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What We Know And Don’t Know About His Status Amid Confusion Over Privacy

KEY POINTS

  • Doctors have refused to release information about Trump’s bloodwork after treatment for COVID-19
  • Trump will receive further treatment at the White House medical unit
  • Trump is 74 and overweight, two factors that place him in a high-risk category for developing complications

President Donald Trump may have won release from Walter Reed National Military Hospital Monday, but there are numerous unanswered questions about his condition.

Trump was airlifted to the hospital Friday after developing COVID-19 symptoms, including high fever and falling blood oxygen levels. He has been treated with an experimental antibody cocktail, the still-being-evaluated antiviral Remdesivir and the powerful anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone, which generally is given to the most seriously ill.

The president’s doctors have been relentlessly optimistic about his condition but have refused to answer several questions, including when Trump last tested negative for the virus and whether there is evidence of lung damage.

Trump was to be given a fourth infusion of Remdesivir before heading back to the White House, which has a fully equipped medical unit where he can receive further treatment. A fifth dose of the drug was to be administered Friday. He also was to continue taking dexamethasone.

White House physician Dr. Sean Conley acknowledged Trump’s full recovery is not assured. He said doctors were in uncharted territory because Trump had received the therapies so early in the course of the disease.

“If we can get through to Monday with him remaining the same or improving better yet, then we will all take that final deep sigh of relief,” Conley told reporters. However, though he said Trump is fever-free, dexamethasone can mask elevated temperatures.

The timeline for when Trump first tested positive for the infection was unclear. The White House has refused to say when he last tested negative. Asked Monday, Conley responded he didn’t want to go “backward,” adding that contact tracing was underway.

It also was unclear exactly how ill Trump was, with contradictory statements from the medical team, Trump aides and administration officials.

Asked whether there was evidence of pneumonia, Conley said doctors had seen “some expected findings,” but were not overly concerned.

“We’ve done routine standard imaging. I’m just not at liberty to discuss,” Conley said. He also declined to discuss Trump’s bloodwork or the quarantine precautions that will be in place at the White House once the president returns.

Conley said he made less-than-accurate statements about the president’s condition on Saturday because he wanted to keep Trump’s spirits up.

About a dozen people in Trump’s inner circle have tested positive for coronavirus, including his wife, Melania.

Trump is 74 and overweight, two factors that place him in a high-risk category for developing complications.

You can watch the full news conference below:

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Instead of Reassurance, Trump’s Doctor Delivers Confusion, Experts Say

This is not Dr. Conley’s first brush with controversy. In May, after the president announced that he was taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that Mr. Trump was promoting without evidence as a way to prevent coronavirus infection, Dr. Conley released a letter in which he said he had “concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”

He later said the president had completed the treatment “safely and without side effects.”

And in November, Dr. Conley found himself in the awkward position of explaining a highly unusual unannounced visit the president made to Walter Reed. Without disclosing details, he denied speculation that the president had chest pain or some other acute problem, adding that Mr. Trump “did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurologic evaluations.”

Dr. Conley, a Pennsylvania native who received his medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2006, is a decorated Navy commander who served in Afghanistan. He was named the acting White House physician in March 2018 after Dr. Ronny L. Jackson was nominated to be the secretary of the veterans affairs. (Dr. Jackson, who withdrew from consideration amid allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior, is now running for a House seat in Texas.)

In May 2018, Mr. Trump appointed him to be the White House physician, a position created by Congress in 1928, although the White House has employed doctors at least since the late 1800s. The job involves caring for the president, the vice president and their families, and supervising the White House medical unit — a group of health professionals who travel with the president and are on duty at all times to provide for his care.

It is ordinarily a low-profile job. One exception was in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan was shot and taken to George Washington University Hospital. Dr. Daniel Ruge, the White House physician at the time, drew praise for insisting that Mr. Reagan be treated by the hospital’s trauma team, rather than taking charge himself.

On Sunday, Dr. Conley obfuscated. When asked about the president’s X-rays and lung function, he said the tests showed “some expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern.”

It was not a lie, experts said, but it was not exactly truthful either, especially given that the doctor said Mr. Trump was taking dexamethasone, a steroid that can have harmful effects on the immune system and is recommended only for coronavirus patients who are seriously ill.

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Infectious Trump briefly leaves Walter Reed to greet fans as confusion continues over his health

Adding to the confusion about his status, Trump briefly left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda to wave to supporters from a motorcade, after releasing a video on Twitter thanking people who had gathered outside the facility.

