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Awaiting Briefing From Trump's Medical Team; White House Hasn't Answered Basic Questions About Trump's Illness; How Ronald Reagan's White House Handled His Health Crisis; Awaiting Briefing From Trump's Medical Team; Trump Is Furious At W.H. Chief OF Staff Meadows; Trump's Doctor: President's Condition Has Continued To Improve. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired October 04, 2020 - 11:00 ET
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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter.
We are standing by for another medical briefing from Walter Reed Medical Center. We are expecting the president's doctors to provide an update on his condition. We hope there will be questions from reporters to get to the bottom of some of yesterday's confusion. We don't know exactly when this press conference will begin.
We know the White House pool, the small group of reporters that travels with the president, they have arrived and they are setting up outside of Walter Reed. So we are standing by for that press conference.
Let's start with the big picture of what we are all covering this weekend. We are covering a possible cover-up about the health of the president of the United States, a possible cover-up that's being led by the president from his hospital room because he is so sensitive about being perceived as weak. Well, real strength begins with telling the truth.
So, let me tell you who we have standing by to talk about al this in the next few minutes. David Gergen, Masha Gessen, Susan Glasser and many more.
This is a critical moment. It's day three of the president's hospital stay and there is a lot we don't know. What we have seen the president in the past 24 hours are two photos, this video and a handful of tweets.
We've also heard from many Trump campaign staffers but we are not hearing from Trump White House officials. They are declining interview requests this Sunday morning.
There is an information vacuum right now. You know what they say about nature and vacuums? What's filling the void is guesswork and speculation and even conspiracy theory. But all of that should be resisted right now. Let's stick to what we
know as seen on these front pages from across the country today. Let's assess the information the best we can. This conflicting information that we've been receiving.
It is clear now that the president was much sicker than the White House admitted on Friday. His aides misled the public on Friday.
On Friday morning, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters Trump was experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive, but by Saturday, sources told CNN and other news outlets that Trump had received supplemental oxygen on Friday.
And then Meadows told Fox something closer to the truth. Meadows saying, quote, he has made unbelievable improvement from yesterday morning when I know a number of us, the doctor and I, were very concerned. Meadows essentially admitting that what he said on Friday was untrue.
So who can we believe right now? What can we believe?
Obviously, this administration does not have credibility. Lying is a central tenet of the Trump story. I don't want to waste our time rehashing all of that.
But I do want to say this: the American people can handle the truth. But, first, we need to hear it. Second, we need to have reason to believe it. Credibility has to be earned.
And Team Trump keeps giving everyone reasons to disbelieve what they are saying and that is destabilizing. This crisis is bigger than President Trump. Everyone wishes him well. But it's about the institution of the presidency. It's about American leadership.
So, as we stand by for this press conference, let me bring in my first set of guests. Media columnist for "The Washington Post," Margaret Sullivan, staff writer for "The New Yorker" and author of the book, "The Man Who Ran Washington", Susan Glasser, former chief political correspondent for Fox News, Carl Cameron, now political journalist for FrontPageLive.com, and staff writer for "The New Yorker" and author of "Surviving Autocracy", Masha Gessen.
Masha, what do you see happening in America with a country unable to know what to believe with the president's health?
MASHA GESSEN, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, you know, Brian, there have been a lot of comparisons to the soviet union the last couple of days. I think they are not unwarranted. The particular period I am thinking about is something I have written about a lot.
The some days of Stalin's death watch when the foreign correspondents and the domestic correspondents such as they were all knew what was going on. Nobody was giving them information. Everybody was expecting the final call, right, and the planet filled with rumor.
And the thing is, it's not so much what we are being told by White House officials or by the doctors. You could actually create a reasonable narrative from all of the things that they have put out there. It is the palpable sense that people are not speaking, that they are withholding information. And, of course, the sense of total lack of credibility that has been established the last four years.
STELTER: Right. And that's the backdrop for all of this.
Margaret Sullivan, much of what we have learned is from leaks. We learned about Hope Hicks testing positive from a leak to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs. There have been many leaks since then.
Is that a good or bad sign that there are so many leaks coming from the administration?
MARGARET SULLIVAN, MEDIA COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Brian, thank you. Leaks are what we have right now because we are not getting any credible information from the White House itself. And thank goodness we have these leaks.
I mean, thank goodness, really, that Jennifer Jacobs of "Bloomberg News" broke the news that Hope Hicks was sick.
I wonder when we would have found out about President Trump being ill and all of these other things that have come to pass since then.
So, yes, I think at this point leaks are very good, but I also think they have to be handled with care, and I worry about the kind of anonymous sourcing that allows government officials to say a lot of things off the record or on background that then turn out not to be the case.
STELTER: Right, right.
