Katie Miller’s positive diagnosis raises the risk that, through both her and her husband’s daily work, a large swath of the West Wing’s senior aides may also have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
“She’s a wonderful young woman, Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time,” President Donald Trump said on Friday during a meeting with congressional Republicans at the White House. “And then all of the sudden today she tested positive. She hasn’t come into contact with me. She’s spent some time with the vice president.”
“This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great,” the president continued. “The tests are perfect, but something can happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens and all of the sudden. She was tested very recently and tested negative, and then today I guess for some reason she tested positive. So Mike knows about it and Mike has done what he has to do. I think he is on an airplane, going to some far away place, but you’ll be able to ask him later on. But they’ve taken all of the necessary precautions. I understand Mike has been tested, vice president, and he tested negative.”
President Trump is so close to the Miller couple that he attended their wedding in February 2020 at the Trump International Hotel, where he stayed at the party for roughly two hours and delivered a short speech to toast them.
He has worked closely with Stephen Miller – one of the key architects of his administration’s immigration policy – since the 2016 campaign.
Katie Miller’s positive diagnosis of Covid-19 comes as the president promotes the re-opening of the economy in more than a dozen states and as he has started to travel outside of the White House again. This past week, he visited a Honeywell factory in Arizona where he toured the plant without wearing a face mask.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany earlier on Friday confirmed that a member of the vice president’s team had tested positive for coronavirus — just one day after one of the president’s personal valets contracted the illness — although she did not specify who the person was.
The vice president’s trip to Iowa on Friday was delayed by more than an hour as six other Pence staffers who had been in contact with Miller were removed from Air Force Two.
The White House said that the Pence staffer had tested negative on Thursday before receiving positive test results Friday morning. A senior administration official told reporters that the president and vice president had not been in contact with the person recently.
Pence was tested on Friday and has been tested daily, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters traveling with the vice president.
“We have put in place the guidelines that our experts have put forward to keep this building safe, which means contact tracing,” McEnany told reporters during Friday’s news briefing. “All of the recommended guidelines we have for businesses that have essential workers, we are now putting them in place here in the White House. So as America reopens safely, the White House is continuing to operate safely.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone who has been exposed to a person with the coronavirus should “stay home until 14 days after last exposure and maintain social distance (at least 6 feet) from others at all times.”
The vice president is scheduled to meet with faith leaders in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday to discuss responsible religious gatherings, followed by a roundtable on securing food supply. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst also accompanied Pence on the trip.
While staff in the West Wing are tested regularly, according to the pool report, staff members in the Executive Office Building are not tested as frequently. About 10 people on Pence’s staff are tested daily.
Katie Miller, right, is married to another top White House aide and senior adviser, Stephen Miller, left. | Patrick Semansky, File/AP Photo
Both the president and vice president have avoided wearing masks at White House events and during travel. Just last week, Pence faced backlash for breaking the Mayo Clinic’s mask policy when he toured the medical facility and met with patients. Citing how frequently he’s tested for Covid-19 during a Fox News town hall over the weekend, Pence said, “I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should’ve worn the mask at the Mayo Clinic.”
During his meeting with GOP members of Congress on Friday, Trump was pressed on not wearing a mask when visiting with elderly WWII veterans earlier in the day. The president said he was not concerned because he was “very far away from them.”
“I would have loved to have gone up and hugged them because they are great. I had a conversation with every one, but we were very far away. You saw,” Trump continued. “Plus the wind was blowing so hard in such a direction that if the plague ever reached them, I’d be very surprised. It could have reached me, too. You didn’t worry about me, you only worried about them, and that’s OK because I think they’re so pure, it will never happen. Alright? They’ve lived a great life. But no, the wind was howling. And I didn’t see anybody with masks, I don’t know, maybe there were. But they were great.”
Trump on Thursday said both he and Pence had tested negative for coronavirus after they were informed that a member of the U.S. military who works at the White House had tested positive. That individual is one of the president’s valets, military members who assist the president with personal tasks.
Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement: “The president’s physician and White House Operations continue to work closely to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the president, First Family and the entire White House complex safe and healthy at all times. In addition to social distancing, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitizer, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces.”
Nancy Cook contributed to this report.