Trump taps U.S. Marine Band for White House event and raises questions about employing the military for political purposes

The band has played at every presidential inauguration since 1801, when President Thomas Jefferson gave the group the title “The President’s Own,” according to its online history. The band is called upon when the president is discharging his duties as head of state.

But federal regulations bar the use of government resources for, and the coercion of federal employees into, political activities aimed at a candidate’s reelection — and taxpayer-funded military bands cannot be used for campaign events. Members of the U.S. military are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaign events.

Administration and military officials said the activity on Saturday was an official White House event called, “Peaceful Protest for Law and Order.”

“The United States Marine Band provided musical support for the Peaceful Protest for Law and Order event, an official event on the South Lawn of the White House,” Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a spokesman for the Marine Corps, said in a statement. “All tasking for U.S. Marine Band support at the White House, including for this event, is generated by the White House Military Office.”

Judd Deere, a spokesman for the White House, said: “The event yesterday was an official White House event and was conducted in compliance with the Hatch Act.” The Hatch Act bars federal employees from using their titles and positions to engage in political activity. The president and vice president are exempt but do fall under criminal provisions that prohibit the coercion of federal government employees to engage in political activity.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and his predecessor, retired Marine Corps general Jim Mattis, have sought to protect the military from overtly partisan activity. But their efforts have been challenged by a president who has shown a willingness to defy civil-military norms respected by his predecessors, beginning with his first official visit to the Pentagon, when he used the Hall of Heroes to sign a ban on travel from majority-Muslim nations.

In the years since, Trump has treated troop talks and Pentagon appearances like campaign rallies, intervened in military justice cases and signed “Make America Great Again” paraphernalia on official presidential visits to military facilities overseas. He deployed active-duty forces to the southern border with Mexico before the 2018 midterm elections, taking heat for using the military as a political prop.

On Saturday, the Marine Band provided the musical backdrop as a crowd gathered under the South Portico of the White House, where Trump gave remarks from the balcony due to his coronavirus infection. Despite being billed as a non-campaign event, Trump began his talk by calling on the guests to vote his opponents “into oblivion” and attacked his Democratic opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.

Trump’s rallies regularly make use of show tunes, including from “Phantom of the Opera.” Saturday’s event was no exception. One “Blexit” supporter posted a video on Instagram beaming with excitement as the Marine Band played “America” from “West Side Story.”

“We are here at the White House, guys. Look!” the supporter said. “Isn’t it an

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The White House has dodged questions for six straight days about when Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus

At least three other White House officials have dodged the same question for six straight days, examples of which you can watch in the video above. Trump’s last negative test is one of several pieces of incomplete or contradictory information about his coronavirus infection that the White House has refused to clarify. Health experts have said the negative test information is needed to know how long Trump may have been contagious and who might have to isolate after coming into contact with him.

On Saturday, White House physician Sean Conley declined to say when Trump last tested negative.

On Tuesday, Morgenstern said he did not know when Trump last tested negative.

And by Thursday, White House communications director Alyssa Farah told reporters, “I can’t reveal that at this time, the doctors would like to keep it private.”

Earlier this week, two officials familiar with the situation told The Washington Post that Trump had not been tested daily for the virus in recent months.

In the six days before he announced his positive test Trump traveled to six cities, including to Cleveland for the first presidential debate Sept. 29.

On Friday, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, called the Barrett ceremony a “superspreader event.”

“We had a superspreader event in the White House, and it was a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks,” Fauci told CBS News. “So the data speak for themselves.”

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Trump itching to get back to campaign trail, but he and White House evasive on health questions

Trump said he would be tested Friday.

During a friendly Thursday night interview with a political ally, Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, Trump ignored questions about whether he had been tested recently or had tested negative for COVID-19.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump gestures on the South Portico after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington.

President Donald Trump gestures on the South Portico after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington.

President Donald Trump gestures on the South Portico after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington.

“Well, what we’re doing is, probably the test will be tomorrow, the actual test, because there’s no reason to test all the time,” Trump said, referring to Friday. “But they found very little infection or virus, if any. I don’t know if they found any, I didn’t go into it greatly with the doctors.”

