Trumpworld echoed Vice President Mike Pence’s “essential worker” rationale on Sunday as justification for the VP staying on the campaign trail, despite a COVID-19 outbreak among his aides within weeks of figures in Trump’s orbit contracting the novel coronavirus.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Devin O’Malley, press secretary for Pence, confirmed that Pence chief of staff Marc Short recently tested positive for COVID-19. According to the New York Times, a person briefed on the diagnosis said Short tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. The Times reported that at least five people in Pence’s inner circle have tested positive for COVID-19, citing people briefed on the matter.
O’Malley added that Pence, who tested negative on Saturday and Sunday, will maintain his schedule as “essential personnel.”
“While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the vice president will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” O’Malley wrote on Saturday.
On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) took aim at Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force, for “inexplicably” maintaining his campaign schedule and intending to preside over the Senate chamber on Monday evening over Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation vote amid a COVID-19 outbreak among the VP’s staff.
However, Trumpworld appeared unfazed by the COVID-19 outbreak among Pence’s aides on Sunday. President Trump told reporters in Maine “you’d have to ask Pence” about whether the VP should stay off of the campaign trail, but insisted that he’s “doing very well.”
Here’s how other Trumpworld figures repeated the VP office’s “essential worker” rationale on Sunday:
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows
After quipping that the Trump administration is “not going to control” the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed nearly 225,000 Americans, Meadows told CNN that Pence will continue with travel plans despite a COVID-19 outbreak among his staff because he is “essential personnel.” The White House chief of staff also said Pence will comply with mask-wearing when he is not on stage and delivering a speech.
“I’m not saying he is not campaigning, I’m saying that is only part of what he is doing and as we look at that, ‘essential personnel,’ whether it’s the vice president of the United States or anyone else, has to continue on,” Meadows said.
After several aides, including his chief of staff, tested positive for Covid-19, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows says VP Pence will keep campaigning: "Essential personnel, whether it's the Vice President of the United States or anyone else, has to continue on" #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/2ZWMmwUHG3
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 25, 2020
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien
When asked during an interview on CBS about why Pence’s campaigning duties qualify as “essential work” after his aides contracted COVID-19, O’Brien replied that “free elections are the foundation of our democracy” while arguing that the VP’s campaign duties are “essential.”
“So I think campaigning and voting are about the most essential thing we can be doing,” O’Brien said.
Asked whether Pence could do virtual campaign events to be safer, O’Brien insisted that the VP is “taking all the precautions,” has tested negative and that his chief of staff is only experiencing mild symptoms so far.
Pressed on Meadows’ remarks on CNN that “we are not going to get control” of the COVID-19 pandemic and whether that reflects Trump administration policy, O’Brien deflected to the Trumpworld tactic of blaming China for the pandemic.
NEW: @RobertCOBrien says he’s talked with @VP Chief of Staff @marcshort45 – who tested positive for #Covid19 – and says he’s experiencing mild symptoms@CBSNews has confirmed that Short, along with 3 Pence staffers, and outside adviser Marty Obst, tested postive pic.twitter.com/0ZpVn9obGe
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) October 25, 2020
Trump campaign senior adviser Corey Lewandowski
When asked during an interview on MSNBC on whether it’s appropriate for Pence to remain on the campaign trail in light of his aides contracting COVID-19, Lewandowski deflected by saying that he would make sure that the VP is “taking all the precautions necessary, as he always has done.”
“I am sure he is tested regularly and he is in the best care of the best physicians in the world at the White House,” Lewandowski said. “So I’m sure he’ll do what is necessary and what is appropriate.”
Lewandowski then pointed to how Democratic VP pick Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) suspended her travel temporarily after Biden campaign staffers contracted COVID-19 earlier this month, before adding “so let’s see where this goes.”
Lewandowski: “We have also seen Kamala Harris’ team come down with Covid and she took the necessary precautions.” pic.twitter.com/8pO3p6ZyvO
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) October 25, 2020