Susan Glasser, let's play the sound bite if we can of what the president said on Thursday before his diagnosis was announced. This is a comment that he made in a prerecorded speech that he was giving.
Control room, can we play that clip from Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to say that the end of the pandemic is in sight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Thursday. That's what he said on Thursday.
Cases are rising across the country. Tens of thousands of people are getting sick every day. Many are being hospitalized every day.
This pandemic, we are heading into a winter that is quite frightening and now it's quite frightening that the president is one of the many affected. Susan, do you think this looking back at a past, playing the
president's denialism, is that appropriate in this time or is it inappropriate?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Absolutely. You know, accountability doesn't, you know, check out when the president checks into the hospital, but quite the opposite. This is a situation, in fact, where his personal and political disinformation have converged, and in fact he has been running that campaign against his own government and public health measures and endangering his own safety as well as that of the American people for the last six months.
So, obviously, the convergence between his lies to the American people and his own personal health now suffering as a consequence of that. I mean, we used to joke in college, but it's not really a joke. You are really in trouble when you start lying to yourself and believing it.
Did Donald Trump believe these things that he was saying to the American people about the pandemic? Because now, there are 200,000 dead. I do believe it's very important to keep that in mind.
President Trump is one person who has the best medical care that America can give him. He is being very aggressively treated. The doctors are helping us to understand what that means, to the extent they're giving information.
But there are millions of Americans who have been infected with this, and they don't have that privilege. Many of them have died. So, yes, we have to keep on the story and the accountability.
STELTER: Yeah. Let's, as we talk about this, and we await this next briefing, I don't want to lose sight of what happened the last seven days. It's felt like a year. Let's go back to Monday's front page of the New York sometimes. The title here, President's taxes chronic losses, major income tax avoidance. Then the debate. Yes, the debate was this week.
Look at Thursday's front page of "The New York Times," Trump escalating his push to erode trust in the election. Saturday's headline about the president in the hospital. This morning's front page says, confusion and concern while the president ails at Walter Reed.
Carl Cameron, I think the question here is, do you have any advice for the journalists trying to keep up with all these stories? Frankly, Carl, any advice for the public trying to keep up with all of this news?
CARL CAMERON, FORMER CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Yeah, we have to take a close look at what's happening today and then just rewind it to the campaign of 2015 and 2016 in which most Republicans voted for somebody else during the Republican nomination race in the various different states up until the very last moment where Trump won a plurality of Republicans for the Republican nomination.
And what we have now is a prima facie evidence of a person who became president by gaslighting the public, hiding his own failures, his lack of capacity and ability, and now finds himself in Walter Reed Hospital with a virus that he essentially convinced a good portion of the country was not a threat to their lives.
This is the collapse of a democratic republic because of his leadership and his dishonesty.
The media has plenty of problems, but journalism and news hinges on facts, and too often the media, whether it's on the internet or in entertainment, is considered actual news. And in that way people get misled.
So reporters, journalists and the news has a responsibility to lay bare all of the problems of any politician. And pat them on the back with had they get it right. We just haven't had a lot of that lately, Brian.
STELTER: No, we have not. Carl, you used to be at Fox News for many years.
I'm thinking about your former colleagues now getting tested for COVID because they were there at the debate Tuesday night. Chris Wallace, many others as well.
It goes further than that. You know, this apparent super spreader event at the White House Saturday before last, the Supreme Court announcement, Pete Hegseth was there from Fox, Laura Ingraham was there. There are all these Fox personalities and executives who have to get tested because they don't know if they have been infected as well.
It's just a small example of how widespread this virus is and how had this White House outbreak is affecting so many people, so many corporations, so many families. I think everybody -- Carl, go ahead.
CAMERON: I think that the journalists need to remind everybody it's entirely possible this began at that Supreme Court announcement. And as a consequence of that, public policy has been corrupted by the failures of personal health policy at the White House.
STELTER: Carl, thank you. And, everybody, please stand by. It's a fluid show as we await this medical briefing at Walter Reed. We don't know the exact time, but we believe it will take place this hour.
We have the president of the White House Correspondents Association standing by as well as the man who briefed the press after the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. That's right, David Gergen is next. Stay with us.
STELTER: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. Checking my email, we have an update on this briefing. We are standing by at Walter Reed for a briefing from the president's medical team.
We are told now we are expecting to hear from Dr. Sean Conley and the president's medical team. I think that indicates we will see multiple doctors coming out the same way we did yesterday. The press pool is in place getting set up. We expect this briefing later this hour and we will bring it to you live as soon as it starts.
What we've seen yesterday from the medical team's briefing is a muddled message. There's "The Washington Post" headline this morning, a muddle message about the president's health.
