Trump’s valet tests positive for Covid-19 raising questions on president’s exposure

Justice department drops case against Michael Flynn who Trump calls ‘a great man’

President Donald Trump  with Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the  White House,  May 7th. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Donald Trump with Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the White House, May 7th. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

 

A member of the US military who works closely with Donald Trump has tested positive for Covid-19, raising questions about the US president’s exposure to the virus.

The navy member, who works as a valet to Mr Trump and according to some reports serves him his meals, tested positive this week. A spokesman for the president said Mr Trump and vice-president Mike Pence had since tested nagative for the virus.  

Speaking in the Oval Office alongside Texas governor Greg Abbott, Mr Trump said he had “very little contact” with the “good person” involved.

Mr Trump also responded to news that the Department of Justice has dropped its case against Michael Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser. Mr Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his interactions with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

But the justice department – headed by attorney general Bill Barr – has now dropped criminal charges against him, saying that a January 2017 FBI interview with Mr Flynn was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis”.

Reacting to the news, Mr Trump said Mr Flynn was an “innocent man. He is a great gentleman, He was targeted by the Obama administration . . . What they’ve done is a disgrace.

“I hope a lot of people are going to pay a big price,” he continued. “Dishonest, crooked people – they’re scum, they’re human scum”. He was referring to members of the FBI and officials of the Department of Justice who served under the Obama administration, whom he accused of “going after a duly elected president”.

He also chastised members of the media. “The media is totally guilty,” he said.

Journalists who had received Pulitzer Prizes for their work on the Russia investigation should have the honours rescinded, he added, “There was absolutely no collusion with Russia . . . They were all fake news. Those Pulitzer Prizes should be given back immediately.”

Democrats responded with fury to the decision on the Flynn prosecution. House of Representatives judiciary committee chairman Jerry Nadler accused the Department of Justice of becoming “politicised”.

“The decision to overrule the special counsel is without precedent and warrants an immediate explanation,” he said, referring to the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller that spawned the Flynn investigation.

Death toll

Meanwhile, the death toll from coronavirus in the United States continued to rise, with 75,000 deaths now reported according to some estimates.

New York reported 231 new deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday, in line with trend in recent days. The state’s death toll is now approaching 26,000. During his daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday, state governor Andrew Cuomo said there was evidence that the coronavirus came to New York from infected travellers arriving from Europe. He said that while many experts focused on China, two million people landed in New York from Europe after the pandemic hit. “Nobody stopped them,” he said.

New economic figures released by the labour department on Thursday showed that 3.17 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, bringing to 33 million the number of people who have sought unemployment help since mid-March.

The US is braced for more negative data on Friday when the labour department releases unemployment figures for April. Many economic experts believe the data may show an unemployment rate of more than 15 per cent – the highest since the Great Depression.

Neiman Marcus, an upmarket department store founded more than a century ago in Dallas, became the latest retail casualty of the pandemic on Thursday as it filed for bankruptcy. The company, which is owned by a private equity group, had already been struggling under a $4 billion (€3.7 billion) debt pile. Its 14,000 employees, most of whom were furloughed when stores closed on March 18th, are now likely to lose their jobs permanently.