White House physician Sean Conley draws scrutiny for rosy assessments of Trump’s health

Without sharing details, the White House’s top medical officer said the pressures of the job were weighing on him, according to two people familiar with his remarks.

Conley now finds himself at the epicenter of the most acute crisis to confront a White House physician in decades: President Trump’s hospitalization after contracting a lethal virus whose risks the president has repeatedly minimized.

Conley’s handling of the situation has come under intense criticism after he gave a rosy pronouncement of Trump’s status Saturday without disclosing that the president had been given supplemental oxygen or put on a steroid reserved for severely ill coronavirus patients.

The White House physician finally disclosed those details Sunday, acknowledging that Trump’s oxygen level had dropped at one point. He said that he had not shared the information initially because he did not want to cause alarm.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness, has had,” Conley said. “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. . . . The fact of the matter is that he’s doing really well.”

But long before the president contracted a virus especially lethal to older people, some of Conley’s former colleagues said they were disappointed in what they view as his lack of independence from White House politics.

“Every statement he is giving appears to be political, dictated by the White House or the president,” said one person who has worked with him, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the White House. “These are not the statements a medical doctor gives.”

Conley did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement, White House spokesman Judd Deere said, “The fact that this publication has chosen to write a hit piece on the President’s physician, who is an officer in the U.S. Navy, at this critical time is outright disgusting and irresponsible.”

Deere added that Conley is an eminently qualified and “talented physician with a wealth of experience well-suited to serve President Trump and ensure he fully recovers from COVID-19 and remains very healthy to continue his work on behalf of the American people,” he added.

Questions about Conley began bubbling this spring when he treated Trump with hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial treatment touted by the president as a wonder drug, even as some studies showed it could increase the risk for some patients. In a May 18 memo, Conley said he concluded that “the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”

The White House has also repeatedly cited Conley in statements asserting that the administration was properly mitigating the risks of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, despite the fact that the president and his aides have eschewed masks and held public gatherings. In March, after a

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President Trump furious at chief of staff for contradicting White House physician, sources say

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.



Mark Meadows wearing a suit and tie: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks to the media about US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, October 2, 2020. - Meadows addressed the positive Covid-19 tests of US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. "They remain in good spirits. The president does have mild symptoms and as we look to try to make sure that not only his health and safety and welfare is good, we continue to look at that for all of the american people," Meadows said. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)


© SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks to the media about US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, October 2, 2020. – Meadows addressed the positive Covid-19 tests of US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. “They remain in good spirits. The president does have mild symptoms and as we look to try to make sure that not only his health and safety and welfare is good, we continue to look at that for all of the american people,” Meadows said. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

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“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

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White House physician says Trump oxygen level dropped twice

  • White House physician Sean Conley admitted at a Sunday press briefing that President Trump was given supplemental oxygen on Saturday, which he declined to acknowledge the day before.
  • “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness, has had,” Conley said.
  • Conley’s statements would back up White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who expressed concerns about Trump’s condition on Saturday.
  • Since Friday, Trump has received a second dose of the antiviral drug remdesivir, along with a dose of dexamethasone, to fight the coronavirus.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

White House physician Sean Conley admitted at a Sunday briefing that President Trump was given supplemental oxygen on Saturday, which he declined to acknowledge at yesterday’s briefing.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness, has had,” he said. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so, came off as if we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true. He is doing really well and…if everything continues to go well, we’re going to start discharge plans back to the White House.”

This revelation would support statements made by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows the day before, on Saturday, regarding Trump’s condition as he battles the coronavirus.

Meadows said that Trump experienced a “very concerning” period on Friday when his blood oxygen level dropped and he developed a high fever, and faced a “critical” 48-hour period at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center, according to The Associated Press. He also said that Trump was “not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.”

At one point, Trump’s oxygen levels dropped to 93%, according to the doctors, below the 95% figure that is cited as the lower limit for normal blood-oxygen saturation.