The president said during the same interview that he hoped to get back out on the campaign trail as soon as Saturday and Sunday — he floated Florida and Pennsylvania as possibly locales for rallies.

But on Friday morning, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany indicated that Trump might not actually travel as soon as Saturday.

“Logistically whether tomorrow is possible, it would be tough, it would be a decision for the campaign,” she said during an interview with Fox News.

The president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said in a memorandum released by the White House late Thursday that he anticipated Trump could make a “safe return to public engagements” as soon as Saturday, which he said would mark “day 10” since Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

He did not say how the White House would determine the president was no longer contagious, and when McEnany was asked, she deferred to Trump’s doctors.

On Thursday night, Trump paused his interview with Hannity twice to clear his throat, apparently coughing, a potential symptom of the coronavirus.

On Friday afternoon, he dismissed any concerns. “There’s always that lingering thing for a couple of days,” Trump told another ally, Rush Limbaugh, during a radio interview billed as a “radio rally.” “It’s called the lingering thing.”

PHOTO: President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township, Penn., Sept. 22, 2020.

President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township,

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Questions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight

The White House and President TrumpDonald John TrumpJaime Harrison debates Graham behind plexiglass shield Doctors, White House staff offer conflicting messages on president’s health Trump given second dose of Remdesivir ‘without complication’, ‘not yet out of the woods’, Conley says MORE‘s doctors sought Sunday to project a positive message about the president’s battle against COVID-19 even as contradictory statements and limited information left a number of unanswered questions about his condition.

The team of doctors caring for President Trump on Sunday said he could return to the White House as soon as Monday while at the same time disclosing he had been on supplemental oxygen and that he was receiving a drug normally given to seriously ill patients.

And Trump himself sparked concern – and outrage – when he left his hospital room at Walter Reed Military Medical Center to wave to the supporters gathered outside from the back seat of an SUV.

White House physician Sean Conley said Sunday that Trump has experienced two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen levels since he was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus late Thursday evening and that he had received supplemental oxygen at least once. 

The doctors also said Trump was given a steroid called dexamethasone that is generally given to people seriously ill with COVID-19, which has killed nearly 210,000 people in the U.S.

 

The White House physician admitted that officials had been intentionally vague a day earlier when pointedly asked when Trump had been administered supplemental oxygen in an attempt to be “upbeat” about the president’s prognosis.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over 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, came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” he told reporters in a Sunday morning news conference outside Walter Reed Medical Center, where Trump has been since Friday.

White House communications director Alyssa Farah after the medical briefing echoed that sentiment.

“The other point I would make, which is what [Conley] alluded to, is when you’re treating a patient, you want to project confidence. You want to lift their spirits, and that was the intent,” she said.

Even as he disclosed more on Sunday, Conley avoided answering questions about what X-rays and CT scans had revealed and whether Trump’s lungs had been damaged.

Asked whether Trump is being held in a negative pressure room, Conley declined to “get into the specifics of his care.”

Conley also said that he didn’t know whether Trump had received another dose of supplemental oxygen on Saturday, the second time he experienced a drop in his oxygen level, adding that he would need to check with the president’s nurses.

Trump himself appeared in a video later Sunday, promising a “surprise visit” to supporters gathered outside the hospital and saying that he had “learned a lot” about COVID-19 since his

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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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White House triggers questions and confusion about Trump’s coronavirus case

A White House official later added that Trump’s vitals had become concerning Friday morning, hours before he was moved to the hospital. Meanwhile, numerous indications emerged that Trump had received oxygen at the White House during that time period — a step frequently needed for patients with serious coronavirus cases. The revelations swiftly cast a harsh spotlight on Conley’s carefully phrased denials about Trump needing oxygen assistance.

Conley and Trump’s medical team also sent shockwaves through the White House and political landscape with their timeline of Trump’s first positive coronavirus test. During the briefing, Conley said it had been 72 hours since Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19, suggesting Trump knew about his status on Wednesday, well before he revealed it overnight Thursday into Friday. That would mean Trump had gone on with his normal schedule, traveling and working in close proximity to aides and staffers, for well over a full day.

Yet again, though, the White House scrambled minutes after the briefing to clarify the timeline from the medical team. Another White House aide said the doctor had meant to say “day 3” instead of “72 hours,” since Trump had been diagnosed Thursday night. Conley made the clarification official a few hours later, releasing what amounted to the fourth statement of the day from the White House.