To put this in perspective, the last time we had a presidential health crisis of this nature, it was the attempt on Ronald Reagan's life on March 30th, 1981. And on that day, Reagan's doctors, acting press secretary, secretary of state and Vice President George H.W. Bush briefed the nation and the press on the president's condition.
This marks in some way the beginning of an era of real important transparency about the president's health. So, what's happening now? Why aren't we seeing that now?
Let me bring in CNN senior political analyst and former presidential advisor to Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, David Gergen. David briefed the public at the podium on the day Reagan was shot.
Also with us, former assistant press secretary to Ronald Reagan, Mark Weinberg.
David, what should we learn from 1981? What should be applied today in 2020?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Most important lesson is to tell the public the hard truths, unvarnished truths, and do it in a competent way so that before you go out (AUDIO GAP).
Yesterday there was statements that caused confusion and they undermined the credibility of the White House yet once again. So most Americans are confused about exactly where we are today, and that's not healthy for a democracy, not healthy heading into a major election.
STELTER: Mark, can the president's medical team recover? Can they regain credibility?
MARK WEINBERG, FORMER ASSISTANT PRESS SECRETARY TO RONALD REAGAN: Tell the truth and don't play games. If they're not disingenuous, if they don't play a "mother may I" approach to questions. When a reporter asks a question, they should answer straightforward, give them the facts.
STELTER: Do you think this is like a malicious thing that's gone wrong or incompetence? Do you have any guess, Mark, about why the message has been so muddled? WEINBERG: Yes to both. I think they have something to hide. And I
think that they are under extreme pressure from President Trump to not say anything that would cost him votes in the campaign for re- election. I think that's what this is all about, his vulnerability in the campaign.
And as a result, they are being not forthcoming, they're being dishonest, they are being disingenuous and they're not serving the country or for the president for that matter.
STELTER: Right. Ultimately, they're not serving the president well when there is this confusion.
But, David, isn't this all stemming from the president not wanting details about his health to be disclosed? He presents this image --
STELTER: -- of a strong man, right? That is the brand.
STELTER: And he doesn't want to taint the brand.
GERGEN: Yeah, if there is anything consistent about Donald Trump these last four years is his obsession with appearing strong. Whether he is weak or strong, he always wants to come out looking strong. He thinks that gives him more political leverage.
What it does instead over time is undercuts his credibility. And I think over time makes him look weak. You know, a strong person like Reagan.
And what happened, what happened in the past and historically, we have had two major presidents that have had big, big problems -- health problems in office. One was Dwight Eisenhower, the other Ronald Reagan.
In both cases, they started out somewhat uncertain. Ike didn't want anything disclosed about his heart attacks. But over time, he gained confidence and he told Jim Hagerty, his press secretary, whenever I get ill, let everything be known to the public.
So much so, people were comparing his stools, and you could imagine how uncomfortable and distasteful he found that, but he did it, just as Reagan did when he became so open and transparent about colon cancer. It was a courageous thing to do.
It takes people of courage to give you the truth. It does not -- you know, weak people are the ones who hide.
STELTER: It's great point. It is about courage.
Let me tell the viewers what we are seeing on the screen here.
[11:20:02] We are way awaiting a medical briefing from the president's medical team at Walter Reed. This is a live shot from outside, on Rockville Pike. You can see Trump supporters who have gathered. They've been making noise, maybe hoping the president can hear them from inside his hospital room.
We expect this briefing in the next ten minutes. It's supposed to start at 11:30. We will see if it starts on time. But that's what you see on the other side of the screen.
I interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci earlier this week before the president tested positive and I asked Fauci, I said, sometimes, you know, I see you on big television shows. You were on "Good Morning America" this week. But a lot of times I see you on webcasts and podcasts and really niche programs where you are reaching a small audience and not millions of people.
I said to Fauci, is the White House muzzling you? Are they trying to keep you off in the -- keep you off TV? Let me play what Fauci said because it's now newly relevant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's a mixed bag, Brian. It's erratic. Sometimes they let me out on some of the big shows, and then I could go multiple, multiple requests and they are not granted. You know, it's a mixed bag. Sometimes it's go ahead and get out there at the major shows, and sometimes it's no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: Now, isn't that interesting? Given that we are not seeing Fauci this weekend, we're not seeing other members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Of course, the interviews requests are being made. Jake Tapper pointed out this morning he put in those requests with the White House for task force members, for administration officials, but they are not speaking, and they are not giving interviews for the most part.
There's one here or there, but for the most part they are not speaking. That does seem to be led by the president.
Mark Weinberg, your reaction as they show we show this live shot of the podium. You can see the camera is now set up outside Walter Reed, waiting this briefing.
Mark, what's your reaction to Fauci's comment, sometimes they let me out, sometimes they don't?
WEINBERG: (AUDIO GAP) a little big pregnant. You have to tell all the truth all the time.
