taken down, the campaign office remains open and our nationwide team will continue with our efforts to re-elect President Trump,” Stepien said. Mr. Trump has appeared at several campaign rallies recently where there was limited social distancing and where masks were not required. When pressed about his crowded rallies during the first presidential debate on Tuesday, Mr. Trump noted that many of his events had been held outdoors, which is considered safer for group gatherings. However, the president has also held some events indoors in recent months, including an indoor rally in Nevada last month.
Vice President Pence, who was in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump on Tuesday before the debate, tested negative, according to CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. In a memo, the vice president’s physician wrote that Pence is “not considered a close contact with any individuals who tested positive,” including President Trump.
Pence’s physician added that the vice president doesn’t need to quarantine and is “free to go about his normal activities.” Stepien said Pence “plans on resuming his scheduled campaign events.” An administration official says Pence is currently at the U.S. Naval Observatory and remains in good health. The VP’s press secretary Devin O’Malley added that Mr. Pence “wishes the Trumps well in their recovery.”
While the president recovers from a deadly virus, a senior Trump campaign adviser told Sganga there is uncertainty as to what campaigning will look like in the near future.
“There has not been a definitive answer as to after [President Trump] has quarantined and this virus has run its course, what [campaigning] looks like,” the senior campaign advisor said. The senior advisor added that the president is a “prolific communicator” and we can expect to hear from him “within the next 14 days.” From the time he broke the news about his positive test results late last night, he did not tweet again until Friday evening, just before he left for Walter Reed.
It is unclear who the president has been in contact with in the days prior to his positive test result. Testing negative for COVID-19 only indicates that a person is not shedding the virus at the time of testing, and the incubation period for coronavirus can span up to 14 days.
Hours before President Trump announced his diagnosis, President Trump’s counselor and confidant Hope Hicks tested positive for COVID-19. Hicks spent two days traveling alongside the president to Ohio and Minnesota.
President Trump attended two fundraisers in the past 48 hours, delivering remarks to donors at private events in Minneapolis and Bedminster, New Jersey. According to Republican sources, attendees at both events were tested for COVID-19 and signed legal waivers before attending both campaign events. “Every guest was at least six feet from the president at all times,” a senior Republican National Committee official told CBS News.
“The event site was professionally cleaned and sanitized prior to the event,” the official added. But according to attendees inside, masks were not required. Among others, President Trump traveled this week with his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., senior adviser Dan Scavino, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump campaign aide Jason Miller, Trump campaign chairman Bill Stepien, Former Governor Chris Christie, Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Trump counselor Derek Lyons. Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Meadows, McEnany, Jordan and Giuliani have so far tested negative for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, CBS political correspondent Ed O’Keefe and CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson report that Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris went ahead with their Friday campaign schedule, once receiving negative tests by early afternoon. The candidates’ spouses, Dr. Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, also both tested negative and plan to stay on the trail. While the Friday schedule was pushed back, Biden was able to travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan, while Harris traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada for a voter mobilization drive-in event.
Biden boarded his campaign plane this afternoon and flew off to Michigan after two COVID-19 tests came back negative. Speaking outside a union hall in Grand Rapids, MI, he wore a mask the entire time. Biden said, “Sending my prayers for the health and safety of the first lady and the president. This is not a matter of politics. It’s a bracing reminder to all of us that we have to take this virus seriously. It’s not going away automatically. We have to do our part to be responsible.”
He also said that the president’s illness is a reminder the nation needs to improve access to COVID tests, adding, “It’s not just the folks in the White House or who travel with me who deserve regular testing. it’s folks in the meatpacking and food processing plants. Grocery store workers. every single American deserves safety and peace of mind.”
But in a sign he’s not immediately changing his campaign strategy, Biden also called out Friday’s jobs report — the final one of the campaign season — that reported just 661,000 new jobs and an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent. “I’m grateful for all of those who were able to get their jobs back to work again but there are fewer jobs than we had hoped for,” Biden said.
Biden’s team goes to great lengths to protect the 77-year old candidate from the virus. He spent most of the summer addressing supporters virtually from a basement TV studio. His campaign says he only began taking COVID tests in late August. His limited in-person events include just a handful of COVID-screened staff, reporters and invited guests.
A senior Biden aide texted O’Keefe that it’s too early to know the political impact of Trump’s diagnosis, “but certainly [there’s] going to be a lot of convos today about potential impact, what changes we make if any, etc.”
