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Why it's "chaos" inside the White House right now

Yahoo Investigative Reporter Michael Isikoff joins Yahoo Finance's On the Move for the latest on the Trump Administration and COVID-19 cases.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Welcome back. Let's reiterate some of the headlines that we have been getting over the past couple of hours. First and foremost, Joe and Jill Biden have tested negative for coronavirus, their family physician has just confirmed after an earlier report by MSNBC. This, of course, following the news that President Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for coronavirus. Hope Hicks, a close advisor of the president, also had tested positive.

So a lot of fallout across Washington right now. And to give us perspective on all of this, let's bring in Michael Isikoff. He is Yahoo News chief investigative correspondent. He's joining us from Washington.

Mike, not only do you have this news about the President testing positive, but there are also implications because apparently, even after Hope Hicks tested positive, the president went and did a fundraiser in New Jersey. And apparently, the campaign is now telling people who attended that fundraiser perhaps they might want to get tested as well. What are the implications of all of this?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Oh, listen, there are so many. And to call this a wild card is an understatement. Look, we don't know at this point where-- from whom the president got the-- got COVID. The initial assumption was that it was from Hope Hope, who he had been, obviously, spending a lot of time with.

But I'm told the turnaround there was too close. So it was likely there's somebody else that they had both been in contact with who had given them the disease. We just don't know. And it's not clear they know who that is at this point. So there is an extensive contact tracing frantically going on right now to figure out where they got it and who else might have been exposed.

But just add, we learned that former Vice President Biden has tested negative. But we also learned today that Senator Mike Lee has tested positive. And Senator Lee was with Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court nominee, up on Capitol Hill just yesterday. She was at the White House on Sunday. She's been meeting with senators--


MICHAEL ISIKOFF: --Senator Chuck Grassley, Senator McConnell. So there are a lot of questions here about who else might be exposed.

ADAM SHAPIRO: But when you bring up Senator Mike Lee, part of the Judiciary Committee, right? Could--


ADAM SHAPIRO: If see senators testing positive, does this slow down the potential review and the process to confirm her?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Well, that is a huge question mark right now. Because remember, if Senate Republicans are going to get this confirmation through, they've almost certainly got to do it before Election Day. If they don't and Biden wins, and the Senate-- the Democrats take back the Senate, they can try to do it in a lame duck session. But politically, it's hard to imagine how that would fly after the election results are already in and it's-- the other party takes control.

So yeah, I mean, if one of the senators on Judiciary or even if any senator gets ill, any Republican senator-- McConnell needs every vote he can possibly get to make sure she gets confirmed. So that is yet another wild card that we've got to look for.

RICK NEWMAN: Hey, Mike, one of the political parlor games today is trying to guess whether this is a net negative for Trump in his campaign against Biden, since he's been so dismissive against-- about coronavirus, or a net positive because he might get some kind of sympathy vote he wouldn't get otherwise, or that those two things cancel each other out. Do you have a guess on this?


RICK NEWMAN: I know, sorry, but I had to ask.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Yeah, there are multiple scenarios here, right? And I guess the most favorable one for the president would be that he tests positive. We know he's got some mild symptoms right now. But if he recovers quickly, doesn't get ill, and gets back on the campaign trail in another couple of weeks, one can see a scenario that that helps him and he's recovered and he comes roaring back and this is a symbol for what the country-- what the country will do.

But that is the most optimistic scenario for the president. There are many others in which he does get ill. Listen, at a minimum, he's not going to be able to go out on the campaign trail and hold his rallies and fundraisers, which is what he's been doing for the past few weeks. And also, it's unlikely that we can have that next presidential debate on October 15.

Remember, that's a town hall. So you would need voters to be willing to go in and be in a closed-door setting with one of the candidates who has tested positive. It's hard to imagine that that debate can come off right now as planned. So taking the president off the campaign trail when he's down in most of the polls 8 to 10 points right now, unable to hold his rallies, and not have that second debate-- that's a loss for him. He's got to make up lost ground. And it's going to be a lot harder for him to do that, even if he doesn't get sick from this.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah, and we should point out as well, I mean, two weeks is sort of a best-case scenario, right? There are people who carry the virus for much longer. And so it could take longer for him to test negative for the virus and wouldn't be shedding it any longer.

Mike, finally, the White House is used to sort of operating in chaos, right? That has characterized this White House. This seems, though, to be an unprecedented level, because we're talking about the president and the first lady being ill and Hope Hicks being ill, or at least carrying the coronavirus.

We don't know if the rest of the staff has tested positive or will test positive. So, I mean, you have very good contacts in Washington. I mean, is the White House staff freaking out? Does this take it to yet another level of [INAUDIBLE]?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Yeah, I was talking to a White House advisor just a few minutes ago who was telling me that it's chaos inside the White House right now. Nobody knows. Everybody is anxious. The number of people who were exposed to the president and Hope Hicks over the last week is quite large.

And they were not wearing masks. They were not observing social distancing. So there are a lot of people at risk right now as we're saying this.

JULIE HYMAN: And are they going to keep getting tested sort of regularly in the coming days if the virus takes a little while to--

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Yeah, I mean, I would think there's going to be amped up-- I mean, I know there's going to be amped up testing for everybody at this point. But remember, these tests are not foolproof. It sometimes can take days before you test positive, even if you've already contracted COVID-19. So I think this is going to be with us for some time, certainly throughout the rest of the month right up to Election Day.

JULIE HYMAN: Yeah. Michael, thank you for joining us. Mike Isikoff is Yahoo News chief investigative correspondent. Always good to get your perspective. Appreciate it, Mike.