Power Up: Trump tests positive for coronavirus, upending campaign in final stretch

With just 32 days until the electionand 13 days until the next presidential debate — the 74 year-old president will quarantine at home for an unspecified amount of time. White House physician Sean P. Conley said the president could continue to carry out his duties “without disruption while recovering” from the White House. It remains unclear just how far the infection may have spread among senior White House officials who are often seen without masks. 

Trump has persistently pushed to reopen the country, downplayed the virus and repeatedly insisted it was on its way out. Though many people who test positive don’t become seriously ill, Trump as an older American is more vulnerable.

What we know: “Trump, 74, was diagnosed hours after it became publicly known that [Hicks], a top Trump aide who traveled with him on Air Force One and Marine One this week, tested positive on Thursday morning,” Josh Dawsey and Colby Itkowitz report

Contact tracing: Hicks, one of Trump’s closest aides, “regularly enters the Oval Office multiple times a day.” She started showing symptoms at Trump’s Wednesday rally in Minnesota, after traveling with Trump over the weekend and to Cleveland for the first presidential debate. 

  • “She was photographed without a mask at the Pennsylvania rally clapping to the Village People’s “YMCA” with other Trump aides and in Cleveland on the tarmac deplaning Air Force One,” per Josh and Colby.
  • Trump bizarrely suggested that Hicks could have contracted the virus from a member of the military or law enforcement: “It is very, very hard when you are with people from the military, or from law enforcement, and they come over to you, and they want to hug you, and they want to kiss you because we really have done a good job for them,” the president said. “You get close, and things happen. I was surprised to hear with Hope, but she is a very warm person with them. She knows there’s a risk, but she is young.”

Trump himself has come into contact with countless people in recent daysincluding some of the most powerful people in the country: 

  • “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,” per Josh and Colby.
  • “On the days in between, Mr. Trump interacted with scores of staff members, donors and supporters. Even the woman he has nominated to the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has been at the White House this week,” the New York Times’s Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman report. 
  • “He attended a closed-door fund-raiser at a private home of a wealthy supporter in Minneapolis, and he appeared before thousands of people at a rally in Duluth, Minn., where most of the crowd did not wear masks. He also shared a stage with Mr. Biden,” per Karni and Haberman.
  • “Two people who spent time with him said [Trump] did not show noticeable symptoms and was in an upbeat mood, though he acknowledged to other aides later Thursday that Hicks was ill,” according to Josh and Colby.

The diagnosis has wide-ranging consequences: Trump had been expected to hold rallies in Wisconsin this weekend, though his quarantine will almost certainly preclude him from holding in-person events for the foreseeable future. Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) are scheduled to debate Wednesday.

  • The White House did not say how long Mr. Trump would have to remain isolated, but it canceled his plans to fly to Florida for a campaign rally on Friday, stripping his public schedule for the day of everything except a midday telephone call ‘on Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors,’” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker report.Appearances at rallies in Wisconsin on Saturday and in Arizona on Monday also appear sure to be scrapped, and the next debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, was left up in the air.”
  • “If Mr. Trump becomes symptomatic, it could take him weeks to recover,” they added. “Under the 25th Amendment, a medically incapacitated president has the option of temporarily transferring power to the vice president and can reclaim his authority whenever he deems himself fit for duty. ”

Hicks’s positive results were not released by the White House but by two journalists who broke the news of the senior aide who had close and repeated contact with the president. 

  • Bloomberg News’s Jennifer Jacobs and Jordan Fabian broke the story and CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reports that “a small group of officials were aware Thursday a.m. that [Hicks] had tested positive. Despite that, President Trump traveled to New Jersey for a fundraiser and his press secretary held a briefing.”
  • “There should be no more in-person gatherings for the remainder of this season,” said Vin Gupta, a public health physician at the University of Washington and MSNBC medical contributor. “And my biggest concern here is if the president remains asymptomatic that he may use it to tamp down the seriousness of the infection.” He added, “Let’s hope everyone stays well and healthy, but this was preventable.”

Reaction: Stock futures plunged as markets began to absorb the news. “Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 430 points, or 1.6%. The move indicated an opening loss of more than 400 points. S&P 500 futures fell 1.7%. Nasdaq 100 futures declined 2.3%. Futures were off their worst levels of the morning,” CNBC’s Eustance Huang and Pippa Stevens report.

  • “Investors will ‘debate the implications this has for stimulus, reopening, and the election,’ wrote Vital Knowledge’s Adam Crisafulli in a note. ‘Politically speaking, the Trump diagnosis (like the debate) is affirming and likely cements Biden’s poll lead.’”

World leaders quickly offered their support: “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first to respond, writing on Twitter: ‘Wishing my friend @POTUS @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS a quick recovery and good health.’ A senior member of the British government, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, wished ‘a speedy recovery,’”Jennifer Hassan, Rick Noack and Antonia Farzan report.