 

Late Saturday, Conley said that the medical team overseeing Trump was “cautiously optimistic” but that the President was “not yet out of the woods.”

Dr. Brian Garibaldi said Trump also received a second dose of the antiviral drug remdesivir, along with a dose of dexamethasone.

Garibaldi said that Trump is “up and well” and that the medical team wanted him to remain active on Sunday.

Trump has been at Walter Reed since Friday after he and First Lady Melania Trump announced that they had contracted the coronavirus, and the medical team said that he could be discharged as early as Monday if his condition warrants a release.

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White House Physician Says Trump Had Been Given Supplemental Oxygen and Dexamethasone

“The 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. 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’d even intervene. It was the 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 the last couple of days, update you on 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 [to] the president we try some supplemental oxygen [and] see how he’d respond. He was fairly adamant that he didn’t need it. He was not short 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.” “Today he feels well. He’s been up and around or 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.” “Dr. Conley, you said there were two instances where he had drops in oxygen. Can you walk us through the second one?” “Yeah, yesterday there was another episode where he dropped down, about 93 percent. He doesn’t ever feel short of breath. We watched it, and it returned back up.” [crosstalk] “Why did it take until today to disclose that the president had been administered oxygen?” “That’s a good question. Thank you. 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, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true. And so I have, here I have it. He is — the fact of the matter is is that he’s doing really well.”

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Trump’s physician hopeful he could return to White House as soon as tomorrow despite two drops in oxygen levels

President Donald Trump’s physician, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley, said Sunday morning that the President has had at least two concerning drops in oxygen levels, but is doing well and he is hoping Trump could be discharged as early as tomorrow from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.



a man talking on a cell phone: WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 02: U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the White House for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the South Lawn of the White House on October 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for coronavirus. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


© Drew Angerer/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 02: U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the White House for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the South Lawn of the White House on October 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have both tested positive for coronavirus. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Some seven months into a pandemic that has killed more than 209,000 Americans, the nation is now facing a grave governing crisis with its commander in chief hospitalized — his condition hinging on his progress over the coming days — as the White House events of the past week serve as a textbook example of how not to handle a deadly virus.

Late Saturday night, the public learned new details about why Trump was airlifted to the hospital Friday, when chief of staff Mark Meadows said during an interview with Fox News that Trump had a fever on Friday morning and his oxygen level had “dropped rapidly.” Meadows added that Trump has made “unbelievable improvements from yesterday morning.”

A memo from Trump’s physician earlier Saturday night said that Trump had “made substantial progress” since his diagnosis but “is not yet out of the woods.”

Speaking from a White House that already has a huge credibility problem with the public, Meadows’ statement capped a 24-hour period that served as a master class in opacity and contradiction that raised major questions about the President’s health — and renewed questions about this administration’s ability to tell the truth.

Trump has been watching and critiquing coverage of his hospitalization from the presidential suite at Walter Reed and has been agitated at what he claims are exaggerated descriptions of his condition, people familiar with the matter said.

Those people told CNN that Trump seemed particularly upset when he saw a quote saying he was displaying “concerning” symptoms on Friday attributed to a person familiar with his health but later assigned by the New York Times and Associated Press to Meadows.

The comment about the President’s vitals hinted that his condition was more worrisome than his doctors let on. But the President’s aversion to appearing weak and sick is now what is driving the effort to project resolve, including a video he tweeted from Walter Reed on Saturday, the photos released by the White House of him working and the multiple accounts of phone calls where he sounded strong by his allies and family members.