Seeing that setup there reminds me of when President Reagan had colon cancer and we set up a press briefing room right there, brought out the leading cancer national expert, Steven Rosenberg, who declared to the country the president has cancer. As a result, thousands of lives were saved because of the attention that was called to procedures that screened for cancer.
There is a great public service the president could be performing here if he weren't so selfish.
STELTER: Mark and David, thank you. Please stay with me.
I want to squeeze in a break as we await this briefing. I have the White House Correspondents' Association president, Zeke Miller, standing by. Numerous reporters have tested positive in recent days. We're going to get an update from Zeke in a moment.
STELTER: Back on CNN. Awaiting the president's medical team to hold a briefing, providing update on his condition. This is day three of the president's hospitalization at Walter Reed.
It was at this hour yesterday that the medical team held a briefing and caused a lot of confusion, confusion about the timeline, a lack of information about the president's vital signs, et cetera. We will hope for more transparency in the next few minutes.
There has been a lot of transparency from the White House Correspondents' Association. This is the group that represents the members of the White House press corps.
The president of the association is Zeke Miller. He's a reporter for "The A.P.", and he's with me now.
Zeke, there are -- you said on Friday three reporters in the press corps that have tested positive for COVID-19. These test results came in on Friday, but these reporters worked at the White House on different days. They developed symptoms at different times.
What can you tell us about these three positive tests -- cases?
ZEKE MILLER, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: Right now, you know, I've been in contact with all of them. They seem to be doing okay, having mild symptoms. And that's our first priority, their health and wellbeing and we're gratified that they don't seem to be having a very difficult course of this disease at the moment.
They got -- we don't know where they got the virus and how they were exposed to it. But we do know that all three of them were at the -- on the White House complex last weekend where there seem to be a number of people and White House staff and associates of the president as well who also tested positive around the White House at that time.
STELTER: Right. Increasing signals that the Supreme Court announcement was possibly a super spreading event.
Chris Christie, of course, the former New Jersey governor, who was there -- who's on hand. He's also with the president at debate prep. And then he was at ABC News in the studio covering the debate.
He has tested positive. He checked himself into the hospital as a precaution. And now, ABC is having its staffers who were in close touch with Christie self-isolate, meaning you're going to see some anchors working from home in the coming days. Just another example of how this is spreading in so many directions.
So, Zeke, as we await this briefing, and this live shot is being brought to us by the White House pool, tell us about the White House pool and the importance of having this pool system.
MILLER: Yeah, so the White House pool is 13 or so members of the press corps, all the different formats, networks, still photographers, radio, print reporters, who are -- wire reporters who are -- go with the president everywhere he goes, when he leaves the White House complex and also covers small events on the complex as well.
They are the eyes and ears of the American people. They are not necessarily -- they don't have a choice where they go or whether or not they go into a room or environment where they're not totally comfortable with.
MILLER: They are there. They have a responsibility to provide coverage on what the president is doing to the American people.
The American pool system is kind of unique on the world stage. You get international summits, there are no delegation rolls quite as deep and quite as aggressive about making sure that their leader is covered like the American delegation is, and this span presidencies.
And this goes all the way back to 1881 when James Garfield was shot, and there was a pool reporter stationed outside of his room to make sure that he was breathing. This is a recognition of how important is the American people know what their leader is doing on their behalf and how he is doing.
STELTER: One of the journalists who tested positive is Michael Shear of the New York Times. He went on the record talking about this so it's OK to share his name. Shear said to the Washington Post, "I know the job has some element of risk." He acknowledges that as you're saying, Zeke, but "There are some things the White House could have done to minimize the risk more."
Are you hearing that from other White House Correspondents? Is their frustration that, you know, the White House wasn't putting common- sense measures into place, and members of the Press Corps were going there and possibly getting exposed?
MILLER: Yes, I'm really gratified by the professionalism of all of our members in terms of -- they're going into a job where they don't necessarily control the environment in which they are walking into. They are getting on a plane and going to a different state or going into a room sometimes not knowing what's going to be on the other side of the door. And they go and they do their jobs because it's important, because it's their obligation to the American people have inform them of what is happening.
And sometimes that means inform them a bad situation that may be uncomfortable to them. And certainly, you've been a few cases about that. And we have been working very closely with the White House for seven or so months now, advocating for as much as stringent protections as possible for the press pool. But at the end of the day, it's important that the press pool be with the president so that we can fulfill that obligation. The safest thing for us would be never to leave the White House complex. And that's not really an option that's available to us.
STELTER: Right, it's not possible. Right. It's just -- you know, let me channel the frustration I'm hearing from reporters. When I walk into CNN here in New York, I have to have my mask on obviously. I have to fill out a multistage checklist about where I've been to make sure I haven't been in contact with anyone with a confirmed case. I had to show that to the security guards to enter the building.