Past presidents have faced similar health challenges: But we haven’t seen something like this in a while. “George Washington was feared close to death amid an influenza epidemic during his second year, while Woodrow Wilson became sick during Paris peace talks after World War I with what some specialists and historians believe was the influenza that ravaged the world from 1918 through 1920,”  Times’s Baker and Haberman report.

  • “But such health crises in the White House have been rarer in recent times. Since Reagan was shot in 1981, no president has been known to confront a life-threatening condition while in office.”

The people

DEAR WASHINGTON: Miami and New Orleans are days away from having to make staffing cuts and temporarily furloughs because of the pandemic. The covid-19 budget squeeze has finally caught up to the two mid-sized cities; both with populations just under 500,000, which made them ineligible for direct aid from the federal government under the CARES Act. 

Miami’s Republican Mayor Francis Suarez and New Orleans’s Democratic Mayor LaToya Cantrell are pleading with Washington to pass another stimulus package that will provide their cities with the lifeline they say is necessary to avoid a public safety and health crisis and cover basic city services. And this time, they want Congress to change the population threshold that prevented their cities from accessing the money.

In a joint interview with Power Up, Suarez and Cantrell described impending budget reductions and furloughs because of massive deficits due to revenue shortfalls and the exorbitant costs of fighting the virus. Suarez says he’ll have to lay off 66 police officers out of a force of 1,400 and Cantrell is eyeing a 20 percent pay reduction for city employees across the board. 

  • “We are desperate for help,” Suarez told Power Up. “This is about doing what’s right for health-care workers, firefights and police – it’s very difficult to manage and run a city without the people who have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic. Hopefully Republicans and Democrats can get the money to us so we can move forward.”
  • “Our cities are starving and covid-19 is still among us,” said Cantrell. “Our people are on the ground beating back against this virus – we are making gains but it cannot be just on our backs. We don’t have the resources… don’t make us choose between public health and economic health – we can do both but we need the resources to be made whole.”

Congress and the White House still have yet to agree on a new relief bill despite much of the aid approved in the spring having expired, with unemployment, layoffs and evictions on the rise. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held their first in-person meeting in weeks on Wednesday and continued to hash out legislation on Thursday though “distance on key areas remain,” Pelosi spokesperson told our colleagues Erica Werner and Jeff Stein. House Democrats, meanwhile, narrowly passed a new $2.2 trillion relief bill on Thursday night. “The legislation, which passed 214 to 207, has no chance of advancing in the Republican-led Senate and is opposed by the White House,per Erica and Jeff. 

  • Republicans are leveling the same complaints against the new bill, but moderate Democrats, in particular, were eager to try to advance a new piece of legislation before returning to their districts to campaign for reelection,” per Erica and Jeff. 
  • “Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted that plans to vote on the new bill did not preclude reaching a deal with Mnuchin. In the past several days the two have resumed bipartisan negotiations that collapsed in early August, though without reaching agreement so far.”

The House Democratic legislation includes $436 billion to provide a year’s worth of assistance to state and local governments, including cities with populations under 500,000. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed the administration “offered Pelosi an approximately $1.6 trillion packagemuch higher than many congressional Republicans would be able to supportbut said Pelosi was ‘not interested,’” according to Erica and Jeff. 

The White House offer, first reported by Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson, includes $250 billion for state and local governments, “which is $186 billion less than Democrats want in their latest $2.2 trillion package, but $100 billion more than the White House offered in talks that broke down over the summer.” 

  • “On unemployment insurance, Mnuchin proposed a $400 per week federal benefit, retroactive to Sept. 12 and lasting through Jan. 1, 2021, according to the source, who described the package on condition of anonymity. That’s less than the $600 a week Democrats want, but $100 more than Senate Republicans have proposed,” McPherson reports.
  • Shot: “This isn’t half a loaf, this is the heel of the loaf,” Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV.
  • Chaser: “We’re not going to do a $2.2 trillion deal,” Mnuchin said Wednesday night. “The president instructed us to come up significantly, so we have come up from the trillion-dollar deal that we were working on earlier.”

Suarez and Cantrell told Power Up it’s crucial to not only allocate money to cities directly but allow for increased flexibility on spending. It’s especially important for the tourist-driven economies of cities like Miami and New Orleans that laid of hundreds and thousands of hospitality workers, they argued.

