Correspondent in Washington
Due to the traffic in the West Wing of the White House in the early hours of Friday morning, no one would say that the president had tested positive for coronavirus hours before and was suffering from mild symptoms. The entrances were still open, the high officials in a constant coming and going typical of a normal morning; more so during the electoral campaign, when the president’s agenda is usually more crowded than usual. The situation, however, was unusual: a whole president risking reelection in a month, in quarantine for having fallen victim to the pandemic.
The concerned face of his chief of staff said it all. Mark Meadows He approached the media who were standing guard at the main entrance to the West Wing, which as Trump is absent from it is not guarded by a Marine. “She has mild symptoms and the doctor treats her at her residence, which is where she is,” Meadows, who, like many other officials, did not wear a mask, told reporters despite having been in close contact with the president on a daily “I have taken the test and it is negative, a mask is not necessary,” he said, in front of some journalists who were doing tightrope walking to listen to him from afar.
“Fortunately we have a president who continues to do his job, who will continue to do it, and I am optimistic, I think he will have a speedy recovery,” added Meadows when asked about Trump’s agenda. However, minutes later, a spokesperson reported that the entire Friday agenda was canceled, including a telephone intervention at 12:15 “in support of the elderly vulnerable by Covid-19.” The tables were reversed. the vice president Mike Pence He participated in that call with older people, and said: “The president is well, thank you for your support.”
The situation was certainly chaotic, strange. The nervousness, palpable. Trump is not a president given to delegating. He is very active, he appears in meetings, he is very present in these corridors, much more than his predecessors, improvising press conferences when he can, almost daily. His schedule is sometimes hellish, packed with round trips of thousands of miles in a single day, with visits to the golf course on the weekends. And yesterday, suddenly, he and his wife were captives of the virus, confined in their rooms, unable to even look out of windows constantly scrutinized by photographers at street level.
Also, finally, and after months of resistance, this Friday yes, many more masks were seen than usual among the employees of this presidential complex, despite the refusal of the chief of staff to wear one. The problem was: What to do, for the first time, without a president used to giving almost all the guidelines, even through Twitter? What to do the day that for the first time, in more than 12 hours, the boss was silent even in that social network?
The priority of the presidential employees was clearly to pretend that everything remains the same, that Trump, 74 years old and in a risk group, is still in control of the situation, fulfilling his government functions. The White House economic coordinator, Larry Kudlow, who also did not wear a mask, reached out to the media and began to talk about car sales figures, the rescue of the airlines and other topics that seemed typical of a distant time. Logically the press asked him to evaluate the effects of the Trump infection on the economy. He answered briefly – “I don’t think he has any” – and walked away, with a quick step, almost stumbling.
Anyway – and that is the real reason for this evident nervousness in the first hours of Trump’s quarantine – campaign events have been canceled. The president’s agenda that was sent to the press Thursday night had 14 items, including a meeting with donors at his hotel here in Washington and a whirlwind trip to Florida for a massive rally. All of that has fallen, as is everything on the horizon in the next few days, if not weeks.
Trump’s positive, by the way, also caused nervousness among journalists who follow him. Three of them tested positive yesterday, and the White House began testing, one by one, those who have been in contact with those infected.