And then when I'm anywhere in CNN, except in this studio, I have to wear this mask. And it's shocking to me that those kinds of precautions which every major corporation in the country is taking weren't taken at the White House for months and months and months. So, tell me if I'm wrong. The reporters had to, on their own, take their own safety measures, because the White House wasn't enforcing it. Is that a fair characterization of what's happened?
MILLER: Yes. If you look at the timeline, from the very first days of the Coronavirus becoming a national conversation, it was the White House Correspondents' Association under Jon Karl, our past president, and the rest of our board, that work to reduce the capacity of the White House press room because we recognize that that was sort of in an untenable situation given what we knew about the diverse back then.
We have instituted a mask requirement for all of our reporters in pool situations, but also anyone who works out of our enclosed workspace. And we have encouraged people at great sacrifice to themselves and their professional obligations not to work off the White House complex that they don't absolutely need to be there. If they're not in the pool, they don't know -- and they can find some other way to work, please stay away because what's important is that we can maintain that pool.
A lot of those veterans have been driven, yes, by the press corps. And, you know, we've worked with the White House to the extent that we can in terms of, you know, expanding buffers at events, and when the President was doing campaign rallies or other sorts of events, try to create as much distance as possible six feet of distance at least between the press that was there, and attendees. But if you look around, you know, travel on Air Force One, the press is always wearing a mask, and that has been a requirement of ours for some months now.
STELTER: And finally, Zeke, have any of the reporters had trouble getting access to tests, reporters who are concerned they've been exposed? Have they've been able to be tested quickly?
MILLER: I have not heard too many concerns about that, when it's one thing where we've worked very closely with the White House for quite some time is particularly reports who are on Air Force One who with the present in the pools. They've been very accommodating of providing them tests, you know, after the incubation period. And that's one of the things are mindful of is making sure we can get that test and make sure that we know it's a useful test.
STELTER: I keep thinking about all the folks at these rallies, these folks at Bedminster who may have been exposed to COVID in the past few days by the President or his aides, who might have a hard time getting a test, who are in the dark right now, who might be quite afraid. And unfortunately, they can't get up to Walter Reed.
Zeke, thank you very much. Let's fit in a quick break here as we await this briefing. We do expect it later this hour a briefing from Dr. Sean Conley and the President's other doctors coming up.
STELTER: Any moment, the President's medical team will address the press with an update on the President's condition. As we await this briefing, there's brand new reporting from CNN's Jim Acosta. It gets to the heart of a giant question from the past 24 hours, who was the anonymous official who said to the press pool that the President's condition was very concerning and that we're still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery? Who was the official who contradicted the doctors?
Well, it has been reported that it was Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. And now, CNN's Jim Acosta is here with new reporting on Meadows. Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brian. I mean, we've confirmed that as well that Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff, is the source familiar with the President's health as it was reported yesterday, who contradicted Dr. Sean Conley after that medical briefing outside Walter Reed yesterday.
And I'm told by two sources familiar with the situation this morning that President Trump is outraged with Meadows and how he handled it, how he contradicted Dr. Conley's assessment. It was a rosy assessment of the President's health. We now know that the President was in much more serious -- in a much more serious state Friday. And that is what precipitated this decision to move him to Walter Reed.
I can tell you that in addition to, you know, how the President feels about Mark Meadows inside the White House and inside the President's team of advisors, Meadows is now viewed as having damaged the credibility of these medical briefings that are designed to essentially lay concerns about the President's health. If anything, people inside the President's team of advisors, inside the White House, believe Meadows has now done all of that and it is going to make it much more difficult for the public to believe what's being said about the President's health.
In addition to that, one reason why Dr. Sean Conley was seeming to dance around some of the questions yesterday -- I talked to one White House official about that earlier this morning, Brian, and this official said, Well, Dr. Conley obviously spoke with the president before giving that medical briefing, and it's unlikely that Dr. Conley would relay information to the American people that the President doesn't want out there.
And so, to some extent, it appears, Brian, that, you know, what we're being told is being driven in part by what the President wants the public to hear. And it appears after Dr. Conley spoke, Meadows decided to go ahead and tell reporters that things might not be as rosy as Dr. Conley was saying.
Obviously, what we witnessed yesterday was just a full-scale debacle when it comes to mixed messaging and contradictory messages from the White House. It was just so stunning.
STELTER: Yes, it was. Let's hope -- let's hope today goes a whole lot better and a whole lot more honest.
ACOSTA: Let's hope.
STELTER: Here come the President's doctors. Jake Tapper picks up at the other end of this press conference. Dr. Sean Conley leading this press conference now.
