For the past two months, President Donald Trump has rarely left the White House grounds for addressing the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and trying to minimize his own exposure to the disease.
But that will change on Tuesday, when Trump will travel to Arizona to visit a Honeywell facility that makes N95 masks in what the President suggests will mark the return to more regular travel.
The trip also means that a small army of advisers, logistics experts and security personnel – a group of hundreds including White House personnel, the Department of Defense, the Secret Service and more – will regularly take to the road and take a risk of helping Trump.
In addition to Tuesday’s trip to Honeywell, Trump says he will be traveling to Ohio soon, to New York in June to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy, and to South Dakota in July for a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. Trump says he would also like to get back on the campaign track, although he admitted on a Fox News forum Sunday that it might not be holding his signature rallies in the grand stadium until the November 3 election months.
“I’ve been in the White House for many months now and I’d love to get out, as much as I love … The most beautiful house in the world,” Trump said in his travel plans.
At a time when public health officials have asked Americans to postpone nonessential travel to help stop the coronavirus, Trump is trying to revitalize Air Force One’s engines while trying to spur a shock-shocked U.S. electorate – reeling from death and economic destruction by the virus – to return to normal life.
But White House officials are also taking precautions to avoid exposing Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to the virus. Honeywell employees who meet Trump on Tuesday – like anyone who gets close to the president and vice president – will first have to undergo a quick point-of-care test to determine if they are carrying the virus.
“In preparing and executing voyages, the White House operations teams work together to ensure that plans to incorporate current CDC guidelines and best practices to limit exposure to Covid-19 are followed as much as possible said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
But Matt Bennett, who was Vice President Al Gore’s trip director, said he is concerned that Trump is unnecessarily endangering his personnel, military and local and state officials.
“I think it’s valuable to see our leaders in the country and escape the White House,” said Bennett, vice president of center-left think tank Third Way. “But it has to be weighed against the cost. The costs here can be the health and safety of many people. ”
James McCann, a political scientist at Purdue University who has studied presidential travel, said that in his early term in office, Trump traveled significantly less often on official presidential affairs than his four predecessors. But now that a large campaign collection is not possible, Trump is looking for a way to assert himself.
“Trump is eager to get into campaign mode,” said McCann.
Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, told reporters that the vice president, who traveled to Indiana and Minnesota last week, deferred to the White House Military Service after each trip to discuss schedules and protocols.
The White House front staff usually flies with commercial airlines when they travel to explore a location before a presidential or vice-presidential visit. But Short said staffers are now taking military planes. Prior to Pence’s trip to an Indiana factory, where fans are manufactured, advance staffers were not allowed to leave the military base where Air Force Two landed, Short said.
The Secret Service, which is tasked with protecting the President and his family, would not go into detail about how the activities are being changed, but said she follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“Since the onset of this pandemic, the Secret Service has been working with all of our public safety partners and the White House medical department to ensure the safety and security of both our protected persons and our employees,” said Justine Whelan, spokeswoman for the agency.
In addition to White House front personnel, who are required to plot out the smallest details of the President’s visit, the Secret Service sends its own advisory team to map security for the visit. Officials from the White House Communications Bureau team are dispatched to secure the president by phone if he needs it.
The President flies on all travel on Air Force One, military-piloted aircraft, whether it be White House business travel, political or personal travel. The Department of Defense also transports equipment such as armored limousines and the occasional helicopters for the President’s travel.
The Military Working Dog Program and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Program are broadcast to support the protection of the President. Typically, about a dozen members of the news media travel with the President on Air Force One at the expense of their organization.
The president usually travels with a representative from the press service, the chief of staff and the National Security Council, as well as a personal assistant. Other assistants, such as his economic advisers, a cabinet secretary, or lawmakers, may also become members depending on the nature of the visit.
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