Still, questions lingered about Conley’s wording that Trump’s medical team had “repeated testing” on “Thursday afternoon,” perhaps indicating an earlier initial test before firm confirmation that evening.

It was a head-spinning sequence reflective of a White House — and president — not always known for transparency on health matters. As a candidate, Trump infamously had his doctor declare he would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” And as president, Trump’s former physician triggered eyerolls when he claimed the president could have lived to “200 years old” with a better diet. The White House has also given head-scratching explanations for an unusual trip to Walter Reed last year.

“The world has to know whether the president of the United States is in good health,” said Scott Jennings, who worked for President George W. Bush and is close to the Trump White House. “You cannot have inconsistent reports about the president’s health.”

“I am stunned that the White House put the president’s doctor out there and then issued a contradictory statement,” he added. “You can’t do that. This just invites questions about what’s going on there.”

Since the coronavirus hit the U.S., the White House has similarly been coy at times about staffers testing positive, with some of the more notable infections only being confirmed after leaks to the press.

Trump’s case has been no different. One former senior administration official said only a few people, like the president’s family, actually know the full truth about Trump’s condition. As a result, conflicting rumors about Trump’s health have been flying around the presidential orbit.

In a four-minute video released Saturday evening, Trump contradicted Meadows and other top officials who had framed his health

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White House doctor says Trump coronavirus symptoms improving while sidestepping questions

White House physician Sean Conley said Saturday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump campaign manager tests positive for COVID-19 Trump given Remdesivir as treatment for COVID-19 infection ICE launching billboard campaign highlighting ‘at-large immigration violators’ MORE is doing “very well” after being hospitalized with coronavirus and that his symptoms of a mild cough, nasal congestion and fatigue are improving, while sidestepping questions about Trump’s treatment and creating uncertainty about the timeline of his diagnosis. 

“At this time the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” Conley told reporters outside Walter Reed Medical Center, where Trump was hospitalized Friday evening. “Thursday, he had a mild cough and some nasal congestion and fatigue, all of which are now resolving and improving.” 

At the same time, a source familiar with the president’s health told reporters that the president’s vitals over the past 24 hours were “very concerning” and described the next 48 hours as “critical in terms of his care.” 

“We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” the person said.

The statement, which was not on the record, seemed to diverge considerably from Conley’s positive assessment and quickly created confusion about Trump’s condition less than 24 hours after he was admitted to the military hospital in Bethesda, Md.

Conley did not give a date when he expects Trump to be released from the hospital, but said the president has been fever-free for over 24 hours after experiencing a fever “Thursday into Friday.” Conley declined to disclose the specific temperature of the president’s fever. 

At the first press briefing from a doctor since Trump announced his positive test early Friday morning, Conley danced around questions about whether the president had ever been on oxygen, repeatedly saying he was not currently on it. He later said that Trump had not been on it Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Conley also said that Trump has not experienced difficulty breathing. 

“More than anything, he’s felt run down,” Conley told reporters. 

Conley also raised new questions about the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis when he described Trump as “72 hours” into his diagnosis. The White House revealed Trump’s positive test in the early hours of Friday morning, which was less than 48 hours ago.

A White House official later clarified Conley’s remarks, saying that he meant to say that it is day three of the president’s diagnosis, not 72 hours. The official reiterated that Trump was diagnosed late Thursday night. 

Trump traveled to participate in a fundraiser at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Thursday afternoon despite officials knowing that one of his top aides, Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksTrump campaign manager tests positive for COVID-19 Trump given Remdesivir as treatment for COVID-19 infection Kellyanne Conway tests positive for COVID-19 MORE, had been diagnosed with the virus. The fundraiser would have taken place after Trump’s diagnosis if he were diagnosed 72 hours ago. 

The doctors did not give a date of the president’s last negative test, which is

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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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Trump’s Doctor’s Briefing Raises More Questions COVID-19 Diagnosis

During a press conference Saturday from Walter Reed National Military Center, where President Donald Trump was admitted Friday, White House physician Sean Conley said he and his medical team are “extremely happy with the progress” Trump has made since he announced he tested positive for COVID-19 early Friday morning.

