5 big questions on the White House’s botched handling of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis

As with previous flaps over Trump’s health, there is clearly tension between projecting the kind of strength he likes to see and providing actual, sober-minded details — a tension that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows seemed to acknowledge in his own updates on Trump’s situation.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Meadows acknowledged that Trump was probably watching him on TV and “probably critiquing the way that I’m answering these questions.”

As of Sunday afternoon, there are very valid questions about whether anyone providing details of Trump’s health, including Conley and Meadows, can be trusted. Let’s run down the major questions and contradictions.

1. The oxygen question

At the start of Saturday’s briefings, Conley said Trump “this morning is not on oxygen, not having difficulty breathing or walking around the White House Medical Unit upstairs.”

But that seemed carefully worded. So he wasn’t on oxygen that morning, reporters noted, but what about before?

Conley repeatedly avoided a direct answer, focusing on the present tense:

QUESTION: And he is receiving no — he has not received any supplemental oxygen?

CONLEY: He is not on oxygen right now, that’s right.

QUESTION: He has not received any at all?

CONLEY: He has not needed any this morning today at all. That’s right. Now he’s —

QUESTION: Has he ever been on supplemental oxygen?

CONLEY: Right now, he is not on oxygen —

QUESTION: I understand. I know you keep saying right now. But should we read into the fact that he had been previously —

CONLEY: Yesterday and today he was not on oxygen.

QUESTION: So, he has not been on it during his covid treatment?

CONLEY: He is not on oxygen right now.

When you keep dodging a question like that, it’s for one of two reasons: a) You don’t know the answer (which seems extremely unlikely given that this is Trump’s White House doctor), or, the much-more-likely, b) Trump was on oxygen at some point, but Conley was trying to avoid acknowledging that.

The White House later confirmed, anonymously, that Trump was given oxygen at the White House on Friday before going to Walter Reed hospital. But if that’s the case, it contradicts one of Conley’s answers, when he said, “Yesterday and today he was not on oxygen.”

Conley on Sunday also acknowledged Trump had been on oxygen, while building on his increasingly bizarre commentary. He said that he was “not necessarily” intending to mislead and that he want to be publicly “upbeat.” But he added that he didn’t want to say anything Saturday “that might steer the course of illness in another direction” — as if acknowledging the truth could worsen Trump’s condition.

So for all intents and purposes, he was being deliberately misleading. That alone should call the White House’s candor on this stuff into extreme question. And why wouldn’t the same motivations apply to Sunday’s and future briefings? Are we to now believe that Conley isn’t putting the same rose-colored filter on everything?

It also bears

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