Late Saturday night, the public learned new details about why President Donald Trump was airlifted to hospital on Friday, when Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said in an interview with Fox News that Trump had a fever on Friday morning and his oxygen levels were “Fell rapidly. Meadows added that Trump had made “incredible improvements since yesterday morning.”
Speaking from a White House that already has a huge public credibility problem, Meadows’ statement capped a 24-hour period that served as a master class in the opacity and contradiction that raised major questions on the president’s health – and reiterated questions on it. the ability of the administration to tell the truth.
The president’s building collapsed on Friday when he was airlifted to Walter Reed after contracting the virus, while many aides, advisers and allies tested positive for Covid-19 after interacting with him during last week.
The White House appeared to continue to downplay concerns about the severity of the virus on Saturday morning when the president’s physician, Navy Cmdr. Dr Sean Conley, gave a press conference to Walter Reed where he described the President as optimistic and feeling good, without revealing any of the alarming developments in his oxygen levels the day before.
Undermining confidence in information coming out of the White House, Conley made confused statements on Saturday morning about how much time has passed since the The president was diagnosed with Covid-19, which he then had to try to clean up.
Conley has been elusive as to whether the president received supplemental oxygen (CNN has confirmed he did). Conley also declined to determine when the President had his last negative test or to say if any tracing had been done to determine how he contracted the virus.
A potential mass-market event at the White House
Many Trump associates or contacts who have recently tested positive for Covid-19 attended the White House festivities in honor of Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett on September 26 in the Rose Garden.
At least seven people present at the event, including the president and the first lady, tested positive. The President of the University of Notre Dame, the Reverend John Jenkins, former adviser to President Kellyanne Conway and to Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who were seated relatively close to one of the other, have tested positive. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also tested positive and went to hospital on Saturday as a precaution because he has asthma.
Conway, Christie, Trump’s senior adviser Hope Hicks and his campaign manager Bill Stepien – all of whom tested positive – were also all involved in preparing for the debate ahead of Trump’s Tuesday clash with Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
It “seems very likely to have come from the SCOTUS announcement last week,” a senior administration official told CNN’s Jake Tapper of the outbreak among GOP officials. “It can come from the Hill. The next major concern will be securing Capitol Hill and protecting lawmakers, ”the official added.
Trump did not address anyone else’s diagnosis during his video message from Walter Reed on Saturday. While praising the medical care he had received from Walter Reed, he sought to turn his hospitalization to his advantage by giving the impression that his diagnosis was inevitable, though he took little precaution to prevent it.
The president said he was “starting to feel good” and was receiving therapies that he said are “miracles from God.”
“This is something that has happened, and it has happened to millions of people all over the world and I am fighting for them, not just in the United States,” Trump said. “We’re going to beat this coronavirus – or whatever you want to call it – and we’re going to beat it solidly. ”
Thanking the American people for their good wishes, Trump said the true nature of his condition would be revealed in the days to come: “You don’t know. Over the next few days, I guess that’s the real test, so we’ll see what happens over the next two days, ”Trump said.
The president said the decision to go to Walter Reed on Friday was his. He suggested that he didn’t like the prospect of remaining isolated at the residence: “Lock yourself up, never go, don’t even go to the Oval Office, just stay upstairs and enjoy, don’t see. no people, don’t talk to people and don’t have any more. ”
This statement by Trump, clearly attempting to pass himself off as a decision maker in charge of the situation, contradicts reports from CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins that the president was reluctant to go to hospital.
“I had to be in front and it’s America, it’s the United States, it’s the biggest country in the world, it’s the most powerful country in the world,” Trump continued in the video. “I can’t be locked in an upstairs room and totally safe, and just say, well, whatever happens, happens. I can not do that. “
White House worries about optics
The president appeared to breathe and speak effortlessly during the video released on Saturday, but it’s still unclear how severe his symptoms were, beyond Meadows’ comments to Fox on Saturday night.
There is a long history of White House officials covering up or obscuring the incumbent president’s health – from Grover Cleveland’s secret surgery to removing a tumor in his mouth on a friend’s yacht, to John. F. Kennedy hiding his Addison’s disease.
Trump’s White House officials have carefully calibrated their statements about the president’s health over the past few days in what appears to be an effort to put the best face on the diagnosis at a time the president is 30 days from the day. of the ballot. and at the end of the polls. Postal voting has already started in some states across the country.
The President tweeted that he tested positive for the coronavirus around 1 a.m. ET on Friday, hours after attending a Thursday night fundraiser in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he met a small group of donors at the inside without a mask, before addressing a larger crowd outside. Trump got his first positive coronavirus test result Thursday after returning from that trip, a White House official said on Saturday evening.
Hicks had started to experience symptoms the night before as he accompanied the president on his trip to Minnesota for a fundraiser and rally on Wednesday night. It’s unclear if the President was tested around the same time, given how well they work together.
Meadows first described the president as energetic on Friday with mild symptoms. But the president was abruptly taken to Walter Reed’s home on Friday night in what officials called “an abundance of caution.” Other sources told CNN on Friday that the president had a fever and difficulty breathing.
On Saturday morning, Conley admitted that the President had had a fever at one point, but declined to say what his temperature was or to give the press an overview of the President’s vital signs.
He declined to say whether medical tests revealed damage to the president’s lungs. And he also wouldn’t say how many people in the president’s orbit may have been exposed, given that Trump rarely wears a mask. One of the White House collaborators who works closest to Trump has tested positive, a White House official confirmed to CNN.
Conley was very evasive as to whether the President was receiving supplemental oxygen, repeatedly stating that the The President was not currently receiving any. Another Walter Reed doctor treating the president told reporters at the press conference on Saturday morning that Trump told doctors: “I feel like I could get out of here today. ”
Conley said Trump had not had a fever for 24 hours and had had an “extremely mild cough”, nasal congestion and fatigue.
But Conley’s upbeat statements were contradicted minutes later in a statement that was made to reporters in the pool from a source familiar with Trump’s health, which was later identified by The New York Times and The Associated Press. as being Meadows.
“The President’s vital signs over the past 24 hours were of great concern and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of care. We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery, ”Meadows told reporters at the pool.
It was the statement, according to the New York Times, that infuriated Trump with Meadows and prompted the president to take to Twitter to say he was feeling good.
On Saturday night, Conley said in a note that the president “remains fever-free and without supplemental oxygen with a saturation level between 96% and 98% throughout the day,” which is within the normal range of oxygen levels. in the blood.
While the president was still in the White House on Friday, he was given the experimental Regeneron antibody cocktail, a promising treatment that has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration and aimed to help boost the immune system. of the president as he battles the virus. .
Once Trump was at Walter Reed’s, doctors launched the antiviral drug, remdesivir. He is given a five-day course of the drug, which shortens the recovery time for some coronavirus patients.