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White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced Monday that she tested positive for the coronavirus, joining numerous other Trump-connected people. Like most of the Trump administration, she has consistently flouted safety protocols.

"I tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday morning while experiencing no symptoms," she wrote. "With my recent positive test, I will begin the quarantine process and will continue working on behalf of the American People remotely."


McEnany has never worn a mask while briefing reporters at the White House, and was criticized for having briefed reporters on Thursday without a mask, despite having been in close contact with White House adviser Hope Hicks. Hicks was the first of several White House officials and others to test positive last week, following receptions for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, which appear to have turned the White House into a COVID hot spot.

"Kayleigh McEnany was, we have now learned, notified of Hope Hicks' positive diagnoses yesterday and later in the day still held a briefing with White House reporters, and, of course, she was not wearing a mask," Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire reported Friday.

In her statement, McEnany claimed, "I definitely had no knowledge of Hope Hicks' diagnosis prior to holding a White House press briefing on Thursday."

But even after Hicks' and Trump's diagnoses, she also briefed reporters — without a mask — on Friday, rather than self-quarantining.

The White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Like Trump, McEnany has refused to wear a mask when speaking to reporters. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend " that people wear masks in public settings and when around people who don't live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain."

The confirmed cases thus far: Trump and his wife, Melania; Trump campaign manager, Bill Stepien; Republican National Committee chair, Ronna McDaniel; Trump personal assistant, Nick Luna; former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who attended the White House event; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who worked with the team on debate prep; Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; Trump adviser Hicks; and Notre Dame president John Jenkins, who attended the White House event for Barrett a week ago.

Trump is currently hospitalized.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Photo by expertinfantry/ CC BY 2.0

At this moment, the president of the United States is threatening to "throw out" the votes of millions of Americans to hijack an election that he seems more than likely to lose. Donald Trump is openly demanding that state authorities invalidate lawful absentee ballots, no different from the primary ballot he mailed to his new home state of Florida, for the sole purpose of cheating. And his undemocratic scheme appears to enjoy at least nominal support from the Supreme Court, which may be called upon to adjudicate the matter.

But what is even worse than Trump's coup plot — and the apparent assent of unprincipled jurists such as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — is the Democratic Party's feeble response to this historic outrage. It is the kind of issue that Republicans, with their well-earned reputation for political hardball, would know how to exploit fully and furiously.

They know because they won the same game in Florida 20 years ago.

During that ultimate legal showdown between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when every single vote mattered, a Democratic lawyer argued in a memorandum to the Gore team that the validity of absentee ballots arriving after Election Day should be challenged. He had the law on his side in that particular instance — but not the politics.

As soon as the Republicans got hold of that memo, they realized that it was explosive. Why? Many of the late ballots the Democrats aimed to invalidate in Florida had been sent by military voters, and the idea of discarding the votes of service personnel was repellent to all Americans. Former Secretary of State James Baker, who was overseeing the Florida recount for Bush, swiftly denounced the Democratic plot against the soldiers, saying: "Here we have ... these brave young men and women serving us overseas. And the postmark on their ballot is one day late. And you're going to deny him the right to vote?"

Never mind the grammar; Baker's message was powerful — and was followed by equally indignant messages in the following days from a parade of prominent Bush backers including retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the immensely popular commander of U.S. troops in the Desert Storm invasion that drove Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait. Fortuitously, Schwarzkopf happened to be on the scene as a resident of Florida.

As Jeffrey Toobin recounted in Too Close to Call, his superb book on the Florida 2000 fiasco, the Democrats had no choice but to retreat. "I would give the benefit of the doubt to ballots coming in from military personnel," conceded then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, during a defensive appearance on Meet the Press. But Toobin says Gore soon realized that to reject military ballots would render him unable to serve as commander in chief — and that it would be morally wrong.

Fast-forward to 2020, when many of the same figures on the Republican side are now poised to argue that absentee ballots, which will include many thousands of military votes — should not be counted after Election Day, even if they arrived on time. Among those Republicans is Justice Kavanaugh, who made the opposite argument as a young lawyer working for Bush in Florida 20 years ago. Nobody expects legal consistency or democratic morality from a hack like him, but someone should force him and his Republican colleagues to own this moment of shame.

Who can do that? Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party ought to be exposing the Republican assault on military ballots — and, by the same token, every legally valid absentee ballot — every day. But the Democrats notoriously lack the killer instinct of their partisan rivals, even at a moment of existential crisis like this one.

No, this is clearly a job for the ex-Republicans of the Lincoln Project, who certainly recall what happened in Florida in 2000. They have the attitude and aptitude of political assassins. They surely know how to raise hell over an issue like military votes — and now is the time to exercise those aggressive skills in defense of democracy.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.