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon emailed campaign staffers nationwide, reassuring them that precautions will be taken with Biden and Harris traveling. She also instructed campaign staffers to “refrain from posting about the situation on social media unless otherwise directed by your manager. We will share additional information and guidance with you as we have it.”
CBS News confirmed with two campaign officials that the Biden campaign is in the process of pulling down negative ads hitting President Trump for a to-be-determined time, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice.
This decision came this afternoon in consultation with the former vice president and top advisers. According to Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group tracking, the Biden campaign does not appear to have canceled ad buys all together. However, a review of Facebook’s ad library found a number of negative ads had been deactivated as of this afternoon. Friday morning, before Biden campaign officials said they were pulling negative ads, the campaign had a new TV ad air for the first time in Pittsburgh featuring a local business owner who took aim at Mr. Trump. In it, a small business owner spoke about the effects of COVID on his business, saying, “Trump does not see me.” It’s not clear how long the Biden campaign plans to pull the negative ads.
BATTLEGROUNDS IN THE BATTLEGROUNDS
WISCONSIN – *BOW COUNTIES*
One of the areas to keep an eye on in Wisconsin on election night are the so-called BOW counties in northeastern Wisconsin, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster, including Brown, home to Green Bay, Outagamie, home to Appleton, and Winnebago, home to Oshkosh.
The counties have been a key battleground, where Republicans have a solid presence, but Democrats are fighting to cut into their margins. The counties are made up of many working class residents, the Green Bay area still has a large chunk of manufacturing jobs, and rural voters.
In 2008, when Barack Obama won Wisconsin by 13.9 points, he carried the BOW counties by 10.8 points. Two years later, when Obama still won Wisconsin comfortably, but by a smaller margin, Mitt Romney carried the three counties by about a quarter of a point. In 2016’s razor-thin election, President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 10.3 points, showing his strength with white working class and rural voters.
In 2018, former Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker won by about 7.8 points, his smallest margins during any of his three general elections. That helped Democratic Governor Tony Evers narrowly win the governor’s mansion. That 2018 election saw a shift toward Democrats in the cities, while the surrounding more rural areas, remained solidly Republican, said Charles Franklin, Marquette Law School Poll Director. The shift in the cities has made the region competitive in 2020, and Franklin said Biden has cut into Mr. Trump’s margins in the Green Bay media market, which the president won by more than 15 points in 2016.
Michael Moran, chair of the Brown County Democrats, said his party has seen intense motivation to vote against President Trump, something that’s fired up Democratic voters around the country.
Brown County is one of the country’s major COVID-19 hot spots and hospitals in the county are near capacity. Moran said the county has struggled with COVID-19 since the pandemic began and that’s put issues like health insurance in the spotlight, especially for people who lost their job and insurance due to the pandemic.
“COVID exposed a lot of sort of underlying problems that have been just sort of latent in our society, that as long as things are going good enough and the employment rate is good enough, just don’t really bubble to the surface,” Moran said.
Brown County Republican Chair James Fitzgerald said his party has seen a 50% increase in membership over the past couple of years, including some former Democrats signing up.
“We are finding more and more Democrats coming in, many of which are telling us this will be the first time in their life that they are going to vote Republican,” Fitzgerald said. “And for many of them, it’s a very emotional experience.”
The issues motivating many of those voters and Republicans in the county, include the economy, trade and the president’s support for law and order, Fitzgerald said. Democrats were thrilled when Jill Karofsky, the liberal candidate for Supreme Court, won the BOW counties in the April election. But Franklin, the Marquette Poll Director, cautions against reading too much into that considering there was still a somewhat competitive Democratic presidential primary.
“We didn’t turn out our vote,” Fitzgerald said, something he doesn’t expect to be an issue in the general election. He laughed when he said that won’t be a problem for Republicans in November with Mr. Trump on the ticket.
Moran said he hasn’t paid much attention to the polls and wants to see voter contact efforts reach as many people as possible over the next month, even if they have to be virtual. “We need to fight for every single vote,” Moran said.
The nation’s highest court is set to consider arguments over Arizona’s ban on so-called “ballot harvesting” and voters casting ballots in a wrong precinct, granting a petition to hear the case by Arizona Republicans and the state’s attorney general.
