White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refused to keep his mask on to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill about Judge Amy Coney Barrett‘s confirmation hearing and, instead, walked away from the interview.
Meadows was in the Senate on Monday for the start of Barrett’s confirmation hearing. During a break in the proceedings, he stopped before the TV cameras to talk about President Donald Trump‘s pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
He pulled back the microphone to put some distance between himself and the camera. Then he started to talk his mask off.
CNN producer Kristin Wilson asked him to leave it on. ‘Can you please keep it on?’ she said.
Meadows pointed out the distance between them:
‘I’m more than ten feet away,’ he said.
When Wilson objected, Meadows replied: ‘I’m not going to talk through a mask.’
He walked away.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refused to keep his mask on to speak to reporters on Capitol Hill about Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing
Mark Meadows wore a mask during Amy Comey Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing – above he’s seen behind her when she enters the hearing room
Meadows did wear his face mask in the hearing room and when walking through the halls of the Senate office building where the hearing was taking place.
But he seemed not to want to appear on camera wearing a face covering.
Last Friday, after the White House announced President Trump tested positive for COVID, Meadows spoke to reporters in the drive way without wearing a mask.
He said it was because he had tested negative that morning for the virus.
President Trump is not a fan of face coverings and has only worn them in public on limited occasions. Upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, the president removed his mask. He also removed it Saturday at the White House when he addressed supporters from the South Portico.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats used the first hours of Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings to torch the GOP’s decision to ‘rush’ through the process amid a pandemic just week’s before the election – and called it an effort to take down Obamacare, setting the stage for a fiery week of hearings.
In contrast, Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham put Barrett in a ‘category of excellence’ and called her a ‘worthy successor’ to the late Justice Antonin Scalia – the conservative justice whose ‘judicial philosophy is mine,’ Barrett has said repeatedly.
The morning’s hearing consisted of opening statements from senators – raising the curtain on the latest blockbuster event to rattle Washington in a fall that had already seen the president hospitalized with coronavirus, pulling out of a presidential debate and jumping back on the campaign trail amid plunging poll numbers.
Mark Meadows pulled the microphone stand back from the camera and took his face mask to talk to reporters about the confirmation hearing
‘I’m not going to talk through a mask,’ Mark Meadows told reporters and refused to be interviewed on camera wearing one
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, left, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone arrive for Judge Amy Comey Barrett’s confirmation hearing
President Donald Trump is rarely seen in public wearing a face mask; above he removes his on Saturday to talk to a crowd of supporters on the White House South Lawn
Although the morning’s beginning was sedate the dividing lines were sharply drawn with Democrats determined to focus on the alleged threat Barrett represents to the Affordable Care Act, highlighting cases of people who they say would lose care if it were struck down, and Republicans accusing their opponents of attacking her conservative Catholic faith. She is a member of the tiny charismatic People of Praise group.
Outside there were dueling protests and 21 arrests as opponents of her nomination highlighted her professed opposition to abortion, while supporters called for her rapid confirmation. The potential threat she represents to Roe v. Wade was less mentioned by Democrats than the issue of Obamacare, but they are expected to question her as early as Tuesday on whether she sees the 1973 establishment of abortion rights as settled law.
And Trump himself live-tweeted the event, attacking Democrats and questioning why they were even allowed to speak.
The Republican-controlled Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, lined up the hearings immediately after the death of Ginsburg. Trump’s nomination of Barrett, a conservative appeals court judge who taught law at Notre Dame, would expand the conservative majority on the court to 6-3.
Senate Democrats are outvoted and can’t rely on the filibuster to save them thanks to a rules change, even with polling showing the public would prefer to wait until after the elections to confirm a judge to a lifetime appointment. They also can’t control the schedule, so long as Republicans manage to stay healthy and can come to the Capitol to meet a quorum to secure a vote.
Each Democratic speaker raised concerns that once Barrett wins confirmation, she will immediately rule against the Affordable Care Act, the crowning achievement of President Obama’s administration, with the Supreme Court set to hear a case which could lead to it being struck down on November 10.
The confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett commenced Monday. She was not heard from for the course of the morning and early afternoon and kept her mask on for the hearing
Biggest room: The hearing from Amy Coney Barrett was held in the largest available committee room to ensure social distancing. Previous confirmations have been packed affairs but in contrast she was allowed only some of her family and a handful of officials to back her. Senate staff were almost all working remotely too
The Senate Judiciary Committee held the hearing in person, although some lawmakers dialed in remotely. As Coney Barrett took her seat, she faced a Senate Committee at far more distance than is normal
Personal appeals: Democrats put up pictures of people from their states who they say would face losing healthcare if the Affordable Care Act was struck down and said they believed Amy Coney Barrett was selected to do precisely that
Judge Barrett took off her mask and raised her right hand as she was officially sworn into her confirmation hearing
Contention: In the area between the Senate and the Supreme Court (rear) there were dueling protests and 21 arrests
With President Trump’s nominee seated at a live Judiciary Committee hearing wearing a mask days after a White House superspreader event celebrating her nomination, Democrats directed their initial fire not at the nominee but at the president and Senate leaders who hastened to install her on the court.
‘It is a shameless, self-serving, venal reversal,’ said Democratic whip Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, after recounting McConnell’s successful efforts to stall Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, was among those pointing to scheduled Supreme Court arguments Nov. 10 on the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration is seeking to strike down the law.
‘Health-care coverage for millions of Americans is at stake in this nomination,’ she said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island pointed to the perilous undercurrent of the hearings: two panel members had tested positive for COVID-19, and panel chair Sen. Lindsey Graham has declined to take a coronavirus test after attending the White House event where numerous attendees later tested positive.
‘I don’t know who has been tested, who should be tested, who is a danger. What contact tracing has been done on infected and exposed senators and staff. Nothing,’ he fumed.
‘The whole thing just like Trump, is an irresponsible botch. The irony is that this slapdash hearing targets the Affordable Care Act,’ he said.
Livetweeting: Donald Trump reacted to the hearing as it proceeded and was particularly furious at accusations he would end care for people with pre-existing conditions
‘Please don’t tell us this isn’t about the Affordable Care Act,’ he intoned.
The nomination fight has already provided a new talking point in Trump’s reelection, while reshaping the race in other ways. It was after a White House pep rally for Barrett that the president, the first lady, and three Republican senators tested positive for the coronavirus.
And it was in response to the state of the court that Democrat Joe Biden is facing growing media pressure following dodges about whether he would seek to expand its size to try to roll back its entrenched conservative majority.
As the Democratic hits piled up, Trump weighed in on Twitter, indicating he would rather dispense with the hearing or at least dial back Democratic speaking time. Both parties alternate on an equal time basis based on longstanding committee rules and practice.
‘The Republicans are giving the Democrats a great deal of time, which is not mandated, to make their self serving statements relative to our great new future Supreme Court Justice. Personally, I would pull back, approve, and go for STIMULUS for the people!!!’ he wrote.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz complained in his testimony – given remotely – that Democrats ‘virtually not a word’ about Barrett herself, focusing their attacks on Trump, the process, and issues before the court. Cruz is in quarantine after exposure to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who tested positive.
Durbin also introduced another issue: claiming Trump wanted to rush ahead with the nomination so that a more conservative court could rule on challenges to the vote.
‘He anticipates court challenges over the vote. Especially over mail in balloting which he has repeatedly attacked without any substance,’ said Durbin.
Graham assured following all 22 senators opening statements that the safety of the room was given the seal of approval from the Architect of the Capitol according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The South Carolina Republican revealed he had a letter to submit from ‘the Architect of the Capitol showing this room is CDC compliant.’
‘As to me, I was tested a week ago Friday. Had brief contact with Sen. Lee,’ he added in reference to the committee member who tested positive for coronavirus after attending the ‘super spreader’ Rose Garden event last month.
‘I do care about everybody’s safety,’ Graham revealed. ‘But as a lot of Americans out there, we have to go to work and you can’t demand not to show up to work.’
He also said he tested negative for coronavirus last week.
‘I feel fine. My exposure is not such that I should be quarantined or tested,’ he said.
‘I made a decision to try to make the room as safe as possible, but to come to work. I’m not going to be told to be tested by political opponents,’ he continued.