11 political days like we've never seen before
Posted October 6, 2020 5:24 p.m. EDT
CNN — In the span of less than two weeks, a time that was supposed to be a peak of President Donald Trump's first term has turned into one of the lowest points of his presidency -- with a series of clear missteps leaving Trump and many of his closest allies infected with the coronavirus and down in the polls.
It began when Trump nominated a new Supreme Court justice. Then came a bombshell New York Times story revealed just how little the President paid in taxes. And while a story like that normally would have led national headlines for weeks, all eyes pivoted toward Trump's positive coronavirus diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization.
It all comes less than a month before the 2020 presidential election.
The latest CNN poll out Tuesday showed Democratic nominee Joe Biden with the widest lead in the election cycle and both vice presidential nominees gearing up for a debate Wednesday night.
Trump, meanwhile, is promising a return to the campaign trail, even though it's not clear when he'll recover from the virus.
Here's a look back at the last 11 days:
Saturday: Trump nominates Barrett to the Supreme Court
As the pandemic continued to rage across the US, Trump held a White House Rose Garden ceremony to announce that he would nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a justice on the US Supreme Court.
A nomination so close to the election marked an opportunity for the President to set himself apart in the race -- nominating a third Supreme Court justice in one presidential term, and potentially cementing a conservative court for a generation.
The event brought in prominent supporters and Senate allies from across the country, most of whom declined to wear a face mask. Cameras captured audience members in the Rose Garden sitting close together and some were seen greeting one another with close hugs and kisses.
In the days after the announcement, several of those audience members caught getting close on camera or listed as attendees -- including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Utah Sen. Mike Lee -- tested positive for the coronavirus. And at least three journalists and several White House aides near the President would test positive, too.
Sunday and Monday: New York Times publishes the Trump taxes story, backlash ensues
A comprehensive report published by The New York Times indicated that Trump paid no federal income taxes whatsoever in 10 out of 15 years beginning in 2000 because he reported losing significantly more than he made.
In both the year he won the presidency and his first year in the White House, Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes, the Times reported.
Detailing payments gleaned from more than two decades of tax information, the Times report outlines extensive financial losses and years of tax avoidance that deal a blow to the business-tycoon brand Trump has built his political career on.
Trump has denied the Times' reporting and claimed that he pays "a lot" in federal income taxes.
The likelihood that Trump personally owes unknown creditors hundreds of millions of dollars, as revealed by the Times, has also raised concerns about how the President's financial entanglements could influence his national security decisions, former officials and experts told CNN.
The report also fueled fresh attacks on the President in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, including Tuesday's presidential debate.
Also on Sunday, Trump's former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, was hospitalized following reports of a suicidal threats at his Florida home. He later resigned from his role as a senior adviser to the campaign.
Tuesday: The first presidential debate of 2020
Trump and Biden took part in the first US presidential debate on Tuesday.
Throughout the night, Trump interrupted Biden and moderator, Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace. Biden called Trump a clown and told him to shut up. At one point, Trump refused to denounce White supremacists -- a comment he had to grapple with throughout the rest of the week. He also mocked Biden for wearing a mask.
And once again, the President questioned the legitimacy of the election results and continued misleading attacks on voting by mail.
"If it's a fair election, I am 100% on board. But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can't go along with that," Trump said.
After their face-to-face, six in 10 debate watchers said Biden did the best job in the debate, and just 28% said Trump did, according a CNN Poll of debate watchers conducted by SSRS.
Trump also repeatedly touted the state of the economy during the debate, but that same day, Disney announced it would be laying off 28,000 employees.
Wednesday: Trump holds a rally in Minnesota, his aide gets sick on Air Force One
Trump held a rally and private fundraiser in Minnesota on Wednesday, and despite backlash over his refusal to denounce White supremacists the night before, Trump resurfaced racist attacks on Somali refugees and Minnesota's Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar.
On the way back to Washington after the rally officials said one of the President's top aides, Hope Hicks, began developing coronavirus symptoms. She was isolated in a separate cabin and was seen deplaning from the rear steps of Air Force One.
American Airlines and United Airlines also announced that they would be laying off a total of 32,000 employees, after it was made clear that Congress and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were unable to reach a deal to help their industry.
