CORONAVIRUS

Trump Covid-19 positive: who is Hope Hicks, the aide thought to have infected the president?

US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, have tested positive for the coronavirus, a day after it was revealed top aide Hope Hicks had contracted Covid-19.

Trump Covid-19 positive: who is Hope Hicks, the aide thought to have infected the president?
LEAH MILLIS REUTERS

United States President Donald Trump has announced that he and his wife, Melania, have tested positive for the coronavirus and “will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately”.

According to the White House physician, Dr Sean Conley, Trump and the first lady “are both well at this time”. He added: “Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering”.

Trumps’ positive test follows that of aide Hope Hicks

The news comes after it emerged on Thursday that Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s top aides, had returned a positive Covid-19 test after travelling with the president on Air Force One to Tuesday's presidential debate in Cleveland and to a campaign rally in Minnesota on Wednesday.

According to Bloomberg, Hicks began to feel unwell in Minnesota and quarantined on the flight back to Washington later on Wednesday. Trump had said on Thursday that he and Melania were awaiting the results of Covid-19 tests in the wake of Hicks’ positive test.

Who is Hope Hicks?

Hicks, 31, is a public relations executive and political adviser who was hired by the Trump Organization in 2014. An English graduate and former model, she initially worked with Trump's daughter, Ivanka, on promoting her fashion label. Hicks then began to work directly for Donald Trump, who appointed her as press secretary of his presidential campaign in early 2015.

After Trump’s election win over Hillary Clinton in November 2016, Hicks was named as director of strategic communications in the new administration, before becoming interim White House communications director in August 2017, in the wake of Anthony Scaramucci’s ill-fated, 10-day tenure in the role. She then took over the position on a permanent basis the following month.

Then 28, she became the youngest person ever to have been handed the role since it was created during Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1969.

In February 2018, Hicks resigned as White House communications director. The announcement of her departure came a day after she testified to the House Intelligence Committee that she had told “white lies” on Trump’s behalf, but insisted she had never done so about anything relating to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential links between this and the Trump campaign.

After working for 21st Century Fox as executive vice-president and chief communications officer over the next two years, Hicks then returned to the White House in February 2020 as a counselor to the president, reporting to Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Hicks “totally understands” Trump

Before becoming the Trump campaign's press secretary five years ago, Hicks had accrued no previous political experience, having worked solely in public relations, at the firm Hiltzik Strategies. Ivanka Trump was one of Hiltzik’s clients; this was the connection that led Hicks to work first for Ivanka, then for Donald.

Indeed, Hicks was described by the New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum in 2016 as “arguably the least credentialed press secretary in the modern history of presidential politics”, with even Trump himself reportedly admitting that she had “as much experience as a coffee cup”.

In a Times profile of Hicks, however, 2016 campaign manager Paul Manaforte said her rapid rise to prominence under the then-presidential hopeful came down to the rapport she had quickly built up with him. “Her most important role is her bond with the candidate,” Manaforte said. “She totally understands him.” Ivanka agreed: “My father makes people earn his trust. She’s earned his trust.”

Who else has Hicks been in close contact with?

MSNBC has published a list of people that Hicks is thought to have travelled with to Ohio and Minnesota this week. They feature Ivanka and Kushner, as well as further Trump family members such as sons Eric and Donald Jr, and daughter Tiffany. Also on the list are White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, presidential adviser Dan Scavino, and Trump lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

White House adviser Stephen Miller and Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller are additionally among those named by MSNBC. Bloomberg has reported that a maskless Hicks was seen on Tuesday in a White House staff van with the pair.

Hicks "teeming with virus" when symptoms began to show

NBC notes that she was also not wearing a mask on Wednesday as she was pictured getting out of the Marine One presidential helicopter with Kushner and Stephen Miller.

Hicks would have been highly infectious and “teeming with virus” at that point, CNN’s medical analyst Dr Jonathan Reiner has told the media outlet. “We think that you're probably most contagious the day you develop symptoms,” Dr Reiner said.

“Yesterday [Wednesday] is when Ms Hicks apparently developed symptoms. She would be teeming with virus and that's not the time to be on a small helicopter or in a small conference room on Air Force One with a bunch of people.”

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