Despite the White House’s COVID-19 Outbreak, the Trump Campaign Continues to Ignore Public Health Guidelines

It’s safe to say that if most political campaigns had seen its candidate, campaign manager, and more than a dozen associates test positive for COVID-19 within days of each other, they would likely reassess the strategy of holding large, in-person events that could be potential breeding grounds for the highly-infectious and deadly disease.



a person looking at the camera: A car with U.S. President Trump drives past supporters in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on October 4, 2020.


© Alex Edelman—AFP/Getty Images
A car with U.S. President Trump drives past supporters in a motorcade outside of Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on October 4, 2020.

Not so with the Trump campaign.

While briefly pausing in-person events after President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disclosed their positive diagnoses on Oct. 2, the campaign announced, just a day later, that “Operation MAGA”—a series of in-person events that the campaign touted as a way to “energize and mobilize the MAGA universe to maintain full speed until the President returns to the campaign trail”—will commence later this week. Trump himself tweeted on Oct. 5, the same day he was discharged from the hospital, that he “will be back on the Campaign Trail soon.”

The Trump campaign’s schedule is already jam-packed. On Oct. 8, Vice President Mike Pence will hold a rally at a tactical gear manufacturing company in Peoria, Ariz. On that same day Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to hold an event at a Holiday Inn in Panama City, Fla., Lara Trump will join Trump campaign advisers Mercedes Schlapp and Katrina Pierson for a “women for Trump bus tour event in New Castle, Pennsylvania, and Eric Trump will host two events in North Carolina.

“I expect us to have upwards of fifty folks all around the country,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, “flooding the zone in the battleground states later this week.”

Republican strategists say that one main reason the Trump campaign struggled to pivot after the President’s diagnosis is because its strategy, unlike many other Presidential campaigns in the past, is almost entirely dependent on the man on the top of the ticket. Instead of switching the focus to messaging about specific policy promises or other moves a second-term Trump Administration might embrace, they’re hamstrung by their dependence on Trump’s personal draw as a candidate.

“This campaign relies on the candidate to carry [it] more than most campaigns do,” says Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who worked on Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s 016 presidential run. “It’s clearly not helpful to not have the candidate traveling the country in the final weeks of the election.”

But the Trump campaign’s decision to stick to the current strategy carries its own risks. Trump is trailing Biden in the polls by double digits, and a CNN poll released on Oct. 5 found that two thirds of Americans thought he handled the risk of coronavirus irresponsibly. It’s unlikely that continuing to hold in-person events will improve the President’s standing on this latter point.

Pence and Trump Jr.’s in-person rallies this week pose a particular issue. If these

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With the President hospitalized, more Covid cases emerge in White House and campaign

President Donald Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center early Friday evening less than 24 hours after news broke of his Covid-19 diagnosis, plunging the country into a deepening crisis as the circle of current and former aides to the President testing positive rapidly widened.



a large building: WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 02: A view of the White House on Friday evening after U.S. President Donald Trump left the White House for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for coronavirus. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


© Drew Angerer/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 02: A view of the White House on Friday evening after U.S. President Donald Trump left the White House for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for coronavirus. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By early Saturday, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and the President’s campaign manager Bill Stepien had both tested positive, which followed the positive diagnoses of two US senators who had attended Trump’s Supreme Court nomination announcement last weekend, and Trump senior adviser Hope Hicks on Thursday.

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It was a remarkably fast escalation of the virus’ threat — which the President has long downplayed — from an infection that caused him mild symptoms, to a fever to then being airlifted to the hospital, all while spreading quickly throughout the government and his campaign.

Shortly before midnight, the President’s physician, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley finally gave an update on the President’s condition, saying in a memo that the President is “doing very well” and has not required any supplemental oxygen, but that doctors have initiated the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has been shown to shorten recovery time for some coronavirus patients.

Conley added that he had recommended the President’s movement from the White House to Walter Reed earlier Friday in consultation with specialists from both Walter Reed and Johns Hopkins University.

Around the same time, Trump tweeted: “Going well, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!”

Trump’s diagnosis — followed by his move to Walter Reed, where the White House said he plans to stay and work for “the next few days” — presented the most serious known health threat to the US presidency since former President Ronald Reagan was non-fatally shot in 1981.

The decision to take Trump to the hospital marked a sharp turn from the statement Conley made early Friday when he first confirmed the Covid-19 diagnosis of Trump and first lady Melania Trump, and said the couple would remain at the White House during their convalescence.

Wearing a suit and mask, Trump, who’s 74, gave a low-key wave to the press but took no questions as he walked without assistance across the South Lawn of the White House to Marine One, the helicopter that airlifted him to the hospital. He left for Walter Reed after receiving a dose of the experimental medical treatment Regeneron — which may have signaled a rising level of concern among his physicians, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, CNN medical analyst and professor at George Washington University, told CNN on Friday.

Though White House staff claimed the President made the move “out of an

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Trump Enters Hospital With Covid, Jolting White House, Campaign

(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump remains in a U.S. military hospital outside Washington after contracting the coronavirus, a development that unnerved the White House and shook his struggling re-election campaign.

The White House said his symptoms were mild and that he would continue to work from a suite at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, but his hospitalization heightened fears that his condition was more serious.



a man standing in front of a crowd: Trump To Spend A Few Days In Hospital On Doctor Recommendations


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Trump To Spend A Few Days In Hospital On Doctor Recommendations

President Donald Trump exits Marine One while arriving to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 2.

Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg

The president’s physician, Sean Conley, said late Friday night that Trump was being treated with the antiviral drug Remdesivir and did not require oxygen.

Trump spoke Friday evening in a video he tweeted out to thank Americans for their well-wishes. “I think I’m doing very well but we’re going to make sure that things work out,” he said.

But as the day wore on, more and more prominent people in political circles revolving around Trump tested positive for the virus. They included his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, two Republican senators and a former top White House aide, Kellyanne Conway.

Read More: Trump’s Covid-19 Diagnosis Reshapes Election a Month From Vote

That Trump, who is wary of doctors, agreed to go to Walter Reed is a sign of concern about his condition, several people familiar with the matter said. Within the White House, several aides said they had received no more information about Trump’s condition than the public.



a person standing on the side of a road: Trump To Spend A Few Days In Hospital On Doctor Recommendations


© Bloomberg
Trump To Spend A Few Days In Hospital On Doctor Recommendations

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg

There will be no transfer of power from Trump to Vice President Mike Pence while the president is in the hospital, White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

The helicopter flight to Walter Reed was the most dramatic moment in a day of dizzying developments in Washington sparked by the president’s disclosure of his illness just a month before Election Day. As the Trump campaign was scrapping most of its planned events, the president’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, was campaigning in the battleground state of Michigan, where he delivered a speech while wearing a face mask.

Biden, who took part in a chaotic debate with Trump on Tuesday, expressed wishes for a speedy recovery for both Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive for the coronavirus, and said the diagnosis was a “bracing reminder” to take the disease seriously.



a man wearing a suit and tie and holding a sign: Joe Biden Travels To Michigan To Campaign For President


© Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America
Joe Biden Travels To Michigan To Campaign For President

Joe Biden in Michigan on Oct. 2.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Fresh anxiety over the virus continued to reverberate into Friday night. Stepien, who was promoted to run the campaign this summer to help revive Trump’s re-election bid, has been infected, a campaign spokesman said.

Conway, who managed Trump’s 2016 campaign before joining the administration, said she had tested positive.

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Trump White House, campaign staff who have tested positive for COVID-19

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – News of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis has upended the U.S. presidential election campaign entering its final month and roiled stock markets, raising questions about succession and prompting White House aides to insist that Trump would keep a busy, if modified, schedule.

U.S. President Trump waves while walking to the Marine One helicopter to depart the White House to fly to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where it was announced he will work for at least several days after testing positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Hope Hicks, a close adviser to the president who often traveled with him on the Air Force One and Marine One presidential aircraft, had tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus on Thursday.

After Trump tweeted he and his wife, Melania, tested positive for COVID-19 early Friday morning, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, who has had frequent contact with Trump, said she tested positive for the virus and was quarantined at home in Michigan.

Trump and some other Republicans have eschewed social distancing, mask wearing and other protocols health officials recommend to stop the spread of the virus.

Here are other White House and Trump campaign personnel who have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent months:

— U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien in late July. Before Trump’s infection, O’Brien was the highest-ranking administration official to test positive for the virus. O’Brien had mild COVID symptoms and returned to work on Aug. 4.

— Katie Miller, spokeswoman to Mike Pence, wife of Stephen Miller, a Trump senior adviser, in early May, forcing Pence to slightly delay a Pence trip to Iowa.

— Kimberly Guilfoyle, senior adviser to Trump campaign and girlfriend to Donald Trump Jr.