SEAN CONLEY, PHYSICIAN OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Good morning, everyone. Since we spoke last president has continued to improve. As with any illness, there are frequent ups and downs over the course, particularly when a patient is being so closely watched 24 hours a day. We review and debate every finding compared to existing science and literature, weighing the risks and benefits of every intervention, its timing, as any -- as well as any potential impacts a delay may have.
Over the course of his illness, the President has experienced two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen saturation. We debated the reasons for this and whether we even intervene. It was a determination of the team based predominantly on the timeline from the initial diagnosis that we initiate dexamethasone.
I'd like to take this opportunity now, given some speculation over the course of the illness in the last couple days, update you in the course of his own illness. Thursday night into Friday morning, when I left the bedside, the President was doing well with only mild symptoms and his oxygen was in the high 90s.
Late Friday morning, when I returned to the bedside, the president had a high fever and his oxygen saturation was transiently dipping below 94 percent. Given these two developments, I was concerned for possible rapid progression of the illness. I recommended the president we try some supplemental oxygen, see how he'd respond.
He was fairly adamant that he didn't need it. He was not shot of breath. He was tired, had the fever, and that was about it. And after about a minute, on only two liters, his saturation levels were back over 40 -- over 95 percent. It stayed on that for about an hour, maybe, and it was off and gone. Later that day, by the time the team here was at the bedside, the president had been up out of bed moving about the residents with only mild symptoms. Despite this, everyone agreed the best course of action was the move to Walter Reed for more thorough evaluation monitoring.
Now, I'd like to invite up Dr. Dooley to discuss the current plan.
SEAN DOOLEY, DOCTOR, WALTER REED MEDICAL CENTER: Thank you, Dr. Conley. Before I begin a brief clinical update on the President's condition, I do want to reiterate my comments from yesterday regarding the -- how proud I am to be a part of this multidisciplinary, multi- institutional team of clinical professionals behind me and what an honor it is to care for the president here at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Regarding his clinical status, the patient continues to improve. He has remained without fever since Friday morning. His vital signs are stable. From a pulmonary standpoint, he remains on room air this morning, and is not complaining of shortness of breath, or other significant respiratory symptoms. He's ambulating himself, walking around the White House medical unit without limitation or disability.
Our continued monitoring of his cardiac liver and kidney function demonstrates continued normal findings or improving findings. I'll now turn it over to Dr. Garibaldi from Johns Hopkins to talk about our therapeutics and again, our plan for the day.
BRIAN GARIBALDI, DOCTOR, WALTER REED MEDICAL CENTER: Thank you. Dr. Dooley. I just wanted to again reiterate what an honor and a privilege it is to take care of the president but to be part of such a talented and multidisciplinary team here at Walter Reed. The President yesterday evening completed a second dose of Remdesivir. He's tolerated that infusion while we've been monitoring for any potential side effects, and he has had none that we can tell. His liver and kidney function have remained normal and we continue to plan to use a five-day course of Remdesivir.
In response to transient, low oxygen levels, as Dr. Conley has discussed, we did initiate dexamethasone therapy, and he received his first dose of that yesterday. And our plan is to continue that for the time being. Today, he feels well. He's been up and around. Our plan for today is to have him to eat and drink, be up out of bed as much as possible to be mobile.
And if he continues to look and feel as well as he does today, our hope is that we can plan for a discharge as early as tomorrow to the White House where he can continue his treatment course. Thank you very much. And I'll turn it over to Dr. Conley for any questions. CONLEY: Just a moment, please. The President wanted me to share how proud he is of the group, what an honor it is for him to be receiving his care here at Walter Reed center surrounded by such incredible talent, academic leaders, department chairs, internationally renowned researchers and clinicians including the support of Dr. Garibaldi from Johns Hopkins.
I'd like to reiterate how pleased we all are with the President's recovery. And with that, I'll take your question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Conley, you said that there were two instances where he has drops in oxygen. Can you walk us through the second one? And also, I've got a question for the lung specialist afterwards.
CONLEY: Sure. Yes, yesterday, there was another episode where it dropped down about 93 percent. He's never felt short of breath. We watched it and it returned back up. As I said, we evaluate all of these. And given the timeline where he is in the course of illness. You know, we were trying to maximize everything that we could do for him. And we debated whether we even started the dexamethasone. And we decided that in this case, the potential benefits early on the course probably outweighed any risks at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you give him a second round of supplemental oxygen yesterday?
CONLEY: I'd have to -- I'd have to check with the nursing staff. I don't think that -- if he did, it was very, very limited. But he was not on oxygen. And the only oxygen that I ordered or that we provided was that Friday morning initially.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What time was that yesterday?
CONLEY: Yesterday -- what was yesterday?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said the second instance.
