Giuliani tests positive for COVID-19; Trump camp says he tested negative before Michigan visit

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Rudy Giuliani tested positive for COVID-19, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Sunday, four days after Trump's attorney appeared in Lansing for a four-hour committee hearing on the Nov. 3 election.

During the meeting, 76-year-old Giuliani didn't wear a mask while he addressed Michigan lawmakers — some of whom also didn't have masks on. The former New York City mayor sat next to other individuals who appeared before the House Oversight Committee at a table as they took lawmakers' questions.

Giuliani's diagnosis prompted a new round of criticism about the way Michigan's Republican-controlled House has handled the coronavirus, including its policy on mask wearing and revelation of positive COVID-19 test results.

One Democrat who serves on the committee, Rep. Darrin Camilleri of Brownstown Township, said all of the lawmakers and staffers who were in the room for the hearing should have to get a negative coronavirus test before attending session again. Camilleri said he planned to seek a test on Monday.

Rudy Giuliani testifies before the House Oversight Committee in Lansing on Wednesday, Dec 02, 2020 about fraud in the recent election.  (Dale G Young, 2020)

"There is a potential that this is a widespread infection," Camilleri said. "That is something that is very scary to us."

The Associated Press reported Giuliani was exhibiting some symptoms and was admitted Sunday to Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Trump's campaign issued a statement Sunday night that Giuliani had "tested negative twice immediately" preceding his trip to Arizona, Michigan and Georgia last week. He was in Arizona on Monday and Georgia on Thursday. He didn't experience symptoms or test positive for the virus until more than 48 hours after his trip concluded, according to the statement.

"No legislators in any state or members of the press are on the contact tracing list," the statement said, referring to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that define "close contacts" for tracing as "any individual within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more."

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, said Giuliani was "COVID-negative" while in Michigan and the only people within 6 feet of him for "an extended period of time in the committee room were his own legal team and witnesses who traveled with him."

"People using Mayor Giuliani’s diagnosis for personal or political gain tonight need to stop and follow the science and follow the experts’ recommendations," Chatfield said. "The House of Representatives will continue to follow the science and the experts on this issue."

At one point during the hearing in Michigan Wednesday, Giuliani suggested Jessy Jacob, a city of Detroit employee who helped with the election, take her mask off. 

“Would you be comfortable taking your mask off so people can hear you more clearly?” Giuliani asked.

Jacob declined.

Before Wednesday's committee hearing, Giuliani sat next to Laura Cox, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, for a legal briefing. Neither Giuliani nor Cox wore masks.

Cox and staffers who came into contact with Giuliani during his visit to Michigan Republican Party headquarters are being tested "and all appropriate precautions are being taken," state party spokesman Tony Zammit said.

"The Michigan Republican Party sends out our prayers to Mayor Giuliani, and we wish him a speedy recovery," Zammit added.

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's attorney, speaks during a Michigan legal briefing on Dec. 2, 2020.

Based on Trump's tweet, it was unclear when Giuliani tested positive for COVID-19. ABC News reported Sunday that he been admitted to the hospital. The president called Giuliani "by far the greatest mayor in the history" of New York City. "Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!" Trump tweeted.

Later Sunday night, Giuliani issued his own tweet, thanking his friends and followers "for all the prayers and kind wishes."

"I’m getting great care and feeling good," he posted. "Recovering quickly and keeping up with everything."

New criticism

Giuliani's diagnosis prompted renewed questions about the way the Michigan House has handled the coronavirus. So far, the Republican-led House has allowed lawmakers and employees themselves to decide whether to reveal positive tests publicly and hasn't required masks be worn during meetings. 

Asked Nov. 18 if there was an "outbreak" within his caucus, Chatfield replied, "I would not describe anything as an outbreak. But I'm also not in a place to share any person's personal and private health information."

The Michigan House will conduct its normal contact tracing procedures in accordance with CDC guidelines, Chatfield spokesman Gideon D'Assandro said Sunday.

Chatfield has previously told reporters that he would reveal if he ever tests positive for the virus.

The House Oversight Committee has nine members. Eight of them, five Republicans and three Democrats, were in attendance for Wednesday's high-profile hearing about the election. There were at least five other Republican lawmakers in the audience for the hearing, Camilleri said.

The Brownstown Democratic legislator tweeted Sunday evening it was "time to get tested."

"Not only was the Rudy show dangerous to our democracy, but it also was a threat to our health," Camilleri added. "We knew it was a bad idea, but my Republican colleagues in the state Legislature pushed on anyway — endangering all of us in that hearing room and the Capitol."

The hearing room was going to be limited to about 50 people to help with social distancing because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, House officials said before the event.

The state House and Senate are both expected to have two more weeks of session before the end of the year. The House's next scheduled day of meetings is Tuesday.

During Wednesday's hearing, Giuliani urged lawmakers to intervene in the results of the Nov. 3 election while relying on fraud claims that remain unproven or have been rejected by experts.

President-elect Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, a result that has already been certified by the Board of State Canvassers. Presidential electors meet Dec. 14, a week from Monday.

Giuliani also attended events last week with lawmakers in Arizona on Monday and in Georgia on Thursday. The Arizona Legislature decided to suspend its business this week "because of concerns over the spread of the coronavirus," The Hill reported.

A 'pathetic shame'

House Oversight Chairman Matt Hall, R-Marshall, didn't immediately respond to a question about Giuliani's diagnosis. Hall has said the purpose of the Giuliani meeting was to hear from people who witnessed things at TCF Center, where Detroit's absentee ballots were counted.

"People are scared, they are worried, and they have concerns about how the election was conducted in Michigan. I can't control everything that was said at the hearing but I presented a fair opportunity for people to be heard about what they observed," Hall said on Saturday.

Giuliani's announced positive test was a "pathetic shame," said House Minority Leader Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills.

"He may have exposed members and staff while spewing lies and vitriol," Greig said. "He puts others at risk to peddle conspiracy theories. I hope he recovers, but also that this is a wake-up call and reality check.

"COVID is real and is a threat to all Americans, and we should all be fighting that enemy, not festering fears in our democracy."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has urged legislators to be more forthcoming about positive test results.

“If I should take a COVID test that comes back positive, I will absolutely disclose it. And I think all elected officials, in particular, should make the same exact commitment, especially in the Legislature that is continuing to meet…,” Whitmer said at a Thursday press conference in reaction to a question.

“And so I feel very strongly that anyone in these positions who has a positive test should ... make a commitment to disclose that so they can keep others safe, educate the public on how prevalent this virus is and I believe that’s the right thing to do," said the Democratic governor, who indicated she has taken four COVID-19 tests and all have come back negative.

Michigan, like many states across the country, has experienced a surge in coronavirus cases over the last month. Last week, the state reported 45,015 new infections.

The spike has left some hospitals with capacity concerns. As of Friday, there were 3,764 hospitalized adults confirmed to have COVID-19 across the state, which was up 31% from the total three weeks earlier.

Michigan reported its first cases on March 10. Since then, 10 state lawmakers, including six during the month of November, have publicly revealed positive coronavirus test results. But additional legislators could have tested positive without disclosing it.

cmauger@detroitnews.com