Press Club

Vice President’s Maskless Visit to Trump HQ in Rosslyn Criticized

(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) Around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, a motorcade arrived at a Rosslyn office building.

Out stepped former Arlington resident Mike Pence. The vice president then made his way up to the offices of the Trump-Pence 2020 reelection campaign to rally the troops amid falling poll numbers.

After it was over, he sent out a tweet: “Stopped by to see the great men and women of the Trump-Pence Team today! Thank you for all of the hard work, keep it up! #FourMoreYears #KAG”

The tweet showed Pence standing in front of a sea of staff members in the Arlington office, with everyone flashing Trump’s signature double thumbs-up.

The problem: staffers were not social distancing and no one was wearing masks, a likely violation of Virginia’s mask requirement for indoor public spaces, as pointed out by local Democratic operative Ben Tribbett. Shortly after he did, Pence’s tweet was deleted.

The incident made some national headlines. While the spread of coronavirus has slowed in Arlington, it has not gone away, and other states are seeing a surge in cases.

Arlington’s Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), a stalwart critic of the president, piled on with more criticism.

“This isn’t ‘law and order,'” Beyer said, in reference to Trump’s antagonistic tweets. “It’s a huge problem.”

Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said in a statement Thursday afternoon that no laws were broken that her office can prosecute. She said workplaces are exempted from rules about large gatherings, while the mask requirement is enforced by Virginia Dept. of Health, not local law enforcement.

The full press release about the incident from Beyer’s office is below.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), who represents Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital including Arlington, today issued the following statement on a deleted tweet from Vice President Pence which showed Pence and dozens of Trump campaign staff packed into a tight space in their Arlington offices without social distancing or masks:

“At the same time that President Trump was tweeting about “law and order” his entire campaign and Vice President Pence were illegally flouting public health restrictions that mandate social distancing and face coverings at indoor businesses.

“The fact that Pence deleted the tweet shows that he knows the behavior was wrong. Worse, the image strongly gives the impression that the President’s own campaign is regularly violating a law designed to help contain a pandemic that has already claimed over 110,000 American lives and hit Northern Virginia especially hard.

“Rather than holding themselves to a high standard, the Vice President and the Trump campaign are setting the worst possible example. This kind of tightly packed indoor gathering without masks is reminiscent of ‘super spreader’ events earlier in the pandemic, and could put Arlingtonians at risk.

“A few days ago President Trump’s refusal to wear a mask during a tour necessitated the destruction of COVID-19 testing components by the manufacturer. It should not be too much for the American people to ask to have their President and his staff follow the most basic public health guidelines to protect their lives.”

Governor Ralph Northam recently issued Executive Order Sixty-Three, which requires Virginians to “cover their mouth and nose with a face covering” at any “indoor place shared by groups of people who are in close proximity to each other.” Violation of that order “is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.” The order goes on to note that “The use of cloth face coverings does not replace the need to maintain six feet of physical social distancing.”

President Trump’s visit to a New Hampshire cotton swab manufacturer last week resulted in the destruction of materials required to make COVID-19 testing kits because of the President’s refusal to wear a face covering during his tour, according to a spokesperson for the manufacturer.

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