CONLEY: The second incident? Oh, it was over the course of the day. Yes, yesterday morning,.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Conley, what is the President's current blood oxygen level. That's my first question to Dr. Conley.
CONLEY: 98 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what, what are the X rays and CT scans show? Are there signs of pneumonia? Are there signs of lung involvement or any damage to the lungs?
CONLEY: Yes, so we're tracking all of that. There's some expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) is his oxygen level ever dipped below 90?
CONLEY: We don't have any recordings here of that. That's right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about here? What about the White House or here, anything below 90, just to follow up on our question?
CONLEY: No, it was below 94 percent. It was it wasn't down to the low 80s or anything. No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, so the dexamethasone --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday, you told us that the President was in great shape, have been in good shape and fever-free for the previous 24 hours. Minutes after your press conference, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters that the President's vitals were very concerning over the past 24 hours. Simple question for the American people, whose statements about the president's health should we believe?
CONLEY: So, the chief and I work side by side, 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.
Fortunately, that was really a very transient limited episode. A couple hours later, he was back up mild again. You know, I'm not going to speculate what that limited episode was about so early in the course, but he's doing well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are the expected findings on his lungs and why is the president not wearing a mask and the videos when he has been released?
CONLEY: Well, the President wears a mask anytime he's around us and we're all wearing our N95s, full PPE. He's the patient and when we can -- when he'll move out into the public, when we move them about out and around other people that aren't in full PPE, I assure you he'll -- as long as he's still under my care, we'll talk about him wearing a mask.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) negative pressure room? The room is negative pressure?
CONLEY: I'm not going to get into the specifics of his care.
CONLEY: I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lung suction question. Can you talk about that and what you'd expect -- CONLEY: I will just share that like every patient, we perform lung
spirometry on him, and he's maxing it out. We told him, see what you can do and it's over 2,500 milliliters each time. He's doing great. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the scan showing any irregularities in his lungs? Are there any obesities, are there anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Conley, why were you reluctant until today to disclose that the President had been administered oxygen?
CONLEY: It's a good question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
CONEY: So, I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the President, that 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, you know, it came off that we're trying to hide something. It wasn't necessarily true. And so, have -- here we have it. He is -- the fact of the matter is that he's doing really well, that he is -- he is responding. And as the team said, if everything continues to go well, we're going to start discharge planning back to the White House. That's it. Thank you, fellows.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you please explain what you found in his lung scan?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Conley, as well as Colonel Sean Dooley, they said that the President's condition is improving. They say he received supplemental oxygen on Friday for about an hour. He also received oxygen yesterday. The President is still in the hospital this morning. The medical team said that he could be discharged if all goes well as soon as tomorrow. He's being treated, of course for COVID-19, which has killed more than 209,000 Americans.
I want to go straight to our panel. And we're going to begin with a CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, some interesting comments from Sean -- Commander Conley, who before this episode, had an impeccable reputation. He was asked why he didn't give all the information yesterday, and he said he was trying to -- I'm quoting him -- that he was "trying to reflect the upbeat attitude of the team and not give any information that would steer the course of his illness." Is that what a physician is supposed to do?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I mean, you got to be honest. You got to be transparent. And all these details matter. I mean, he's out -- he's coming out to brief the public about the president. That's the briefing that's happening. If you're going to do that, then you have to be absolutely honest. And it wasn't just sort of conveying an upbeat attitude. He was -- it
was purposely misleading yesterday about a very basic issue, which is whether or not the President had been on supplemental oxygen is one of those issues. That's important, Jake, because you know, when you look at patients, the way that doctors approach this, as we're looking at a patient, we know his age, we know his pre-existing risk factors, you can immediately start to assess his risk. As more data comes in that risk sort of stratification changes.
If he required oxygen, that definitely indicates that there was some impact, significant impact on his lungs, and that puts him on a different trajectory. It may mean different sorts of treatments. It's really, really important. How high was that fever? He still didn't answer.
GUPTA: And he's still dancing around questions today. Better today, but still dancing around really important questions. When asked, was there a second episode of the president needing supplemental oxygen? He sort of said, well, I don't know. We'd have to check with the nursing staff. He knows. He has to know. It's critical information.
I don't know why he would pretend like oh, yes, we'll check into that. What do the lung scans show? Does the President have pneumonia or not? They say there were findings, but you know, we're tracking it. Well, what were the findings? It's just better but still not good.
TAPPER: That's incredible. Just to underline -- yes, just to underline this point, Sanjay, because obviously, this is in addition to being a life-threatening illness, it is a health-threatening illness. Millions of people have survived COVID-19. But even if they were young and healthy, they are no longer healthy, because it leaves scars, it damages lungs.
