| Indianapolis Star
Mike Pence’s role in the Trump administration
Mike Pence’s role in the Trump administration has been forced more into the spotlight with the president’s illness from coronavirus. Here’s a look back at Pence’s career.
INDIANAPOLIS – Vice President Mike Pence was among dozens of politicians and high-profile dignitaries at a White House Rose Garden event when President Donald Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his pick to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the nation’s high court.
At least eight people who attended the event that Saturday, including the president, have tested positive for coronavirus. Few in attendance were wearing face coverings.
The Rose Garden event, combined with newly released pictures from the White House, paint a portrait of a busy chief executive and his No. 2 conducting business without taking basic precautions to limit the spread of coronavirus.
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The result? An apparent laissez-faire attitude toward the novel coronavirus that is now raising both health and national security concerns, with Pence ramping up his campaign appearance schedule while Trump remains hospitalized.
Experts wonder why someone in Pence’s situation is not under isolation to reduce both his risk of exposure and the vulnerability of the Trump White House.
“We have the president and first lady ill and the country is in a vulnerable situation,” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told USA TODAY on Friday. “We have to be very prepared to deal with the possibility that an adversary will seek to take advantage.”
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The White House and national security agencies must move quickly to ensure the chain of command is secure and the military is prepared to respond without delay to provocation or attack, said Panetta, who also served as Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton.
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The COVID-19 pandemic, the recession and Trump’s questioning of the election’s integrity could embolden adversaries to test the United States, Panetta added.
On Friday, Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley tweeted that Pence remains “healthy,” adding that he gets tested every day for COVID-19. A Saturday test also yielded a negative result, an administration official said.
O’Malley told USA TODAY on Saturday that Pence’s physician determined that the CDC guidelines of close contact with a COVID-positive individual – most notably contact less than 6 feet apart and/or more than 15 minutes, and occurring within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms – has not occurred. Additionally, the same White House physician determined that the vice president is in good health and is free to go about his normal activities as he continues to be tested daily and is in routine contact with the White House Medical Unit.
CDC guidelines recommend that anyone who has had close contact with someone who has COVID symptoms or tested positive should isolate themselves for 14 days and stay at least six feet away from others at all times. Close contact, the CDC says, is defined as being within six feet of the person for at least 15 minutes within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. The guidelines contain several caveats, however, and note that data is insufficient to precisely determine the duration of time that constitutes a prolonged exposure.
Out of an abundance of caution, Pence worked from the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory on Friday and Saturday, in order to limit contact with those potentially in close contact with COVID-positive individuals, O’Malley said.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign announced Saturday afternoon that Pence would be ramping up public appearances ahead of the November election, including visiting his home state of Indiana later in the week.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday that he had no concerns about Pence and other surrogates continuing to campaign while the president is hospitalized. Miller said he did not expect a virtual debate.
“No, we’re in a campaign. We have a month to go. We see Joe Biden and Kamala Harris out there campaigning. Certainly, they’re not asking for remote debate,” Miller said. He noted the the vice president is “going to have a very full, aggressive schedule as well as the first family, Don, Eric, Ivanka. And we have a number of our supporters, our coalitions: Black Voices for Trump, Latinos for Trump, Women for Trump.”
“I have no concerns at all,” Miller said. “The vice president takes it very serious all of these measures. Anyone around the vice president are tested. People are kept very safe. And again, we can’t hide from this virus forever, Chuck, we have to take it head on, and we have to reopen our economy. And we got to develop this vaccine and defeat the virus.”
Mike Pence first in line of succession
Under the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the president could notify House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the Senate majority’s senior member, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that he is unable to perform the duties of his office, transferring power to Pence, who is first in the line of succession.
The extent of Trump’s illness was unclear Saturday, with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House physician Sean Conley offering differing assessments of the president’s condition.
Meadows told The Associated Press the president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were “very concerning” and that the next 48 hours would be critical for his care.
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Conley, meanwhile, said Saturday that the president was “doing very well.”