While an appeals court had ruled in January to undo the measures, agreeing with Democrats who had first argued ahead of the 2016 election that the laws violated the Voting Rights Act, CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin notes the restrictions remain in effect pending the Supreme Court’s decision. The case adds to an already busy year of court battles over the election being waged in the battleground state, including an eleventh-hour plea this week by a Latino advocacy group to postpone the state’s voter registration deadline this Monday.
Mi Familia Vota, which is also suing in federal court over election policies in Texas, in a complaint filed Wednesday argued that Arizona’s COVID-19 restrictions had “dramatically” hampered voter registration efforts. The group says remote outreach efforts yielded less than 200 voters per week on average during the pandemic, down from averaging more than a thousand in the weeks before.
California Democratic Congressman TJ Cox, who recently called himself “the most vulnerable Democrat in Congress,” is now looking to hire paid canvassers, according to an email exclusively obtained by CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar.
The email appears to have come from the Fresno State College Democrats and reads that the Cox campaign is looking for people interested in paid canvassing positions. It includes a positing directly from the Cox campaign which reads “we’re looking to hire people who are to work 5 hour shifts, at $15 an hour, and all you would need is a smartphone and possible access to a car, though carpooling might be a possibility if they feel comfortable doing so, but that’s still yet to be hashed out.”
It also includes a contact with the campaign for those interested to reach out. This comes after Cox sent a fundraising email to supporters slamming Republicans on the same issue. In a fundraising email sent last month, Cox wrote that “their latest ploy is spending $100k to send paid canvassers door to door in the middle of a pandemic.”
A spokesperson for the Cox campaign did not respond to a request for comment today. Cox barely defeated Republican incumbent David Valado by 902 votes in 2018. The two are headed for a rematch in November, which is expected to be a competitive race once again.
A spokesperson for Joe Biden’s campaign says it still intends to resume sending volunteers knocking doors in Nevada’s Clark and Washoe counties, pending final protocols being hashed out by staff for the local party’s coordinated campaign, among several state Democratic teams slated to resume in-person voter contacts across the country.
The decision comes as Nevada Republicans, who resumed in-person campaign efforts months ago, have celebrated another straight month outpacing Democrats in new voter registrations. However, Democrats in Nevada still outnumber Republicans by 88,459 voters, slightly larger than the lead of 77,467 voters that Democrats had recorded in October 2016, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.
“For the third month in a row, the Nevada Republican Party has grown and outpaced Democrats in voter registration,” Keith Schipper, spokesperson for Trump Victory, said in a statement. “President Trump has delivered for Nevadans and voters can see that Joe Biden and Democrats are only offering lawlessness and failed socialist ideas that would decimate the Silver State.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine held a press conference this afternoon to comment on President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump testing positive for COVID-19.
DeWine said the positive tests are a “powerful reminder to us that we have to do the basic things.” DeWine, a Republican, said, “We have to wear a mask.” He added, “We have to social distance. We have to be careful. We have to avoid big crowds.”
DeWine also remarked on the possibility of future in-person campaign events in Ohio, a battleground state. Cleveland recently hosted the first presidential debate. Mr. Trump held two in-person campaign events in the state on September 21 and Democratic nominee Joe Biden held an in-person campaign event in Alliance, Ohio as a part of his whistle-stop train tour.
“I wouldn’t say that campaigns need to completely shut down,” DeWine added. “I just think they need to be careful and be compliant with what we request everybody to do. And that is just be careful, keep that distance, wear a mask.”
Ohio’s Democratic congressional delegation wrote a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose urging him to implement safety recommendations to ensure the health and safety of Ohio voters and poll workers in the November general election. The lawmakers cited the safety recommendations from over 200 medical professionals, faith leaders and voting rights advocates.
The lawmakers specifically made six recommendations for LaRose to implement. Some of those recommendations include: social distancing measures inside and outside a polling location, requiring poll workers and voters to wear a face covering when inside a polling location, requiring voters to use hand sanitizer when entering and exiting a polling location and placing a plastic barrier between a poll worker and a voter where an interaction is expected to be longer than one minute.
“As Ohio’s Secretary of State, it is your responsibility to ensure that all Ohioans have access to safe in-person voting options and that poll workers, the backbone of our democracy, are afforded every health and safety precaution in this upcoming election,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote. “You have an urgent obligation to communicate the steps you are proactively taking to instill confidence in the machinery of democracy.”
