Trump’s White House is ‘hollowed out’ by coronavirus as president spews misinformation and acts on impulse

A wave of coronavirus infections in the West Wing is leaving the president alone at a critical moment as he continues to lie about the results of the 2020 US election

Chris Riotta
New York
Friday 13 November 2020 17:40
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White House chief of staff Mark Meadows attends an election party prior to being diagnosed with coronavirus
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A second wave of coronavirus infections has enveloped the White House as Donald Trump continues to attack the democratic electoral process – with no top officials left to counter his worst impulses.

The White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was reportedly one of the only voices in Mr Trump’s orbit encouraging him to consider conceding to the president-elect, Joe Biden.

However, it was then reported that Mr Meadows had contracted the coronavirus after attending an election night party at the White House, forcing him to be absent from the West Wing at a critical moment when the president was posting misinformation and outright lies about the national vote.

At least seven people who attended the event have since tested positive for Covid-19, among them lobbyist Jeff Miller and multiple advisers, including Corey Lewandowski, who was helping to lead the election recount efforts in crucial battleground states.

It remained unclear when and how any of the president’s inner circle contracted the virus, with Mr Lewandowski saying he believed he was exposed after travelling to Philadelphia, rather than at the White House.

Trump White House election party becomes super-spreader event

At least seven people, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, have since tested positive

The apparent spread of cases among the president’s top officials has left him in what Jonathan Lemire, a White House reporter for the Associated Press, described as a “hollowed out” West Wing in an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday.

“There are some voices in the White House growing a little bit louder trying to nudge the president to a graceful exit and that would include – even while perhaps maintaining some sort of fight here, as fruitless as it may be, on the legal challenges – to at least cooperate with the transition,” the reporter said.

But then he noted how none of the president’s advisers were urging Mr Trump to authorise daily briefings for Mr Biden – a crucial step in the transition period that would allow the president-elect to receive classified briefings before taking over in the Oval Office.

“No one is really doing that yet because it would be perceived as a sign of disloyalty,” he said. “This is a West Wing right now that’s … completely hollowed out after the latest coronavirus outbreak, which affected Mark Meadows and others, where people are either sick or, because they got exposed to someone who was, are having to self-isolate.”

The administration has meanwhile skirted questions surrounding Mr Trump’s concession, as a growing number of Republicans on Capitol Hill release public statements calling on the president to accept the results of the election.

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was met with a quick backlash when he said earlier this week that there would be a “smooth transition” to a second term for Mr Trump. 

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