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Olivia Nuzzi of New York Magazine is the pool reporter with Mike Pence today, and her files from the veep’s campaign trip to Pennsylvania have … not been quite the usual dispassionate, utilitarian dispatches. Here’s some of the first:
Hello from [Joint Base Andrews] where it’s quite windy and 43 degrees. Your pooler is unhappy, but Covid-free, after a test administered in the EEOB ahead of today’s travel.
…Several members of the VP’s staff aboard Air Force Two removed their masks upon taking their seats. As a reminder, in the last two weeks there has been a coronavirus outbreak among the VP’s inner circle. Asked if the VP tested negative for Covid-19 this morning, a member of the staff said she would “get back to you[r pooler] on that.”
Also according to the VP’s office, “as a reminder our plane once on board is off record.” Having never heard of such a policy before, I wouldn’t call this a reminder, exactly. I assume the VP’s office is displeased that I noted several members of the VP’s staff had removed their face masks once seated on AF2 and would like to avoid any future unwelcome observations from your pooler, which I understand, though in practice this gets a bit confusing.
What if they had redecorated the inside of the plane with fluffy pink seat coverings or something, would that be off the record? Or does this refer only to the behavior and conversations of officials aboard the plane? And if that’s the case, what if a conversation starts on the steps and continues while inside the plane? Is it half off the record? I’d also note that such a policy prevents me from making welcome observations, too. For instance, what if someone does something cool or nice? Surely no government would want that to be a state secret, right?
Additionally, the VP’s office requests that your pooler “note” that no one from the VP’s office expressed disapproval to me regarding a detail in VP pool report #1 concerning members of the VP’s staff removing their face masks aboard AF2. The VP’s office specifically requests, “please note in your next pool report you made that up.” However, your pooler reported that she “assumed” the “reminder” about the off the record policy she did not agree to was a response that detail being reported, not that it certainly was.
Here’s where the day stands so far: