President Donald Trump may be eagerly seeking a return to normal after three nights in the hospital. But the White House he arrived home to Monday with dramatic and reckless flourish has changed drastically since he was airlifted off the South Lawn at the end of last week.
Instead of a bustling hive of pre-election activity, the West Wing has become a breeding ground for viral contagion. At least 11 of the President’s aides or allies have either contracted the virus or — in the case of his daughter Ivanka — are working from home. Entire suites of offices sit vacant as Trump’s aides work to isolate him in the residence and out of the West Wing.
A new aura of mistrust was settling in as several aides raised questions about whether they had been recklessly put in harm’s way over the past week. Accusations of mismanagement — directed mainly at White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — have flown amid one of the gravest presidential crises in a generation. An absence of robust contact tracing efforts caused ripples of concern as testing and mask-wearing norms were being second-guessed.
None of that anxiety was allayed when Trump arrived back to the White House Monday. His first act after striding up the South Portico steps was to rip off his mask and stuff it into his pocket — even though he remains infected with coronavirus and could potentially infect those nearby. He was then seen going back out onto the balcony and re-entering so a camera crew could shoot his entrance.
“We’re going back. We’re going back to work. We’re gonna be out front,” Trump said in a video-taped upon his return. “As your leader I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to