WASHINGTON — The White House on Friday defended President Trump’s travel to a New Jersey fundraiser after it was learned that Hope Hicks, one of his closest advisers, who was by his side all week, had been infected with COVID-19.
The president and the first lady have since tested positive and are quarantining in the White House residence.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Friday morning, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said White House operations cleared the president to travel to his Bedminster golf resort, where he held a fundraiser Thursday afternoon.
“It was deemed safe for the president to go. He socially distanced, it was an outdoor event, and it was deemed safe by White House operations for him to attend that event,” McEnany said.
“White House operations made the assessment it was safe for the president in consultation with others,” she added, before walking away.
Chief of staff Mark Meadows earlier Friday said Hicks’ COVID-19 diagnosis came to light just as the president was about to depart the White House in Marine One around 12:45 p.m., according to his official schedule.
“I can tell you in terms of Hope Hicks, we discovered that right as the Marine One was taking off yesterday,” Meadows told reporters.
“We actually pulled some of the people that had been traveling and (were) in close contact,” he added.
The president continued on to Bedminster and, after returning to the White House, was tested for the coronavirus. He and the first lady both received positive results, with the news breaking just before 1 a.m.
While no other members of the first family have received positive results, another two COVID-19 cases at the White House were confirmed Friday afternoon.
According to a White House Correspondents’ Association memo shared by CNN anchor Brian Stelter, at least one reporter and a staffer have had positive results.
The journalist was last at the White House for the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday and traveled that night on Air Force One to the president’s Pennsylvania rally, the memo read.
Meanwhile, the infected White House employee is from “lower press,” referring to the staffers and media handlers who sit just behind the briefing room and work with reporters on a daily basis.