Trump campaign ‘proceeding as normal’ during coronavirus pandemic

CNN’s John Avlon breaks down the Trump administration’s baseless claims regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus in the US.

As the novel coronavirus spreads across the globe and the United States, President Donald Trump’s campaign is insisting the pandemic will not impact his reelection scheduling and strategy.

“What we’re doing at the campaign is proceeding as normal,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told reporters on a conference call Sunday.

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 108,000 people around the world and killed more than 3,800, according to CNN’s tally. The Centers for Disease Control has said it is likely that widespread transmission of the virus will occur in the United States, where there were 601 confirmed cases as of noon on Monday.

Trump held a campaign rally last Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, filling a local arena with additional supporters watching outside. He attended a Fox News town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. And he attended campaign fundraisers over the weekend and on Monday.

“The campaign is proceeding as normally,” Murtaugh reiterated.

However, there is not currently a campaign rally on the President or vice president’s schedule. The campaign has not said when Trump will rally next, but the “Keep America Great” events are generally announced a week in advance. The wheels are in motion for “Keep America Great” rallies later this month and in April, a source familiar with the campaign’s plans said.

“They are proceeding as normal until told not to” by the President, the source said.

The source suggested that the campaign is waiting to see what Trump’s Democratic rivals do in as the coronavirus progresses.

“They will not want to take the lead on canceling campaign events, and will only do so if and when the Sanders and Biden campaigns cancel events,” the source said.

There are no indications Biden or Sanders will do so, though there are some signs the campaigns are responding. At an event for former Vice President Joe Biden Monday evening, volunteers and staff squirted hand sanitizer onto supporters’ hands.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence, who traveled to Minnesota and Washington state with task force members, postponed a political event scheduled in Wisconsin and sent the second lady to another political event in Minnesota in his stead.

After a confirmed case of novel coronavirus by someone who attended last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where both Trump and Pence spoke, the campaign reiterated that there would be no change to their “business as usual” approach. Other officials, including Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, said they had come into contact with the individual would be self-quarantining out of an abundance of caution.

The campaign postponed a planned “Women for Trump” bus tour set to be headlined this week by Lara Trump, national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and adviser Mercedes Schlapp. A campaign spokesperson attributed the delay to “scheduling conflicts” and denied it had anything to do with coronavirus fears.

Schlapp’s husband, CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp, said he had “incidental contact” with the conference attendee during a weekend appearance via Skype on Fox News. He told Fox Business on Monday that he is practicing “separation” and not going to public events.

Murtaugh denied the postponement was due to Schlapp’s wife Mercedes, with whom he shares a home, being involved.

The New York Times first reported the postponement of the bus tour.

Asked last week whether it was safe to continue to hold campaign rallies, Trump said, “I think it’s very safe. Yeah. I think it’s very safe,” noting that Democratic candidates are also holding rallies of their own.

Locally, the campaign is holding phone banking, MAGA Meet-up and leadership training events this week. And second lady Karen Pence is set to hold a Women for Trump coalition event with McEnany in York, Pennsylvania, next week.

Murtaugh cited Trump’s actions, including the establishment of a task force and travel restrictions, as a positive for voters, and suggested the President and vice president’s ongoing efforts add value to the campaign.

“Americans want to see their president, their elected officials, their government acting in ways that protect the safety of the citizens and the national security of this country,” Murtaugh said.

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

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