— Tom Phillipson, the former acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers in early June. He told the Wall Street Journal of his infection after recovering and leaving the White House in late June

— A member of the U.S. Navy who served as a personal valet to Trump tested positive in early May. The infection prompted daily tests for those working at the White House.

— A U.S. Marine assigned to Trump’s helicopter squadron tested positive for the coronavirus in late July. The squadron transports Trump and other top officials from the White House aboard the Marine One helicopter.

— A worker in a White House complex cafeteria tested positive in late July. The cafeteria is located in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where some White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, have offices.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell

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Trump shows COVID-19 symptoms as positive test rocks White House, campaign

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump is experiencing mild symptoms but will keep working after testing positive for the coronavirus, administration officials said on Friday, as the White House and presidential election campaign scrambled to adjust to the bombshell development.

Trump, who has played down the threat of the coronavirus pandemic from the outset, said he and his wife Melania were going into quarantine after testing positive for the virus, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans and dealt severe damage to the U.S. economy.

Trump is not incapacitated and is working in isolation to avoid infecting others, officials said. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the president, 74, was exhibiting mild symptoms. They gave no more details about his condition.

“We have a president that is not only on the job but will remain on the job and I’m optimistic that he will have a very quick and speedy recovery,” Meadows told reporters.

An active Twitter user, Trump has not posted any messages since announcing his positive test early Friday morning.

Stocks on Wall Street fell almost 1% on news of one of the biggest health scares involving an American president for decades.

The president’s illness upended his re-election campaign with just 31 days to go until the Nov. 3 Election Day. Polls show Trump trailing his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump advisers acknowledged they would have to rip up their plans for the final weeks of the campaign. Trump has held in-person rallies with supporters who mainly decline to wear masks, and has mocked Biden for avoiding such events.

“Trump is a high-energy president with a giant personality. Without his persona, the campaign is missing its energy,” Republican fundraiser Dan Eberhart said.

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Biden and his wife Jill Biden tested negative on Friday, his campaign said.

Trump’s illness also raised questions about the health of others atop the U.S. government.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife tested negative, a Pence spokesman said. The White House official said Pence would work from his own residence several miles from the White House and his staff was being kept separate from Trump’s staff.

Pence, 61, a conservative former U.S. lawmaker and Indiana governor, would take over if Trump were to become incapacitated.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, third in line for the presidency, said on MSNBC that she had tested negative.

Just hours before Trump’s announcement, the president had proclaimed the pandemic almost over, while Biden had accused Trump of trying to distract from a “failed” response to the disease, which has killed more people in the United States than any other country.

Trump is at high risk because of his age and weight. He has remained in apparent good health during his time in office but is not known to exercise regularly or to follow a healthy diet.

Biden wished Trump and the first lady a speedy recovery. “We will continue to pray

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Trump Tests Positive for Covid, Roiling Campaign and White House

(Bloomberg) —



a man wearing a suit and tie: US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One upon arrival at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020.


© Photographer: MANDEL NGAN/AFP
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One upon arrival at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020.

U.S. President Donald Trump said early Friday that he has tested positive for coronavirus along with his wife and one of his closest aides, throwing an already volatile campaign into deeper disarray just one month before the election.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!,” the president said on Twitter, hours after Bloomberg News reported that the adviser, Hope Hicks, had fallen ill with the virus.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, underwent their routine daily Covid-19 check and tested negative, his press secretary Devin O’Malley tweeted early Friday.

The election campaign of Democrat Joe Biden has focused heavily on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, which has already killed more than 200,000 Americans and deepened inequalities. Biden and others have criticized Trump’s response as slow and ineffective.

Biden was expected to be tested for the virus on Friday, according to a person familiar with his campaign’s plans. The two shared a stage Tuesday at the presidential debate in Cleveland, where few if any in Trump’s entourage wore masks. Biden’s campaign has not yet made a decision about whether he will travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan on Friday for a scheduled campaign trip.

Trump is able to rest and work in the White House residence, people familiar with the matter said.

The White House already announced that Trump was canceling all public events, including a rally in Florida, on Friday. Normal virus protocols could keep him off the campaign trail at least 10 days and possibly longer at a critical moment when he was trying to gain ground on Biden, who polls show is holding steady with about a 7 percentage-point lead nationally.