“We’re getting great reports from the doctors,” Trump said in the video before promising a “little surprise” to his supporters. “It’s been a very interesting journey. I learned a lot about covid.”

At a news conference earlier Sunday, Trump’s medical team tried to clear up muddled picture it had created the previous day when White House doctor Sean Conley falsely suggested that Trump had not been given supplemental oxygen.

But Conley continued to evade directly answering specific questions about Trump’s health Sunday, even as he revealed that the president had been given dexamethasone, a steroid that is typically reserved for severely ill coronavirus patients needing oxygen. Conley openly admitted to withholding truthful information about Trump’s plummeting blood-oxygen levels Friday, indicating he did so to put a positive spin on the president’s improving condition.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, that his course of illness, has had,” Conley said Sunday, explaining why he told reporters Saturday that Trump had not been given oxygen Friday. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”

Conley also announced that Trump’s oxygen levels had dropped again on Saturday. Asked if Trump had been administered supplemental oxygen as a result, Conley said that he did not know and would have to check with the nursing staff.

The episode continued what has been a days-long torrent of falsehoods, obfuscation, evasion, misdirection and imprecision from those surrounding Trump as he faces the greatest threat to a president’s health in decades. From the chief White House doctor to the president’s chief of staff, the inability to provide clear, direct and consistent information about Trump’s condition has been widespread since the coronavirus began rapidly circulating in the West Wing.

Trump, his doctors and White House aides sought to portray him as improving and largely unencumbered by the virus that has killed more than 209,000 Americans. White House aides emphasized that Trump was continuing to work while at Walter Reed, casting him as a triumphant warrior.

In the Twitter video, Trump said that he has spent part of his time at Walter Reed visiting wounded warriors and first responders without providing details about how those patients were protected against the president infecting them with covid-19. He also indicated that he understood the coronavirus better than medical experts after having contracted it.

“I learned it by really going to school — this is the real school. This isn’t the let’s-read-the-book school,” he said. “And I get it, and I understand it.”

The president donned a mask as he waved to a crowd of fans from inside a

Trump’s doctor’s comments on symptoms, care spark confusion

For the second day in a row, the Navy commander in charge of President Donald Trump’s care left the world wondering: Just how sick is the president?

Dr. Sean Conley is trained in emergency medicine, not infectious disease, but he has a long list of specialists helping determine Trump’s treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Conley said Sunday that Trump is doing well enough that he might be sent back to the White House in another day — even as he announced the president was given a steroid drug that’s only recommended for the very sick.

Worse, steroids like dexamethasone tamp down important immune cells, raising concern about whether the treatment choice might hamper the ability of the president’s body to fight the virus.

Then there’s the question of public trust: Conley acknowledged that that he had tried to present a rosy description of the president’s condition in his first briefing of the weekend “and in doing so, came off like we’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”


In fact, Conley refused to directly answer on Saturday whether the president had been given any oxygen — only to admit the next day that he had ordered oxygen for Trump on Friday morning.

It’s puzzling even for outside specialists.

“It’s a little unusual to have to guess what’s really going on because the clinical descriptions are so vague,” said Dr. Steven Shapiro, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s chief medical and science officer. With the steroid news, “there’s a little bit of a disconnect.”

Conley has been Trump’s physician since 2018 — and already has experienced some criticism about his decisions. In May, Conley prescribed Trump a two-week course of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to protect against the coronavirus after two White House staffers had tested positive. Rigorous studies have made clear that hydroxychloroquine, which Trump long championed, does no good in either treating or preventing COVID-19.

This time around, Conley is being put to an even greater test, trying to balance informing a public that needs honesty about the condition of the president with a patient who dislikes appearing vulnerable.

Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army medical corps as a brigadier general, said Conley would be obliged to follow Trump’s wishes regarding what information about his condition is released publicly, as is true in any doctor-patient relationship.

But Conley as a military medical officer is bound to adhere to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which prohibits lying, he said.

