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Guest says Minnesota fundraiser with Trump ‘very safely done’

Patrick Condon
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Minneapolis – A St. Paul philanthropist and political donor who attended a Shorewood fundraiser with President Donald Trump shortly before his COVID-19 diagnosis was revealed said Saturday that guests were all tested beforehand and were careful about social distancing.

“It was very safely done,” said Helene Houle, who paid $100,000 to attend the president’s fundraiser Wednesday at the Lake Minnetonka home of Minnesota business leader Marty Davis.

President Donald Trump throws hats to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Duluth, Minn.

Houle said in a phone interview that guests were told to arrive at least an hour ahead of start time and to wait in their cars.

“They gave us the test in our cars, and it took about 20 minutes and they came back and told us if we were OK or not. And everyone was,” she said. The fundraiser was in a dining room with about 40 guests in all, she said. Trump spoke and took questions but did not get too close to any guests, she said.

Houle said she and other guests posed for photos with Trump but that they all stood at least 6 feet from him.

“The president was very welcoming, very personable. It was quite emotional for me, actually, to be in the same room with him,” Houle said. She said it was by far the largest political donation she’s ever made but that “if it helps him get reelected, it’s worth it.”

Houle is the widow of John Nasseff, who was a West Publishing executive and longtime St. Paul philanthropist. She said she is praying for Trump’s health since learning of his diagnosis. She said she does not feel her own health was at risk at the Wednesday fundraiser.

Supporters listen as President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Duluth International Airport, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Duluth, Minn.

“I’m 80 years old and a healthy farm girl and I don’t worry about that kind of stuff,” she said.

Trump revealed his infection late Thursday into early Friday morning, just over 24 hours after he’d been in Minnesota. Multiple prominent Minnesota Republicans were in proximity to the president as he traveled to the state last Wednesday for the fundraiser in Shorewood and a rally in Duluth.

Minnesota House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt said Saturday that he tested negative for COVID-19, days after he posed for a picture with Trump during his visit to Minnesota.

Minnesota’s three Republican House members – Reps. Tom Emmer, Pete Stauber and Jim Hagedorn – all said Friday they had tested negative for COVID.

There was confusion on Saturday about when the president actually got his positive diagnosis. His physician said at a news conference that it had been 72 hours since he tested positive – which would have been Wednesday morning, before he flew to Minnesota.

Dr. Sean Conley later clarified that he meant Trump’s positive test came Thursday night and that Saturday was “day three” of the president being infected.