WASHINGTON, D.C. — Saturday’s medical updates on President Donald Trump’s medical condition created a conflicting series of reports as the 45th president battles COVID-19 at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
Trump’s doctors dodged reporters’ questions earlier Saturday in a medical update when pressed for details about specific aspects of the president’s condition.
“Thursday, no oxygen. None at this moment. And yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” Dr. Sean Conley said, when asked if the president ever needed supplemental oxygen.
However, Trump was given supplemental oxygen at the White House Friday morning, before he was transported to the military hospital by helicopter that evening, according to The Associated Press, citing a person familiar with Trump’s condition who spoke on the condition of anonymitiy.
The doctors also declined to give other key details of Trump’s condition, including how high of a fever he had run.
Shortly after, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows painted a much starker picture, telling reporters outside the hospital, “the president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”
In an update Saturday night, Dr. Conley expressed cautious optimism but added that the president was “not yet out of the woods.”
The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the president’s health and the nation’s leadership on the line. With Trump expected to remain hospitalized several more days and the presidential election looming, his condition is being anxiously watched by Americans.
In the hospital video, Trump defended his decision to continue campaigning and holding large events during a pandemic.
“I had no choice,” said Trump, who refused to abide by basic public health recommendations, including mask-wearing. “I had to be out front … I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs and totally safe … As a leader, you have to confront problems.”
The president was reportedly angry at Meadows’ public assessment of his health and, in an effort to prove his vitality, Trump ordered up the video and authorized longtime confidant Rudy Giuliani to release a statement on his behalf that he was feeling well, a Republican close to the White House, who was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations, told the AP.
Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has infected more than 7 million people nationwide and killed more than 209,000 people in the U.S.
First lady Melania Trump remained at the White House to recover from her own bout with the virus. She was “really handling it very nicely,” Trump said in the video, noting with a touch of humor that she was “just a little tiny bit younger” – 24 years younger, to be precise.
the White House has been working to trace a flurry of new infections of close Trump aides and allies. Attention is focused in particular on the Sept. 26 White House event introducing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. That day, Trump gathered more than 150 people in the Rose Garden, where they mingled, hugged and shook hands — overwhelmingly without masks. There were also several indoor receptions, where Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, her family, senators and others spent time in the close quarters of the White House, photographs show.
Among those who attended and have now tested positive: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, the president of the University of Notre Dame and at least two Republican lawmakers – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).
The president’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and the head of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, have also tested positive, though they were not at the event.
Another prominent Republican who has tested positive: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the third Republican senator to test positive for the virus that has killed over 200,000 Americans.
Saturday also saw former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was present at the White House Rose Garden ceremony where President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, announce that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He would later check into a hospital as a “precautionary measure.”
One of the president’s personal assistants, Nick Luna, tested positive after having traveled with Trump several times recently, a White House official said Saturday night. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Here are some other storylines we’re following:
This is a developing story. Check back throughout the day for further updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.