President Donald Trump was taken by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Friday evening amid fears that his Covid-19 diagnosis could foretell an outbreak on Capitol Hill and calls for independent medical experts to evaluate Trump, given his administration's notorious track record of blatant dishonesty.
The president, who confirmed on Twitter early Friday that he and First Lady Melania Trump had both tested positive for the coronavirus, wore a mask and suit as he walked to Marine One, trailed by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Trump gave a thumbs up to news crews but did not stop to address reporters.
CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who was there when the president departed, told host Anderson Cooper that a Trump campaign adviser said "that this is serious, that the president has been having some trouble breathing, that he's been very fatigued today, very tired, and emphasized that this is not just a run-of-the-mill trip up to Walter Reed, that this is a serious situation."
Jim Acosta just now on CNN: "I talked to a Trump campaign advisor a short while ago that said this is serious. That the president has been having some trouble breathing, that he's been very fatigued today, very tired." pic.twitter.com/PciehG4IUg
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 3, 2020
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that "President Trump remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day. Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the president will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days. President Trump appreciates the outpouring of support for both he and the first lady."
After being uncharacteristically absent from Twitter throughout the day, Trump posted a video update not long after boarding the helicopter to head to the military hospital. The video appears to have been recorded before he left the White House.
He doesn't seem like he's in good spirits to me https://t.co/gL2xDPCg3h
— Thor Benson (@thor_benson) October 2, 2020
The Associated Press noted that "earlier Friday the White House said Trump had been injected with an experimental antibody cocktail by the White House physician." He was reportedly given a Regeneron Pharmaceuticals drug that "is in late-stage testing and its safety and effectiveness are not yet known."
Trump's announcement of his positive test came after reports that one of his top aides, Hope Hicks, had contracted the virus. The president was criticized Friday for attending a Thursday fundraiser in New Jersey despite previously being around Hicks and knowing of her diagnosis.
Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, said in a statement Friday that "it seems clear that the Trump White House aimed to suppress the news about Hope Hicks' positive Covid-19 test. And knowing about Hicks' positive test, Donald Trump traveled to a fundraiser, where he was in close proximity to dozens of people, when he should have been in quarantine."
Nothing from this corrupt administration can be trusted. Independent medical experts need to evaluate Trump and report directly to the public.
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) October 2, 2020
"In light of his positive Covid-19 test, the American public must have truthful and timely information about how sick Donald Trump truly may be," Weissman declared. "Unfortunately, Trump and the White House cannot be trusted to share this information."
"To provide confidence to the American people that they know what's going on," he added, "Trump should agree to let independent medical experts evaluate him regularly and have complete access to his medical records, so there can be timely, truthful, and fulsome public reports on his condition."
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan issued a warning to journalists on Friday that "this White House can't be trusted to be truthful about Trump's health."
"In this latest crisis, the predictable cycle of dangerous obfuscation has already begun," noted Sullivan. "It was only after Bloomberg News reported that Trump aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for coronavirus that the White House acknowledged it."
With Trump already hospitalized, she argued that journalists—and by extension the American public—should be more diligent than ever in terms of aggressively seeking out the facts and approaching official White House statements with extreme caution.
What the president (or press secretary) says is news, you say? Given the history of Trump White House lies, the default response should be “prove it.” https://t.co/OmsS8WbaL9
— Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) October 2, 2020
"Reporters should be pressing for documentation, specific timelines, and statements from credible medical experts," Sullivan wrote.
"Once upon a time, when a president or his press secretary made a statement on an crucially important matter, it was simply considered news. And reported as such," she added. "The time for that is long past. The stakes are higher than ever, and the demand for proof should be, too."
This post has been updated with CNN reporting on President Donald Trump's condition.