A number of current and former military officials declined to comment on the record, referring all questions to the White House. But several said they were concerned that Conley’s efforts to spin a more upbeat characterization of the president’s current health condition is raising flags within the Navy about his credibility and the reputation of the Navy’s medical team. They said his admission that he tried to give an optimistic description of Trump’s condition may lead the public to question future information

White House physician sows confusion with briefings

With President Donald Trump battling coronavirus at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, White House doctor Sean Conley has come under fire for making confusing and misleading comments — including one he later walked back — about the President’s condition.



a man wearing a suit and tie: Dr. Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, briefs reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)


© Susan Walsh/AP
Dr. Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, briefs reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

After Saturday’s televised briefing at Walter Reed, a White House official offered a more alarming assessment of Trump’s health to reporters. That reporting was initially given to a pool of reporters attributed to an official familiar with the President’s condition. Later, the Associated Press and the New York Times identified that official as White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Conley claimed at Sunday’s briefing that Meadows’ widely reported statement contradicting him was “misconstrued.”

“The chief and I work side by side,” Conley said. “And I think his statement was misconstrued. What he meant was that 24 hours ago, when he and I were checking on the President, that there was that momentary episode of the high fever and that temporary drop in the saturation, which prompted us to act expediently to move him up here.”

Conley added, “Fortunately, that was really a very transient limited episode, a couple hours later he was back up. Mild again. You know, we, I’m not going to speculate what that limited episode was about so early in the course but he’s doing well.”

Video: Doctor releases letter on Trump’s condition (CNN)

Doctor releases letter on Trump’s condition

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Conley on Sunday also defended the decision to not disclose that the President was administered oxygen by saying he wanted to “reflect the upbeat attitude of the team.”

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the President, his course of illness has had. I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so it came off that we were trying to hide something,” Conley said, adding that “wasn’t necessarily true.”

“The fact of the matter is he’s doing very well,” Conley went on.

Conley, who took over as Trump’s White House physician in March 2018, holds a degree in osteopathic medicine, one of the two degrees in the United States in which physicians can practice medicine — either as a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathic medicine. About a quarter of US medical students train at osteopathic medical schools, according to the American Medical Association. Historically, doctor of osteopathic medicine programs have touted their methods as “more holistic.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from University of Notre Dame, Conley graduated from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile. He then served in various military posts, primarily at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. He was the senior medical officer at

Trump tests positive:White House sows confusion about Trump’s condition as source tells reporters next 48 hours will be critical

An attempt by President Donald Trump’s doctor to reassure the public about Trump’s condition following his infection with Covid-19 only created widespread confusion and concerns about transparency on Saturday, as a source familiar with the President’s health told reporters that the next 48 hours will be critical in determining how he fares.



a tall building in a city: A view of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland. - President Donald Trump will spend the coming days in a military hospital just outside Washington to undergo treatment for the coronavirus, but will continue to work, the White House said October 2nd.


© BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
A view of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland. – President Donald Trump will spend the coming days in a military hospital just outside Washington to undergo treatment for the coronavirus, but will continue to work, the White House said October 2nd.

“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 are still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” the source told White House pool reporters after the briefing from his doctors.

Moments earlier on Saturday morning, the President’s physician, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley, had offered an upbeat assessment of the President’s condition stating that he was feeling well, that he had been “fever-free” for 24 hours and that his symptoms — which included an “extremely mild cough,” nasal congestion and fatigue — “are resolving and improving.” Conley was evasive about when and if Trump had received supplemental oxygen, saying, “He is not on oxygen.”



a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Staff and visitors listen as President Donald J. Trump speaks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett during a ceremony to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House on Saturday, Sept 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)


© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Staff and visitors listen as President Donald J. Trump speaks with Judge Amy Coney Barrett during a ceremony to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House on Saturday, Sept 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

But a source close to the White House said Trump has received supplemental oxygen since his illness began. Trump “definitely has had oxygen,” the source said, adding that it was on Friday.

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The New York Times first reported the oxygen development. CNN reported on Friday the President was having a hard time breathing.

The rosy briefing from doctors, which contradicts other information emerging about the President’s condition, came the morning after Trump was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, a move that plunged the country into a deepening crisis as the circle of current and former aides to the President testing positive rapidly widened.

Conley said during the briefing — which occurred shortly before noon Saturday at Walter Reed — that the President was diagnosed with the coronavirus 72 hours earlier. He later released a statement midday on Saturday saying that he misspoke during the briefing and meant to say it was “Day Three” of Trump’s diagnosis — and that the President was diagnosed Thursday night.

Trump revealed his diagnosis around 1 a.m. ET Friday on Twitter.

Conley offered scant and insufficient details about the President’s vital signs. He acknowledged that the President had a fever at one point, but refused to say what it was. A