Just hours before President Trump announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19, he was mingling with fundraisers at an event held at his New Jersey golf club—and even posed for personal photo-ops with supporters. The event went ahead after the White House learned that one of the president’s closest aides, Hope Hicks, had tested positive for the disease, according to multiple reports.
Trump was last seen in public the afternoon of Thursday, October 1, 2020, when he headed home to the White House after the fundraising trip to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister. Ahead of that event, attendees were promised a photo opportunity with the president, and Trump was due to meet with the winner of a raffle organized to raise funds for his campaign. It appears that, despite Hicks’ test, the event went ahead as planned.
The Daily Beast found a Facebook post of one woman, finance executive Patricia Bosisio Schechter, who said she had her photograph taken with the president at the ritzy event. She wrote: “As for all of you who have expressed concern for me, thank you for that. We were with him literally 30 seconds for our photo and other than that never close to him.” She added that she was “praying” for Trump to pull through his illness.
On top of the personal photo-ops, local reports state that the roundtable event with dozens of supporters went ahead despite knowledge of Hicks’ infection, and Trump reportedly delivered a droplet-spraying speech. According to the Washington Post, Trump didn’t wear a mask at the golf club, or on the plane back to Washington, D.C. The president then tested positive after he had returned to the White House.
The decision to travel to New Jersey reportedly came after White House officials had learned that Hicks had tested positive for COVID-19—though it’s not clear if Trump knew about it personally.
The Post reports that Hicks learned of her diagnosis Thursday morning, a day after she began experiencing symptoms, apparently leaving White House staff with ample time to cancel the New Jersey event. CBS and ABC News reported that Hicks received her positive test as early as Wednesday night. CNN reported that, due to their knowledge of Hicks’ result, the White House even sent a reduced staff to the New Jersey event.
The event may have exposed dozens of people to the virus and adds to a long list of people who have had recent contact with Hicks or Trump who may now need to isolate. They include a large contingent from Trump’s family who traveled to Tuesday night’s debate in Ohio together. Hicks was also seen boarding Marine One on Wednesday with President Trump and senior White House advisers Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller.
There have also been suggestions that Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, should be immediately tested due to their proximity to Trump at the first presidential debate on Tuesday night. Despite news of Trump’s test breaking hours ago, Biden’s campaign is yet to comment.
The fact that the Bedminister event went ahead despite Hicks’ symptomatic case has been met with stunned disbelief. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said: “The fact that the president still went, knowing he’d had very close contact with somebody who’d tested positive, is irresponsible.”
Reporters also voiced their incredulity at the fact that press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who has also been in contact with Hicks, held a news briefing at the White House on Thursday and didn’t wear a mask. Neither Hicks’ symptoms or rest were mentioned at the briefing.
CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins asked: “Why did the President still go to New Jersey, knowing that he could potentially put these people at risk, these donors and fundraisers? And of course, why did the press secretary still hold a briefing despite knowing she had come into contact with somebody who had just tested positive for coronavirus?”