The city of Columbus is making plans to encourage city employees to work the November general election. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Columbus city council president Shannon Hardin and Franklin County board of elections director Ed Leonard made the announcement Friday morning.
Under the program, named the Precinct Election Official Leave Program, city employees, who meet certain requirements, such as living in Columbus and are registered voters in Franklin County, “may request Election Official Leave with pay for the purposes of being a judge of an election engaged by the Franklin County Board of Elections.”
Ginther added, “I am pleased that city employees – every one of them a public servant – will be able to choose to participate as poll workers, if they so desire, without having to use vacation time.”
The city of Philadelphia is pushing back against a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign late Thursday night against the city’s Board of Elections which is stopping Trump campaign representatives from watching voters register, fill out or return mail ballots at satellite elections offices, reports CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak.
“The claims of this lawsuit are baseless and the City will defend against this and any other such efforts to tie the election up in the Courts,” Chief of Staff to City Solicitor Marcel S. Pratt said in a statement.
The night before, echoing the president himself, lawyers for the campaign wrote that “Bad things are happening in Philadelphia,” and asked a county court to force the Philadelphia commissioners to allow poll watchers in those offices.
The Philadelphia commissioners and the secretary of the commonwealth have been clear in recent days that they do not interpret the law to say satellite elections offices, as opposed to official polling places, require poll watchers. In the first general election where any Pennsylvania voter can cast their ballot by mail without an excuse, Philadelphia has opened 7 of a planned 15 satellite elections offices where voters can register, request what’s technically a mail ballot, receive it, fill it out and return it in a single trip.
“To be clear: the satellite offices are not polling places and the Pennsylvania Election Code does not create a right for campaign representatives to “watch” at these locations,” Pratt said.
IN THE HOUSE
Several House members who were at the presidential debate on Tuesday or traveled with Mr. Trump this week have been tested for COVID-19 today.
CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that at least 11 House members were tested today, with many getting negative test results. Both House campaign committee chairs, Democrat Cheri Bustos and Republican Tom Emmer tested negative after being tested Friday morning.
Bustos was in attendance at Tuesday’s debate, while Emmer was with Trump on Air Force One during the flight to his Duluth, Minnesota rally. Minnesota Republicans Jim Hagedorn and Pete Stauber were also on that flight, but both tested negative. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressmen Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Tim Ryan of Ohio also all tested negative after taking tests on Friday. Both Gallego and Ryan went to Tuesday’s debate. Ohio Republicans Jim Jordan and Mike Turner were also in contact with Trump this week, but tested negative on Friday.
The House overwhelmingly passed Democrat Congressman Tom Malinowski’s bipartisan resolution condemning QAnon on Friday, 371 to 18.
Independent Justin Amash and 17 Republican lawmakers voted against the resolution, which officially condemns the conspiracy theory network. Another GOP lawmaker voted present.
Navarro reports that the vote comes after Malinowski had been receiving death threats from QAnon followers this week, due to his resolution and an advertisement being pushed by Republicans claiming he lobbied to “protect sexual predators.”
In a statement from his re-election campaign Friday, campaign manager Daniel Fleiss said the resolution’s passing “resoundingly affirmed that conspiracy movements, misinformation campaigns, and anti-Semitic groups have no place in our politics.”
He added that Malinowski will continue to work with “responsible members of the Republican Party” to combat QAnon, while his Republican opponent Tom Kean Jr. “is working with the arsonists in his party to amplify it.” In a statement yesterday, Kean Jr.’s campaign condemned the death threats but said the congressman is “wrong to attempt to lay the blame at the feet of Senator Kean.”
As soon as October 1 hit and the third quarter officially passed, many House campaigns began releasing their quarterly fundraising numbers.
Navarro reports that Republican challenger Nancy Mace outraised incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham in South Carolina’s 1st, with $2.3 million raised from July through September compared to Cunningham’s $1.8 million.
Democrat Hillary Scholten raked in roughly $500,000 more than Republican Peter Meijer, with $1.5 million raised. Both are competing for Michigan’s 3rd district, left open by independent Congressman Justin Amash.
Democrat Amy Kennedy, running against Republican Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey’s 2nd District, brought in $2.2 million in the quarter.
Republican Wesley Hunt, who is challenging Democrat freshman Lizzie Fletcher in a Houston-area seat, raised $3 million in the quarter.