  • “People are very disenchanted with what’s going on right now at a national levelirrespective of party,” Suarez said. “When we see partisan fights that prevents those in the most need from getting what they need from the entities that can give them that lifeline, it further frustrates people and makes them feel like it’s a big game that’s not designed to help them.” 
  • The recession’s inequality is a reflection of the coronavirus itself, which has caused more deaths in low-income communities and severely affected jobs in restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues as Americans try to avoid crowded places to protect their own health and slow the spread of the virus,” our colleagues Heather Long, Andrew Van Dam, Alyssa Fowers, and Leslie Shapiro. “Jobs in these places typically pay, on average, $17 an hour and were overwhelmingly held by women and people of color.”
  • “Economists worry that many of these jobs will not return, with restaurants and entertainment venues going out of business. Hospitality jobs are still down nearly 25 percent.”
  • “The writing is on the wall. I don’t think my owner is going to make it,” Tiffany Burgin, an assistant manager of a restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans, told Heather. “It’s a 100 percent tourist-driven economy here. Until the tourists come back, we’re screwed. ”

The campaign

TRUMP BATTLES DEBATE COMMISSION: “Trump and his top aides signaled that they would reject any changes to the presidential debate format, as members of the commission in charge of the matchups zeroed in on potential adjustments aimed at avoiding a repeat of Tuesday’s chaotic faceoff between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden,” Annie Linskey, Josh Dawsey, Chelsea Janes and Robert Costa report. (As we just noted, take all of this with huge grains of salt given Trump’s diagnosis).

  • The changes under discussion could come as soon as this weekend:Trump campaign officials told reporters that Biden’s team had proposed several alterations, including allowing the moderator to mute candidates’ microphones; having more questions addressed directly to each candidate; adding opening and closing statements; and limiting the “free discussion” period, which devolved into inaudible crosstalk during Tuesday’s debate.”
  • If the changes go into effect, Trump has little recourse: “The Commission on Presidential Debates, an independent body, unilaterally determines rules for the exchanges and does not need approval from either campaign to change the terms, giving Trump few options if the commission does adopt the changes other than accepting them or boycotting the debates.”

Biden and Trump’s debate negotiating teams were set to meet again later today.


Top Trump campaign official Kimberly Guilfoyle reportedly left Fox News amid sexual harassment allegations: “According to a dozen well-informed sources familiar with her complaints, the assistant alleged that Guilfoyle, her direct supervisor, subjected her frequently to degrading, abusive, and sexually inappropriate behavior; among other things, she said that she was frequently required to work at Guilfoyle’s New York apartment while the Fox host displayed herself naked, and was shown photographs of the genitalia of men with whom Guilfoyle had had sexual relations,” Jane Mayer writes in the New Yorker of a former assistant of Guilfoyle’s at Fox News who eventually reached a settlement with the network.

The Biden campaign has reversed its position on door knocking: “With five weeks to go before Election Day, and with ballots already being cast in many states, the Biden campaign said it decided to expand into in-person canvassing, largely focused around its get-out-the-vote operation. The move comes after Republicans have built a far bigger in-person political operation during the pandemic, knocking on 19 million doors,” Josh Dawsey and Matt Viser report.

  • It’s an about-face: “Campaign door-knocking in a pandemic puts lives at risk and turns off voters. It’s also sort of useless. And anyone who said otherwise is needlessly panicking. That was the Joe Biden campaign’s position — until Thursday …,” Politico’s Alex Thompson and Holly Otterbein report.

Outside the Beltway

LAYOFFS ADD FURTHER STRESS TO THE ECONOMY: “A grim portrait of the U.S. economy is emerging more than six months into the pandemic, as a cascade of new layoffs announced this week puts pressure on an already strained labor market and further raises the specter of an economic U-turn with the recovery only partially underway,” Eli Rosenberg reports.

  • Weekly jobless claims went down, but remain high: “Unemployment data released by the Labor Department on Thursday did little to assuage fears about the recovery’s fragility: 837,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance were processed last week. That figure has come down steadily from its peak in late March and April, but it is still higher than any other period before the pandemic.” 

Later this morning, the final jobs report before Election Day will be released: The monthly report “is projected to show a sharp deceleration in labor-market gains, suggesting the winner will inherit an increasingly shaky economic rebound,” Bloomberg News’s Katia Dmitrieva and Jarrell Dillard report.

  • What’s expected: “Employers probably added 875,000 workers in September following 1.37 million in August, according to the median projection of analysts ahead of Friday’s Labor Department data. The jobless rate likely fell only slightly, to 8.2 percent.” 

In the media


Melania Trump expressed frustration over criticism of family separations: “She was secretly recorded in the summer of 2018 expressing her frustration at being criticized for her husband’s policy of separating families who illegally crossed the southern border while at the same time needing to perform traditional first lady duties, such as preparing for Christmas,” CNN’s Caroline Kelly reports.

  • Have a holy jol–: “I’m working … my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?” Trump told Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend and senior adviser to the first lady who wrote a book about their relationship, “Melania and Me.”  Wolkoff secretly recorded their conversations.