However, some of the information provided at the briefing raised even more questions about the state of the President’s health and the timeline of his illness.

Conley said that the President had “a mild cough and some nasal congestion and fatigue” on Thursday, “all of which are now resolving and improving.” The President had a fever Thursday into Friday, but has been fever-free since Friday morning, he said.

Dr. Sean Dooley, another member of the President’s medical team, said the team is also monitoring President Trump’s cardiac function, kidney function and liver function, all of which are currently healthy. He added that the president is in “exceptionally good spirits” and told the team that he felt like he “could walk out of here today.” When asked about the President’s risk factors, Conley said that Trump is a 74-year old man who is “slightly overweight,” which puts him at a greater risk of complications from the virus. But Conley said both the President’s cholesterol and blood pressure are healthy.

However, shortly after the conference ended, the White House press pool received a much more alarming statement from a source familiar with the President’s health. “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,” the statement said. “We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”

Conley also said the President is currently not on supplemental oxygen, and is not currently having difficulty breathing or walking around the White House medical unit. He stressed that the President’s admittance to the hospital was a “precautionary measure to provide state of the art monitoring and any care that he may need.”

But Conley dodged questions about whether Trump was ever on supplemental oxygen during the illness, only saying that he was not on oxygen Thursday and “while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” on Friday. The Associated Press and the New York Times reported shortly after the Saturday briefing that the President received supplemental oxygen while in the White House on Friday, before he was flown to the hospital.

A member of the medical team said the President was given the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir Friday night, and the team plans on giving him a five day treatment course. (The FDA has authorized the use of remdesivir on hospitalized COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms.) When asked if the President would complete the course of treatment at the hospital, Conley said the President would leave the hospital when the team agrees it’s “safe and appropriate.”

The team also said the President received an experimental drug treatment of “antibody therapy” 48 hour ago, and

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Trump team’s infections raise questions about Covid-19 aboard ‘the flying White House’

The positive coronavirus test for a high-profile Air Force One passenger raises the possibility that has concerned aviation experts for months: that the virus can easily spread inside a confined aircraft cabin.



a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 16: Air Force One is seen for  U.S. President Donald Trump's visit to the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)


© Chris Graythen/Getty Images
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 16: Air Force One is seen for U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Experts fear the infection potentially puts at risk hundreds of people who travel on, operate and maintain “the flying White House” — threatening not only a highly recognizable icon of America, but also the smooth operation of a key national security tool used to evacuate the president in a crisis.

Administration officials said Friday that presidential senior adviser Hope Hicks was showing coronavirus symptoms while she flew on the world’s most famous jet earlier this week, raising the concern her infection could be linked to the infections of President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump.

Experts have cautioned that during the pandemic, the unique air flow dynamics in the confined cabin of a jetliner — even one as large as the Boeing 747-200, known in the military as a VC-25 — could put unmasked passengers at a risk of catching the deadly virus.

Administration officials said Friday that Hicks began displaying symptoms on the flight back from the President’s Wednesday rally in Minnesota and was isolated in a separate cabin. She was seen deplaning Air Force One from a rear set of steps not typically used by the President.

“Social distancing is much easier on Air Force One than any commercial airliner,” said Professor Yan Chen of Purdue University, a researcher who studies the airborne spread of coronavirus inside an airliner. Chen said most passengers do not sit in cramped rows on board the multi-room, highly modified jet, “but complete isolation is very difficult.”

Chen said the air onboard large jets, including commercial airliners and Air Force One, is typically filtered through High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filters, which are designed to catch most particles. The result is the air even on large planes is completely replaced every few minutes.

Air Force One also carries a special onboard oxygen system, although its capabilities aren’t clear.

Commercial airlines insist air filters make flying in a plane safer than sitting in a shared room in a building. But it does not eliminate the risk of contracting the virus when a contagious passenger is onboard.

“If you have a patient inside of an airplane, then the droplets breathed out by this patient could be transported in the airplane,” he said.

The White House said the 747 typically used as Air Force One (the term can refer to any aircraft carrying the President) features “4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, including an extensive suite for the President that features a large office, lavatory, and conference room.” CNN journalists who

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