Trump took photos, met with donors despite knowing he'd been exposed to COVID-19
Published Saturday, October 3, 2020 6:05PM EDT
U.S. President Donald Trump's big-dollar fundraiser at his New Jersey golf club went on as planned Thursday night despite the President and staff knowing he had been exposed to coronavirus.
Trump attended three events at the fundraiser: an indoor roundtable, an indoor VIP reception -- donors had a socially distant photo opportunity with him -- and an outdoor reception, according to an event invitation obtained by CNN.
Donors that gave $250,000 were able to participate in a roundtable, photo opportunity and reception with the president, according to the event invite. The roundtable included 18 donors, according to a source, and was held indoors at socially-distanced tables.
Another source says that the attendees at the roundtable were tested for coronavirus when they arrived and that no one wore masks.
Three attendees told CNN that most people at the events were not wearing masks; all three say they have not been contacted by any contact tracers.
The president announced he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus roughly eight hours after leaving the fundraiser, when he was back at the White House.
The decision to travel and participate in the fundraiser despite the knowledge of being exposed to the coronavirus is another example of the White House and administration's lackadaisical approach to mask wearing and COVID-19 prevention policies.
An hour and a half before the fundraiser, some senior staff and the president were informed Hope Hicks had tested positive for coronavirus, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Friday.
The decision was made to still hold the fundraiser despite Trump's exposure; attendees say they were not notified the president had been exposed to COVID-19.
Arriving at 2:33 p.m., the president then attended the indoor and outdoor events.
If donors gave, or raised, $50,000, they were invited to a photo opportunity with Trump.
The two attendees from Texas who participated in the photo opportunity said they had been tested for coronavirus before arriving at the VIP reception where they took their photo with the president.
They said each individually conversed with Trump for less than a minute while the photo was taken and maintained six feet of distance. The attendees at the VIP reception did not wear masks, they said, but event staff did.
The third event the president participated in was an outdoor reception open to all donors. New Jersey resident Katherine Hermes told CNN that Trump stood at a podium, socially distant from the attendees, and held a question and answer session.
She and the Texas attendees say they were kept in two groups, separated by barricades.
Questions asked by the donors ranged from why there had not been arrests and criminal prosecutions of leading Democrats to campaign strategy, according to Hermes. In response to the question about arrests and prosecutions, she remembers Trump responding that there was so much he couldn't tell the crowd.
The group closer to the president had been tested for coronavirus; Hermes' group was only present for the outdoor reception and only received temperature checks and was kept further away.
The two groups did not intermingle and most attendees in both groups were not wearing masks, according to Hermes and the Texas attendees.
Campaign emailed attendees after president tests positive
On Friday at noon, the Trump campaign emailed attendees officially notifying them the President tested positive for coronavirus.
"We unfortunately write today to notify you that, as you have probably seen, President Trump confirmed late last night that he and the First Lady were tested for COVID-19 and produced positive test results," the email, obtained by CNN, reads. "Out of an abundance of caution, we want to call this to your attention."
The email went on to encourage attendees to contact their medical provider if they, or their loved ones, develop Covid-19 symptoms. It did not make any mention of quarantining or self-isolation but did recommend attendees visit the CDC's website.
On Twitter, New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy recommended that fundraiser attendees quarantine and get tested for coronavirus.
The two Texas attendees said they would be self-isolating and have been tested for coronavirus. Hermes told CNN she was only present for the outdoor speech, and would not quarantine or get tested, saying, "I was nowhere near the man."