For much of this year, Trump has spun an alternate reality about the dangers of coronavirus — disputing science and the efficacy of masks, downplaying the risks to the American people, and making false statements about how 99% of coronavirus cases in America are

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White House physician walks back a confusing timeline of Trump’s coronavirus infection that implied he was diagnosed days before announcing his test results



a man wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump disembarks from the Marine One helicopter followed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as he arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after the White House announced that he "will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days" after testing positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Joshua Roberts/Reuters


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President Donald Trump disembarks from the Marine One helicopter followed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows as he arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after the White House announced that he “will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days” after testing positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Joshua Roberts/Reuters

White House physician Sean Conley offered a new timeline for the president’s coronavirus infection during a press briefing Saturday morning. He later walked back the statement.

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Conley held the briefing to review President Donald Trump’s condition after he was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center on Friday evening. The physician said Trump’s condition had improved, but he also said the president’s COVID-19 infection had been identified a day earlier than previously thought.

“Just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” Conley said. “The first week of COVID, and in particular days 7 to 10, are the most critical in determining the likely course of this illness.”

That would mean that Trump had been diagnosed on Wednesday.

Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a physician on the team caring for the president at Walter Reed, also said that Trump had received an experimental antibody treatment “48 hours ago,” which would be roughly Thursday morning.

This was a different timeline than the one constructed by incremental statements from the White House. Trump announced his positive test results early Friday morning, and the White House disclosed his experimental antibody treatment later that day.

When asked to clarify, Conley contradicted his earlier statement.

“Thursday afternoon following the news of a close contact is when we repeated testing, and given kind of clinical indications had a little bit more concern. And that’s when late that night we got the PCR confirmation that he was [positive],” he said.

Shortly after the briefing, Conley released a statement retracting his initial timeline from the press briefing, saying he “incorrectly” said 72 hours instead of “day three” and 48 hours instead of “day two.” (Even though Garibaldi said “48 hours,” not Conley himself.)

“The President was first diagnosed with COVID-19 on the evening of Thursday, October 1st and had received Regeron’s antibody cocktail on Friday, October 2nd,” the statement said.

The company that makes the antibody treatment is called Regeneron.

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White House physician dodges questions about Trump’s health

  • White House physician Sean Conley on Saturday told reporters that the president was not currently using supplemental oxygen, however, would not clarify whether President Trump had used it so far in his coronavirus treatment. 
  • Conley addressed members of the media to provide updates about Trump’s hospitalization for COVID-19.
  • He also would not tell reporters the date that Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

White House physician Sean Conley at a press conference on Saturday dodged questions and declined to say whether President Donald Trump has at any point required supplemental oxygen during his treatment for COVID-19.

“This morning, the president is doing very well,” Conley said during the Saturday morning press conference. “The president has been fever-free for over 24 hours,” he added but wouldn’t clarify what the president’s temperature was when he had a fever.

Conely also said that Trump was not presently using supplemental oxygen and most recently had a blood oxygen level reading of 96%. 

“You keep saying right now,” one reporter asked. “Should we read into the fact he had been [using supplemental oxygen] previously?”

“Yesterday and today, he was not on oxygen,” Conley responded.

Conley also told reporters on Saturday that Trump had not had trouble breathing.

“No. No he has not,” he said.” “Never did. He had a little cough. He had a fever. More than anything, he’s felt run down.”

But several outlets, including The Associated Press, reported on Saturday that Trump had been administered supplemental oxygen at the White House on Friday prior to being flown to Walter Reed. 

The White House did not immediately return Business Insider’s request for clarification following the press conference. Conley added Saturday the president was in good spirits and said Trump felt that he was in good enough condition to leave the hospital, although Conley on Saturday could not provide a discharge date for the president.

 

“The big plan for today is to encourage him to eat, to drink, to stay hydrated, and to be working and doing the things that he needs to do to get well,” Conley told reporters outside the Maryland hospital. 

The president at around 1 a.m. on Friday announced on Twitter that both he and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, had tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The first lady had not shown signs that she required hospitalization, Conley said Saturday.

Trump late Friday had been taken via helicopter from the White House to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, “out of an abundance of caution,” The White House said in a statement at the time.