And as you note, Commander Conley was asked about what these scans showed of the President's lungs, and he referred to that there were findings in addition -- but he wouldn't go into what they were, just that there was no immediate concern. And then in addition, somebody asked whether the President was in a negative pressure room, you'll explain to us what that means, and he said, I'm not going to get into the specifics of his care. Excuse me, you're not going to get into the specifics of his care?
GUPTA: Right? Yes, and I hear -- I heard the same thing. A negative pressure room would be a room that you put somebody in with the contagious illness because it basically instead of allowing the virus that's certainly coming out of his mouth and nose to become aerosolized and stay in the room, it essentially will pull some of that out of the room and make it safer for anybody who goes in there who will undoubtedly need to be in personal protective equipment.
But I think this was in response to a question about, OK, he had this video yesterday, right? He was inside, somebody was obviously filming the video, shouldn't the President had been wearing a mask. It was in response to that question. And you heard the answer. So, it's still very opaque.
I will point out again, you know, two episodes of requiring supplemental oxygen, they say, a fever that was concerning on Friday. Again, these are all really important things for the overall -- trying to figure out the risk for the president going forward, and what might be the best treatment options.
And also, Jake, he's on steroids now, dexamethasone. That's what that medication is. And that's typically given to people who, you know, you're concerned about their lung function. It's basically a very potent anti-inflammatory. They're worried that the President has developed significant inflammation, and that's why you would give that.
So, these are all important findings. They're concerning, to be candid, Jake. I think, you know, as always, with you know, these types of things, especially these types of briefings from the President's doctors, we have to sort of read between the lines here. They were telegraphing us on Friday, well before he went to the hospital that it was getting serious.
Even though they were saying everything's fine, reading between the lines, I was pretty certain he was going to end up in the hospital by Friday evening. They are telegraphing concerns again here and the next few days are going to be critical for him. He's in the right place. He's got great doctors, but these are -- these are -- this is a significant sort of issue that they're dealing with and they have to make sure that they're on top of it.
TAPPER: Well, let's be clear, they might be telegraphing it to brilliant surgeons like you. But to layman like me, I'm not picking up these telegraph symbols. You know, they're hidden in this cloud of what he referred to upbeat attitude. I don't need upbeat attitude as an American citizen. I need to know the facts about how the President is doing.
So, decipher this, because the medical team said that the President received a chest scan, and then it showed expected findings. That's it, expected findings. What -- that means nothing to me. That sounds like he's dismissing it.
TAPPER: But you know what that means. What would you -- what findings are expected? What does that mean to you?
GUPTA: Well, so first of all, it's impart what he didn't say. He didn't say it was normal, which, you know, would have been a thing to say if it were normal. He has -- sounds like, you know, if he's saying expected findings, he saying expected findings on behalf of someone who has significant COVID disease, has he -- does he have significant findings of viral pneumonia? You know, what is it?
There's clearly something going on there. But again, he did not give us the sort of the -- he didn't give us any context for what that means. I added into the fact that the President has now had two bouts where his oxygenation dropped pretty low, it sounds like. It was interesting someone said, well, how low was it? Was it in the low 90s? And his answer was no, no, look, it wasn't in the low 80s.
Well, again, not an answer to the question. I'm not sure why Dr. Conley is doing that. It's just strange, to be honest. But regardless, he had to two episodes where dropped as oxygenation. He had a high fever, it sounds like, on Friday. He is on steroid medication which is -- they revealed that today. He's gotten at least two doses of that.
He received a totally experimental monoclonal antibody therapy as well on Friday, and he is on an emergency use authorization medication called Remdesivir. So, you have several different things going on here. Even when they gave the monoclonal antibody, that was a decision matrix that probably reflected a very significant level of concern.
Now, you've added in two more medications, revealed that the President's lungs have had a hard time keeping up, you know, because he's had this low oxygenation, and they're trying to give him anti -- potent anti-inflammatories to treat some of that. So, there's a lot going on right now with the president. Many doctors involved.
The idea that he would be going home tomorrow, which is what another doctor said -- first of all, just the Remdesivir alone is a five-day course that's supposed to be administered in the hospital. Would they really -- would they really abandon the course halfway through? You know, I don't get it. There's a lot of inconsistency here, but what I take away deciphering this is that there is a very significant level of concern right now.
TAPPER: It sounds also, Sanjay, like you don't think that President Trump will or should be discharged from Walter Reed Medical Center tomorrow.
GUPTA: No, I really don't. I mean, look, call it an abundance of caution, whatever you want. He is on three different -- he has received three different medications --
TAPPER: Serious medications.
GUPTA: He's dropped his oxygenation level low. Serious medications, experimental medications, sort of this idea of we're going to try the kitchen sink mentality sort of at the President. And by the way, the doctors that are taking care of him, again, we've looked up some of their backgrounds, excellent doctors. I don't question the medical care that he's going to receive.