In addition, the announcement could complicate plans for a confirmation hearing and vote on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, though as of early Friday there had been no change in the schedule that would start hearings the week of Oct. 12. It was also unknown what effect the development could have on negotiations over an economic stimulus package to counter the fallout from the virus, as House Democrats and the White House remained far apart.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Trump contracted the virus. Hicks tested positive after flying aboard Air Force One to the presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday and to a campaign rally in Minnesota on Wednesday.

Senior aides on Thursday discussed scenarios for how to handle both governing and campaigning if Trump tested positive, according to people familiar with the situation. Other White House aides learned the news of Trump’s illness when they awoke Friday morning.

Only a very small circle of people knew that Hicks had tested positive, and senior staff had hoped to keep that information private,

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Obama Says White House Trying ‘To Keep People From Voting’ in New Biden Campaign Ads

Barack Obama has claimed that the White House is “working to keep people from voting,” in one of two new adverts for the Joe Biden presidential campaign that encourage Black people to exercise their power at the ballot box.

The videos, the other featuring vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, will be featured on popular Black entertainment news sites The Shade Room and The Young, Black, and Fabulous. They ask Black voters to make a plan of where and when to vote.

“Hey, roommates, Barack Obama here. Yes, coming to you from The Shade Room. As you know the election is coming up and I’ve got just one word for you: vote,” the former president says.

“Actually, I’ve got two: vote early. Right now, from the White House on down, folks are working to keep people from voting, especially communities of color.”

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Obama moves on to say that this is “because there is a lot at stake in this election,” mentioning the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice and “our democracy itself.” He encourages those watching to make a plan to vote early and to tell friends and family to do the same.

The video with vice presidential nominee Harris also starts out with her introducing herself. She then says: “We are coming down to the wire in this election and we know it’s all on the line. Everything from women’s health to our jobs, from black businesses to the quality of our schools and our communities.”

“To make progress in all the ways that matter to us and the ones we love,” Harris says, “we must vote, and we must vote early.”

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She carries on to say that this year, it is “easier and more convenient to make your voice heard on your schedule,” encouraging those who are voting in person to pick a day to go to the polls.

If they are voting by mail, she asks you to get your ballot as soon as possible, either by mailing it in or handing it in person. Harris, like Obama, tells viewers to encourage their friends and family to make a plan to vote as well.

The Shade Room, an Instagram-focused platform founded by Angelica Nwandu in 2014, counts more than 20 million followers on the social media platform.

Meanwhile, the Young, Black and Fabulous website, focused on Black celebrity gossip, was started in 2005 by Natasha Eubanks.

Both platforms have also pivoted to covering racial justice and injustice issues as well as the upcoming election.

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll from June showed that 92 percent of Black registered voters supported Biden over President Donald Trump.

A more recent survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News between September 13 -16 found Biden leading Trump among Black voters by 90 percent to 5 percent.

Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama gives the eulogy at the funeral service for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 30,
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7 ‘discarded’ military votes for Trump found in Pennsylvania, campaign blames Democrats

The Trump campaign on Thursday accused the Democrats of “trying to steal the election” after seven military ballots cast in favor of the president were found “discarded” in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania — despite no immediate allegations of any malfeasance.



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie walking down the street


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“BREAKING: FBI finds military mail-in ballots discarded in Pennsylvania. 100% of them were cast for President Trump. Democrats are trying to steal the election,” Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, tweeted Thursday afternoon, linking to a press release from David Freed, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Freed said his office had begun “an inquiry into reports of potential issues with a small number of mail-in ballots at the Luzerne County Board of Elections.”

“At this point we can confirm that a small number of military ballots were discarded. Investigators have recovered nine ballots at this time. Some of those ballots can be attributed to specific voters and some cannot. All nine ballots were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump,” the statement said.

Freed’s office put out a revised statement hours after the first saying the number of Trump ballots was actually seven.

“Two of the discarded ballots had been resealed inside their appropriate envelopes by Luzerne elections staff prior to recovery by the FBI and the contents of those 2 ballots are unknown,” the updated statement said.

Both statements were highly unusual as U.S. Attorneys typically do not publicly announce they’ve opened an inquiry. The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to give further comment about the probe, except to say the general election ballots were improperly opened by county staff.

The second statement noted that Freed’s office had been investigating the case with the FBI since Monday at the request of Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.

Salavantis is a Republican, and Trump won the county by almost 20 points in 2016. Salavantis was told about the find last week by the county’s elections director, the county solicitor said in a statement.