During a morning news conference in which he declined to answer specific questions about the president’s fever and whether he has needed oxygen since testing positive, Conley said Trump’s mild cough, nasal congestion and fatigue were “resolving and improving.”
COVID cases tied to Rose Garden event
Conley’s remarks Saturday morning also raised new questions about the timeline of Trump’s illness, when he was likely contagious and the extent of Pence’s exposure to COVID-19.
At least eight people who attended the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event announcing Judge Barrett’s nomination have since confirmed they contracted the virus. They include the first lady, former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and the University of Notre Dame president, the Rev. John Jenkins.
Photos from the Rose Garden show Pence sitting in the front row with members of Trump’s family. An aisle separates him and Melania Trump. Kellyanne Conway was seated immediately behind the first lady. Lee of Utah was seated directly behind Pence.
Pictures from the White House show Barrett, her children, Trump, the first lady and others sitting and standing in close proximity to each other inside the Oval Office prior to the announcement. None are wearing masks. Barrett has tested negative for COVID-19.
In addition, the newly released White House “Photos of the Week” contain numerous images of Pence and Trump conducting meetings and hosting indoor receptions. Neither is wearing a mask in any of the images, and in most, there is little indication that social distancing guidelines, which suggest individuals be 6 feet apart, were maintained.
Pence’s doctor says he ‘does not need to quarantine’
On Friday, Pence’s office released a statement from his physician, saying that it was fine for the vice president to continue his duties.
“Under the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] (CDC), the Vice President is not considered a close contact with any individuals who have tested positive for COVID, including President Donald J. Trump.
“Vice President Mike Pence does not need to quarantine,” the memo states. “Vice President Mike Pence remains in good health and is free to go about his normal activities.”
However, medical experts have said that COVID-19 can take up to 14 days to manifest, which is why they recommend quarantine for individuals who are in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the disease.
Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said Friday that he thinks if someone who was exposed can be tested frequently, as Pence presumably can, they can safely resume their daily lives after about a week of negative tests.
They should self-isolate until then, he said.
Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist with the Federation of American Scientists, a think-tank, agrees that Pence should be self-quarantining for at least a week after his last encounter with the president.
That would be at least through next Tuesday.
Mike Pence gears up for Wednesday debate
Pence’s office has not yet released his upcoming schedule, but the Trump-Pence campaign on Saturday issued a release indicating that the vice president has a full slate of events on tap in the coming days.
Pence is preparing for his debate with Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday, October 7, in Utah.
And “Operation MAGA,” the Trump campaign said, will take the vice president on a “swing through key states” following Wednesday’s debate.
Pence’s schedule ramps up: With Trump hospitalized, VP Mike Pence will visit Arizona for a Thursday rally, campaign says
The Trump campaign announced early Saturday that Pence plans to rally supporters Thursday at a newly announced campaign stop in Phoenix. From there, he’ll head to his home state of Indiana to vote early.
Pence’s office has so far released few details on what precautions or mitigation measures they are taking to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading at these events.
Harris arrived in Utah on Saturday to prep for the debate, and Politico reported that because of the White House COVID-19 outbreak, that Pence and Harris will sit 12 feet apart, instead of 7 feet.
The rally in Arizona will be held outdoors, campaign officials confirmed to The Arizona Republic on Saturday, and the campaign is reminding prospective attendees of the “inherent risk” of such events.
The website for Pence’s Thursday appearance doesn’t specifically note that masks are required, but a campaign official said every attendee will undergo a temperature check, receive a mask they are encouraged to wear and have access to hand sanitizer.
Details for Pence’s stop in Indiana have not yet been released.
Ginger Rough is the IndyStar’s Senior News Director.
This report was compiled from reporting by IndyStar’s Lawrence Andrea and Brooke Kemp, The Arizona Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Ronald J. Hansen, and USA Today’s Karen Weintraub, Dinah Pulver, John Fritze, Michael Collins, David Jackson, Maureen Groppe and Tom Vanden Brook.