People familiar with the matter said that the spread of the coronavirus is believed to have discouraged about 10% of the agency’s core security team, which is partly in line with President Trump’s series of campaigns in the weeks leading up to the November 3 general election. The rally is related, and like the others interviewed in this report, they spoke anonymously to describe the situation.
The outbreak came with a rapid increase in coronavirus cases across the country, with more than 1
The virus is having a huge impact on the Secret Service’s presidential security department. At the same time, more and more well-known Trump campaign allies and White House officials have become ill due to the campaign. Many attendees did not wear masks at the time.
The infected include White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and external political advisers Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie.
In addition, according to officials of the organization, at least eight staff members of the Republican National Committee, including Chief of Staff Richard Walters, have contracted the virus. An official said that some of the infected were in field offices across the country, including Pennsylvania, and some believed that they were exposed in large employee gatherings.
White House spokesperson Judd Deere said that the Obama administration “takes every case seriously.” He referred questions about the Secret Service outbreak to agency officials. A spokesperson for the Secret Service declined to comment.
Trump conducted a travel raid in the final stages of the campaign and has conducted five campaigns in each of the past two days. On November 2, Trump’s campaign schedule required five separate groups of special agents (20 to dozens per person) to travel to Fayetteville, North Carolina; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Traverse City, Michigan; And Kenosha and Great Falls, Wisconsin. Screen the audience and ensure the periphery around the presidential event. President-elect Biden did two campaigns to stop the day and also asked the Secret Service for protection, but in smaller numbers.
A government official said that the agency is still checking whether some parts of the current infection are not related to travel, but traced back to the site where many Secret Service officials went to work every day: the White House.
White House staff have largely avoided wearing masks, although there are public health guidelines that say they help contain the spread of the virus, and some Secret Service personnel on duty in the complex also did not wear masks.
The Secret Service employs approximately 1,300 officers in its unified division to guard the White House and the Vice President’s residence. These officials are also the security pillars of the president’s business trips and other official activities. Officials are different from agents. Agents usually wear plain clothes and provide close security for the president, his family members and other senior officials.
People familiar with the matter said that earlier this week, the agency’s director introduced a large number of people infected with the virus to other staff and said that the scope of testing has been expanded to limit the spread of the virus.
The number of laid-off employees puts tremendous pressure on the team that has overworked and will force many people to give up taking leave and extend their working hours to compensate for absent colleagues. In 2015, a blue ribbon team identified overworked Secret Service officials as a key factor in the White House security breach.
A former Secret Service executive said: “It is very problematic to cut more than 100 officers.” “This is not a good sign for the security of the White House.”
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence decided to travel during the pandemic. This is not the first time the Secret Service has been hit hard. This summer, after the President’s large indoor stadium rally in Tulsa in June and the Vice President’s subsequent trip to Arizona, dozens of Secret Service agents fell ill or were quarantined and forced to quarantine.
At the time, Catherine Milhoan, a spokesperson for the Secret Service, said in a statement to the Washington Post that the agency “continues to methodically evaluate the unique requirements necessary to operate in an ongoing pandemic environment. .”
But Trump’s many choices put his protection team at greater risk, especially his choice to leave the state and hold large-scale public events. Secret Service agents and medical professionals were shocked early last month when Trump (who was being treated at the Walter Reed National Coronavirus National Military Medical Center) insisted on cycling outside the hospital and giving support from the government’s utility vehicle. The person waved. He wears a mask, but many people worry that he unnecessarily endangers the secret service agents in the car.
Deere defended the outing at the time and told reporters: “Appropriate precautions were taken when implementing this campaign to protect the president and all those who support the president.” He said that the precautions included personal protective equipment, but did not elaborate , And stated that the trip “is considered safe by the medical team.”
Although many people in Trump’s orbit have contracted the virus this year, the most recent outbreak in the White House was particularly widespread. Last week, many people who are now sick attended a campaign meeting in the East Room or were exposed to sick people.
Meadows was in the East Room of the White House when Trump addressed about 150 of his senior aides, donors and allies, and family members around 3 a.m. on Wednesday. At that event, Meadows worked extensively in the room without a mask, talking with dozens of people.
Officials say that in the past week, more than a dozen White House aides have tested positive for the virus, including a series of low-level aides and secretaries. The affected offices include political affairs, legislative affairs and communications.
Meadows’ diagnosis was revealed last week, and he also urged staff not to disclose this fact. A person close to him said that the chief of staff is expected to wait until next week to return to the office.
People attending the campaign gathering in the East Room on Wednesday night were around Meadows, Lewandowski and other employees who are now sick. They said the White House had not contacted them.
Several staff members said they were worried about going to work because of the outbreak. “I’m trying to work from home,” a senior government official said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s really not safe to be there now.”
Several aides said they were frustrated by the lack of transparency of their superiors (especially Meadows), and they did not notify people of more diagnoses.
Julie Tate contributed to this report.