For more than 10 hours last Monday, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, convened in a Phoenix hotel ballroom with more than a dozen current and future Arizona Republican lawmakers to hear testimony from people who supposedly witnessed election fraud.
Giuliani and other attendees were shown maskless and not social distancing, and the Arizona Republican Party tweeted an image of Giuliani and lawmakers flouting coronavirus guidelines.
That defiance of public health advice came to a head on Sunday when Trump announced on Twitter that Giuliani had contracted the coronavirus. Hours later, legislative staff in Arizona’s Capitol abruptly announced a week-long closure of the state Senate and House starting on Monday.
An email announcement to members of the Arizona House said the move was “out of an abundance of caution for recent cases and concerns relating to covid-19″ and noted that “no one will have permission to work or meet in the building.”
The Trump campaign later sent out a statement noting that the former New York mayor had “tested negative twice immediately preceding his trip to Arizona, Michigan and Georgia.”
“The Mayor did not experience any symptoms or test positive for covid-19 until more than 48 hours after his return,” the Trump campaign said, noting that “no legislators in any state or members of the press are on the contact tracing list, under current CDC Guidelines,” which define “close contact” spending at least 15 minutes within six feet of an infected person within 48 hours of that person feeling ill.
The World Health Organization has stated that people who are asymptomatic can still spread the virus.
The decision to close Arizona’s legislature comes as coronavirus cases in the state rise at a daunting rate. In the past week, reported cases grew 56 percent and reported deaths rose 80 percent, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker. The positivity rate among reported tests in Arizona is nearly 30 percent, among the highest in the country.
Arizona was the first stop on Giuliani’s tour of states the Trump campaign says stole his victory by means of rampant voter fraud. State and federal officials, including allies of Trump, have repeatedly stated that there has been no evidence of such claims, and judges in six states – including Arizona, Georgia and Michigan – have ruled repeatedly that Trump’s lawyers haven’t proved that the election was fraudulent.
The hotel event in Arizona on Nov. 30 included nine Republican lawmakers who sat on a panel to hear accounts from people who apparently witnessed votes being compromised, the Arizona Republic reported. Additional current and future GOP legislators sat in the audience.
The next day, Giuliani held a private meeting with Arizona’s GOP leadership, including state Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray, Senate President Karen Fann, House Speaker Rusty Bowers and House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, according to a tweet from state Sen. Vince Leach, who also attended the meeting. Leach posted an image of himself with his arm around Giuliani with neither wearing a mask.
The following day, Giuliani went to Michigan, where he spent five hours, maskless, with the state’s House Oversight Committee. Michigan GOP House spokesman Gideon D’Assandro told MLive on Sunday that the legislature does not plan to shut down.
“The House will conduct its normal contact tracing procedures in accordance with CDC guidelines to keep people safe and limit the spread of the coronavirus, just like always,” he told MLive.
At the Georgia Capitol, which Giuliani visited on Thursday, state Senate staff members who attended a day-long hearing with state senators have been instructed to work remotely until they get tested for the coronavirus, a spokesperson for the state senate told WXIA.
Democratic lawmakers in the three states Giuliani visited have expressed frustrations over the news of his positive test. In Arizona, several Democratic lawmakers turned to Twitter on Sunday evening to condemn the actions of their Republican colleagues.
“This is the epitome of #COVID19 irresponsibility by members of the #AZLeg @AZHouseGOP and @AZSenateGOP. You owe it to the very people who work in the Capitol buildings to be better than this,” tweeted state Sen. Martín Quezada (D).
Arizona’s Democratic Party pointed out that the representatives-elect who attended the Giuliani event went to the House’s orientation later that week, possibly exposing other lawmakers and staff, according to the Republic.
Previously, seven Republican and Democratic state lawmakers in Arizona have contracted the coronavirus, according to the Republic. It is unclear who among the GOP lawmakers who were in close contact with Giuliani last week have been tested since and if they are quarantining.
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The Washington Post’s Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.