Oct 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

White House staff frustrated by lack of info

President Trump
President Trump steps off Air Force One in Minneapolis on Wednesday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's aides aren't answering basic questions about "who knew what when" about his coronavirus diagnosis — and a lot of those questions are coming from inside the house.

Why it matters: Some current and former White House officials have been privately complaining about the reckless attitude internally toward social distancing and mask wearing, feeling they are being put at risk unnecessarily every day when they show up to work.

The White House has still not adequately explained why Trump went to a donor event in New Jersey on Thursday after learning that one of his closest aides contracted the virus. 

Even some top West Wing aides were left in the dark about the chain of events that started with Hope Hicks feeling symptoms and isolating on Air Force One on Wednesday, and culminated with the president's 1 a.m. tweet that he had tested positive.

  • "There have been plenty of rumors, but a complete lack of information from the top," a senior administration official said.
  • "No one can trust what they're hearing, because even what is being said publicly doesn't seem to add up."

Pressed on the timeline that led up to a Trump trip to New Jersey for fundraisers on Thursday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — not wearing a mask — told reporters in the White House driveway:

  • "I'm not going to get into the ticktock," Meadows said. "I can tell you, in terms of Hope Hicks, we discovered that right as the Marine One was taking off yesterday."
  • "We actually pulled some of the people that had been traveling and in close contact. ... [W]e had already started the contact tracing."

Asked when President Trump knew about Hicks' diagnosis, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News' Harris Faulkner: "I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not going to get into an exact timeline."

  • As to the decision-making after Hicks quarantined on the plane on Wednesday night, McEnany said: "[I]mmediately when she got a positive result ...  there was contact tracing that was put into place."

Officials tell Axios that when McEnany briefed reporters from the podium on Thursday, she was unaware that Hicks had the coronavirus.

A White House official tells Axios that only a small circle of officials were informed of Hicks' diagnosis immediately: "[I]t has been our practice throughout this when it comes to the personal health information of staffers, non principals, we don't share or confirm those details."

  • That circle didn't include several of the administration officials who traveled with the president on Wednesday or Thursday — a decision that frustrated many in the White House.

Go deeper... Axios Re:Cap on the questions raised by Trump's positive test

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