Conley confirmed Saturday that the president had been given two treatments: remdesivir, a COVID-19 treatment with emergency FDA authorization, and Regeneron’s experimental antibody drug since he tested positive.

Conley also wouldn’t answer questions about when the president last tested negative for the virus before he tested positive.

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White House physician to give update on Trump’s condition after COVID diagnosis

White House physician Dr, Sean Conley will give an update on President Trump’s condition on Saturday, a day after Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and was moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Conley will give the update at 11 a.m. outside Walter Reed, where President Trump was moved on Friday “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the White House. It had previously described the president’s symptoms as “mild.”

TRUMP TWEETS FROM HOSPITAL AS DOC CONFIRMS REMDESIVIR TREATMENT 

Prior to moving to Walter Reed, on Friday afternoon, Dr. Sean P. Conley, the president’s physician, released an update on the president’s condition.

“Following PCR-confirmation of the President’s diagnosis, as a precautionary measure he received a single 8-gram dose of Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail,” a memo released Friday afternoon by Dr. Sean P. Conley, the president’s physician stated. “He completed the infusion without incident.”

“In addition to the polyclonal antibodies, the President has been taking zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and a daily aspirin,” Conley said.

Later Friday, Conley said Trump was “doing very well” and was taking Remdesivir.

“He has completed his first dose and is resting comfortably,” he said.

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Trump, meanwhile, tweeted out similar sentiments.

“Going well, I think!,” the president wrote shortly after 11:30 p.m. ET. “Thank you to all. LOVE!!!”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Dom Calicchio contributed to this report.

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Read the letter from White House physician Dr. Sean Conley about Trump’s Covid diagnosis

Here’s the letter from the White House physician about President Donald Trump’s positive coronavirus test:

MEMORANDUM FOR: KAYLEIGH MCENANY, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY

FROM: SEAN P. CONLEY, DO, FACEP, PHYSICIAN TO THE PRESIDENT, COMMANDER, U.S. NAVY

SUBJECT: President Donald J. Trump & First Lady Melania Trump’s COVID-19 Tests

I release the following information with the permission of President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

This evening I received confirmation that both President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The President and First Lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.

The White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions.

Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments.

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and alerts on Trump’s Covid diagnosis

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Ex-White House physician: Trump is ‘asymptomatic,’ will be ready for next debate

President Trump will “absolutely” be ready before the next presidential debate against Joe Biden, his former White House physician told “Fox & Friends” on Friday.

The commander in chief announced overnight that both he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus and will quarantine at the White House.

Dr. Ronny Jackson, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral who served as physician to the president from 2013 to 2018 and is running for Congress in Texas, said there’s plenty of time between now and the Oct. 15 debate against the Democratic nominee.

“Once he tests negative twice, you know, he should be safe to go back to, you know, to his normal routine, and that will be well before the next debate,” Jackson said.

TRUMP RECEIVES WELL WISHES FROM TOP CRITICS AFTER CORONAVIRUS DIAGNOSIS

Trump is “asymptomatic right now” Jackson noted, adding that the president should have immunity after he recovers with two negative tests.

“We have to remember that he is in great physical health otherwise,” Jackson added.

The president doesn’t have any co-morbidities and, at 74 years old, the vast majority recover quickly, Jackson said.

TRUMP JOINS LIST OF WORLD LEADERS THAT HAVE TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS

The Republican congressional candidate running to represent Texas’s 13th district in the House said Trump has led by example by continuing to be president amid the pandemic and not staying cooped up in the White House.

“I think they’re doing everything they can to keep the president safe and I think they’ve been doing a good job doing that,” Jackson said of the White House protocols.

Trump’s current physician, Dr. Sean Conley, sent out a memo on the Trumps’ positive COVID-19 test.

“This evening I received confirmation that both President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the SARS-coV-2- virus,” Conley said. “The President and First Lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.”

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“The White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions,” he continued.

He added: “Rest assured I expected the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments.”

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