Attorney General William Barr is facing mounting criticism over his refusal to quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 at the Supreme Court nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday.
Some fear the September 26 event was a possible catalyst of the White House coronavirus outbreak. At least eight attendees have tested positive since the ceremony. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with the virus one day after Hope Hicks, one of the president’s closest aides, became infected.
GOP Senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis also tested positive, as well as former White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway—whom Barr was seen in close contact with during the event.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 14 days of quarantine for anyone who has been exposed to the virus, a rule Barr has apparently chosen not to follow.
“Barr’s refusal to quarantine after exposure is not ‘toughness,'” tweeted University of Michigan Law Professor Barbara McQuade, who’s also a former U.S. attorney. “It is arrogant, irresponsible, and reckless behavior from our nation’s attorney general.”
Barrâs refusal to quarantine after exposure is not âtoughness.â It is arrogant, irresponsible, and reckless behavior from our nationâs attorney general. https://t.co/CRfj7IfktR
— Barb McQuade (@BarbMcQuade) October 3, 2020
Andrew Weissmann, a longtime Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer turned legal analyst, said Barr’s decision was “fitting” for an “enabler of presidential fictions and denier of facts.”
Attorney General Barrâs choice not to quarantine is so fitting: enabler of presidential fictions and denier of facts. Even now. Incorrigible. https://t.co/yz7Ek3PAYo
— Andrew Weissmann (@AWeissmann_) October 3, 2020
Video: Trump downplayed the coronavirus the same week he tested positive (The Washington Post)
“This is reckless and dangerous for any person—especially a person who wields power to summon others,” tweeted former federal prosecutor Elie Honig. “He’s putting DOJ staffers, and everyone else around him, at risk.”
This is reckless and dangerous for any person – especially a person who wields power to summon others. Heâs putting DOJ staffers, and everyone else around him, at risk. https://t.co/kGwonRlIgr
— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) October 3, 2020
Some attendees of the White House event last Saturday moved indoors following the official nomination of Barrett at the Rose Garden. While all guests tested negative for COVID before the event, face masks were not required at the reception and many guests were pictured mingling in close proximity without one. CNN political reporter Rebecca Buck shared an image of Barr standing close to Trump and the first lady at the reception.
From tomorrowâs NYT A1, a reminder that the Amy Coney Barrett WH event was not entirely outdoors pic.twitter.com/wSJvKOY4JD
— Rebecca Buck (@RebeccaBuck) October 3, 2020
Other photos have also surfaced showing Barr standing close to Conway and shaking hands with other guests. When asked why he’s not quarantining, the DOJ told CNN that the attorney general had tested negative on Friday and Saturday. Vice President Mike Pence and some other officials from the Trump administration have also chosen to avoid the quarantine period.
“Barr is on video speaking with Kellyanne Conway, who has since tested positive, at the super spreader event,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted.
Barr is on video speaking with Kellyanne Conway, who has since tested positive, at the super spreader event. https://t.co/x8wofFko1M
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) October 3, 2020
The White House has been currently contact-tracing attendees of the event—which hasn’t yet been publicly deemed a super-spreader—to determine the origin of the outbreak. According to The Washington Post, more than 150 individuals attended the ceremony.
Newsweek reached out to the Justice Department for comment.
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