President Donald Trump is furious with chief of staff Mark Meadows after the top West Wing official contradicted the White House physician’s assessment Saturday of the President’s health, two sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN on Sunday.
Meadows is now widely known inside the White House to be the unnamed source who spoke to reporters following the medical briefing Saturday and offered a more dire assessment than Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley had given shortly before. 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 Meadows.
“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,” Meadows said to reporters.
Trump is outraged at Meadows over the botched message, according to a senior Trump adviser.
Officials in the Trump White House have carefully calibrated their statements about the President’s health over the past few days. Meadows’ statement on Saturday capped a 24-hour period of mixed messages from the administration that raised major questions about the President’s health.
CNN previously reported that the President was unhappy with Meadows.
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A separate White House official confirmed Trump is unhappy with Meadows, as the chief of staff is now viewed by Trump advisers as having damaged the credibility of the current medical briefings on the President’s bout with the coronavirus.
Conley had talked with the President before briefing members of press on Saturday, one White House official said. The official added Conley is unlikely to say more than the President wants said.
During a press conference on Trump’s health on Sunday, Conley appeared to blame the media when asked about Meadows’ comments contradicting him, saying the top aide’s remarks had been “misconstrued.”
“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 a high fever and that temporary drop in the saturation, which prompted us to act expediently to move him up here,” Conley said, referring to Walter Reed medical center.
“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,” he added.
Trump did not address the conflicting reports about his condition in a video he tweeted Saturday evening, though he did acknowledge that the days ahead would be crucial.
“I just want to tell you that I’m starting to feel good,” he said. “You don’t know over the next period of a few days, I guess that’s the real test. So, we’ll be seeing what happens over those next couple of days.”
Conley on Sunday also defended the decision to not disclose that the President was administered oxygen, 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’re trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” he said. “The fact of the matter is he’s doing very well.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Sunday.