While the nature of the inquiry, including whether there’s a criminal component, is unclear, the Justice Department’s 2017 guidelines for “Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses” says that, “Because the federal prosecutor’s function in the area of election fraud is not primarily preventative, any criminal investigation by the Department must be conducted in a way that minimizes the likelihood that the investigation itself may become a factor in the election.”

In the evening, DOJ released a letter Freed sent to the county board of elections, reporting his initial findings — including that at least part of the problem appeared to be bureaucratic.

“The FBI has recovered a number of documents relating to military ballots that had been improperly opened by your elections staff, and had the ballots removed and discarded, or removed and placed separately from the envelope containing confidential voter information and attestation,” the letter said.

It noted, “the appropriate method for processing received military ballots is to securely store the ballot, unopened” until Election Day,

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Democratic House challenger invokes Ginsburg in new campaign ad

Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, who is challenging Illinois Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, is launching an ad Friday that invokes the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and ties the Supreme Court fight to her party’s broader push on health care.  

“A nation mourns, and your health care is at risk,” the narrator says as the ad pans to a black-and-white photograph of Ginsburg. “A Supreme Court controlled by Donald Trump could overturn the Affordable Care Act by the end of this year. Rodney Davis won’t help us. He votes with Trump and the drug and insurance industries that gave him over $770,000.” 

Although Ginsburg’s death has already infused pivotal Senate races with new campaign cash and an urgency to mobilize voters, Dirksen Londrigan’s ad, part of a six-figure buy, is among the first for a House candidate to draw on the fight over the justice’s replacement, linking it with Democrats’ dominant message of expanding health care coverage. Senators, of course, vote on judicial nominations, while House members do not.

The race for the 13th District in Central Illinois represents a potential pickup opportunity for Democrats and is a rematch from 2018, when Davis defeated Dirksen Londrigan by 1 point. Recent polling shows a similar close race heading into Election Day, with Davis considered among the House’s most vulnerable members. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilt Republican.  

The new ad says Davis voted multiple times to “gut” protections for people with preexisting medical conditions. It’s a message that Democrats have used in other competitive races, including against GOP Reps. John Katko of New York and Ann Wagner of Missouri. 

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White House, Trump campaign push unusual DOJ announcement about 7 ‘discarded’ military votes

The Trump campaign on Thursday accused the Democrats of “trying to steal the election” after seven military ballots cast in favor of the president were found “discarded” in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania — despite no immediate allegations of any malfeasance.

“BREAKING: FBI finds military mail-in ballots discarded in Pennsylvania. 100% of them were cast for President Trump. Democrats are trying to steal the election,” Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, tweeted Thursday afternoon, linking to a press release from David Freed, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Freed said his office had begun “an inquiry into reports of potential issues with a small number of mail-in ballots at the Luzerne County Board of Elections.”

“At this point we can confirm that a small number of military ballots were discarded. Investigators have recovered nine ballots at this time. Some of those ballots can be attributed to specific voters and some cannot. All nine ballots were cast for presidential candidate Donald Trump,” the statement said.

Freed’s office put out a revised statement hours after the first saying the number of Trump ballots was actually seven.

“Two of the discarded ballots had been resealed inside their appropriate envelopes by Luzerne elections staff prior to recovery by the FBI and the contents of those 2 ballots are unknown,” the updated statement said.

Both statements were highly unusual as U.S. Attorneys typically do not publicly announce they’ve opened an inquiry. The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to give further comment about the probe, except to say the general election ballots were improperly opened by county staff.

The second statement noted that Freed’s office had been investigating the case with the FBI since Monday at the request of Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.

Salavantis is a Republican, and Trump won the county by almost 20 points in 2016. Salavantis was told about the find last week by the county’s elections director, the county solicitor said in a statement.

While the nature of the inquiry, including whether there’s a criminal component, is unclear, the Justice Department’s 2017 guidelines for “Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses” says that, “Because the federal prosecutor’s function in the area of election fraud is not primarily preventative, any criminal investigation by the Department must be conducted in a way that minimizes the likelihood that the investigation itself may become a factor in the election.”

In the evening, DOJ released a letter Freed sent to the county board of elections, reporting his initial findings — including that at least part of the problem appeared to be bureaucratic.

“The FBI has recovered a number of documents relating to military ballots that had been improperly opened by your elections staff, and had the ballots removed and discarded, or removed and placed separately from the envelope containing confidential voter information and attestation,” the letter said.

It noted, “the appropriate method for processing received military ballots is to securely store the ballot, unopened” until Election Day, but that some elections staffers said

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