Thursday: Trump holds a fundraiser in New Jersey despite aide's coronavirus diagnosis
Officials at the White House were aware that Hicks had tested positive for coronavirus, though it's not clear exactly when her results came back. Still, Trump went ahead with his schedule, holding a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Sometime after his return from Bedminster, Trump received a preliminary positive coronavirus rapid test result.
He revealed Friday at nearly 1 a.m. that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive, tweeting: "Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!"
Friday: Trump heads to Walter Reed
The President was initially being treated within the White House, but Friday afternoon, the President boarded Marine One en route to Walter Reed Military Medical Center, where White House officials said he would stay for treatment for a few days.
White House officials had serious concerns about Trump's health on Friday evening, CNN reported. A Trump adviser said, "This is serious," describing Trump as very tired, very fatigued and having some trouble breathing.
Saturday: White House doctors hold a news conference
White House physician Dr. Sean Conley and other members of the President's medical team briefed reporters on Saturday, offering a rosy assessment of Trump's condition.
Conley claimed Trump was doing well and has been fever-free for 24 hours, contradicting CNN's reporting.
After the briefing, a White House official offered a more alarming assessment of Trump's health to reporters, saying: "The President's vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning ... We are still not on a clear path to a full recovery."
Later, The Associated Press and The New York Times identified that official as White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Sunday: Trump takes a drive outside the hospital to wave at supporters
One of the physicians treating Trump, Dr. Brian Garibaldi, said Sunday the President is being given the steroid drug dexamethasone as part of his Covid-19 treatment.
Later Sunday, a still infected Trump departed Walter Reed to slowly drive past a group of supporters gathered outside the hospital.
Sealed inside an SUV with Secret Service agents donning masks, eye protection and gowns, Trump -- also masked -- waved at supporters alongside the road.
Afterward, members of the Secret Service voiced escalating concern at what many of the agency's personnel have determined is total disregard for their well-being amid the pandemic.
Agents have tested positive for the virus while traveling for the President's political rallies, which he insisted on maintaining even against federal health guidelines. As employees self-quarantine or isolate in place, others have been forced to work longer hours to fill the void.
Monday: Trump returns to the White House
The President announced that he would be leaving the hospital Monday afternoon via Twitter.
Conley said that Trump's condition "continued to improve" and "met or exceeds all standard hospital discharge criteria." Conley also acknowledged that the President "may not be entirely out of the woods yet," but said Trump's current condition supported a "safe return home."
Trump, who continued to be heavily medicated, appeared to be breathing with some difficulty on Monday evening after he mounted the South Portico steps to pose for cameras while saluting his Marine One helicopter. A White House official and a separate source close to the White House said there remain lingering health concerns, even after Trump returned home.
Trump removed his mask upon his arrival at the White House. And in a propaganda video produced about his return, the President, who remains infected with the virus, mused, "Now, I'm better and maybe I'm immune? I don't know."
Tuesday: CNN poll has largest Biden lead yet, Trump resumes tweeting
Biden's advantage over Trump expanded in a nationwide CNN Poll conducted by SSRS that was released Tuesday, leading the former vice president to hold his widest lead of the election cycle.
Among likely voters, 57% say they back Biden and 41% Trump in the poll that was conducted entirely after the first debate and mostly after the President's coronavirus infection was made public.
The White House did not announce any public events for the President's first full day out of the hospital. And offices once buzzing with activity within the White House complex amid the pandemic were largely empty, as many decamped to work from home or quarantined following multiple positive coronavirus test results from the President's closest aides.
But online, Trump has returned to business as usual and is mulling a national address as soon as Tuesday -- even though he is supposed to be recovering.
"Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!! The Fake News only shows the Fake Polls," Trump wrote, responding to CNN's latest poll.
The President also declared that he would be attending next week's presidential debate in Miami, despite his uncertain prognosis and the potential that he could still be contagious by then. In another tweet, he wrote, "FEELING GREAT!"
Later, he dramatically pulled the plug on a deal to supply more stimulus funding to combat the economic losses caused by the pandemic, causing the markets to plunge just before close.
Wednesday: Vice presidential debate
Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris are set to face off at a debate Wednesday night.
Pence and Harris have tested negative for coronavirus since Trump's diagnosis, but they will now be seated 12 feet apart, after the Biden campaign raised health concerns over the initial seven feet of distance planned.
It will mark the candidates' first face-to-face since Trump's diagnosis.