Barr Plans to Return to Justice Dept. After Negative Coronavirus Test Results

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr did not plan to get a coronavirus test on Monday after receiving negative results from four tests and was likely to return to work at the Justice Department this week, his spokeswoman said.

Mr. Barr, who had attended an event at the White House on Sept. 26 linked to the outbreak, quarantined himself over the weekend and was at home on Monday with no symptoms, said the spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec.

She said that Mr. Barr would get tested​ on Tuesday and was likely to return to the office on Wednesday. That would be before the end of the 14-day quarantine period recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as Justice Department guidelines, but Ms. Kupec said the attorney general was considered a critical worker exempt from the C.D.C. guidelines.

Ms. Kupec said Mr. Barr, 70, “routinely wears masks and takes a variety of precautions” at the office.

Some department employees expressed anger at Mr. Barr’s decisions, saying that his leadership example indicated that he did not take the threat of the virus seriously, according to five employees who would not be named discussing Mr. Barr’s approach to the virus for fear of retribution.

Asked about the criticism, Ms. Kupec said that as the nation’s chief federal law enforcement officer, Mr. Barr was considered a critical worker under the C.D.C. guidance. It says that essential workers “may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to Covid-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.”

Precautions include wearing a mask at all times in the workplace, social distancing, regular temperature checks and continued testing.

“​Even with this flexibility, out of an abundance of caution, he has remained home since Friday other than to get tested and attend the meeting at ​the Justice Department​ on Friday morning​,” Ms. Kupec said.

In President Trump’s own battle with the coronavirus, his oxygen levels have dropped and he has taken experimental drugs and a steroid. He left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday.

After Mr. Trump revealed early on Friday that he had tested positive for the virus, Mr. Barr took a rapid test each day and took an additional diagnostic test called a PCR test, and made their results public. Through the weekend, his tests came back negative, Ms. Kupec said.

Mr. Barr also decided to reduce his schedule to one meeting on Friday and to self-quarantine at home over the weekend, she said.

Ms. Kupec said on Monday that Mr. Barr had not had any contact with Mr. Trump for nine days, when both men attended a reception at the White House for the president’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Several Republican leaders and others who attended the reception have since learned they have the virus, including Mr. Trump; the first lady, Melania Trump; Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina; John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame; Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey; and Kellyanne Conway, a former counselor to the president.

Mr. Barr was photographed standing in proximity to Ms. Conway at the reception, during which neither person wore a mask.

According to the Justice Department’s coronavirus guidance, “individuals ill with, or exposed to individuals with Covid-19, should self-quarantine for 14 days.”

The event for Judge Barrett also seemed to have violated Washington’s guidance for gatherings during the pandemic. More than 150 people attended; Mayor Muriel E. Bowser has stipulated that no private gatherings should exceed 50 people and that attendees must wear masks, particularly in spaces where they cannot remain six feet apart.

Attendees sat close together in chairs set up in the White House Rose Garden as they listened to speeches, and few wore masks. At a reception inside the White House, guests were photographed without masks, standing close together to hug or talk.

Ms. Kupec did not comment on why Mr. Barr did not comply with the city guidelines for gatherings while at the reception.

Mr. Barr has attended other gatherings over the past few months where he has not worn a mask, even when other law enforcement agents have, including news conferences to announce violent crime charges and to discuss human trafficking and other initiatives.

Ms. Kupec said that Mr. Barr “occasionally does not” wear a mask “depending on the practicability of the situation,” like if people cannot hear him when he is speaking.

In an interview with The New York Times Magazine conducted in May, Mr. Barr made light of mask-wearing and told a reporter, “I’m not going to infect you.”

Mr. Barr went to the White House over the weekend to take coronavirus tests. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that she had tested positive for the virus; two of her subordinates tested positive as well. Ms. Kupec said that Mr. Barr did not have contact with Ms. McEnany.

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