While roaming around the well-equipped presidential suite at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center between IV treatments of remdesivir and hourly vital checks, President Trump has repeatedly said that he is desperate to get out of there.
So on Sunday evening, just after 5pm, he did just that. After being bored and irritated while convalescing from the coronavirus, the President made his way to the back seat of a black Chevrolet Suburban. As the SUV traveled at a snail’s pace down Rockville Pike, President Trump waved frantically while two US Secret Service agents who were dressed in medical gowns and donned respirator masks and eye protection, stared straight ahead.
This image was dreamed up by the President himself and his closest group of aides who went with him to Walter Reed. The group included chief of staff Mark Meadows and social media adviser Dan Scavino. Their hopes were that the move might serve to reassure Americans that Trump is both OK and also STILL in command since he had deemed that the main stream media had blown this out of proportion, particularly when they speculated a potential transfer of power to VP Mike Pence.
But the parade just seemed to highlight the relaxed attitude that the Trump Admin has had about the transmission of COVID-19. The tight space inside the presidential car did not allow for proper social distancing from the driver and agent. And while Trump did wear a mask, the fact that he was COVID-positive should have taken precedence and he should not have made a public appearance PERIOD.
Although he claims to “understand” the virus now, this image was sobering. Amid a devastating and deadly pandemic, the POSITIVE president, unnecessarily exposing agents all for a joyride because he was bored.
Seconds before he appeared outside, Trump said in a video, “I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school… This isn’t the let’s read the book school and I get it.”
After the parade, members of the Secret Service voiced their growing concern at what many believe is total disregard for their well-being amid a deadly and highly contagious pandemic. Even as agents have tested positive for Covid while accompanying the President to political rallies, he insisted on continuing even against federal health guidelines. Some employees have self-quarantined but others have been forced to work overtime to fill the empty spots.
One current Secret Service agent who works on the presidential and first family detail said of Trump’s joyride, “That should never have happened.” He pointed out that those agents who went along for that ride would now have to quarantine.
The agent, echoing concerns of many people at the Secret Service, said, “I mean, I wouldn’t want to be around them. The frustration with how we’re treated when it comes to decisions on this illness goes back before this though. We’re not disposable.”
Another Secret Service agent expressed his concern at the ride around, but he expressed sympathy for those around the President, knowing that if they pushed back, there would be fallout. The agent said simply, “You can’t say no.”
Let this sink in: Secret Service agents DO have the power to say no to situations that could put a president in danger, they do NOT have the power to say no to situations that could endanger their own lives.
A third agent said: “It was simply reckless.”
But another, however, tried to downplay the severity, saying, “I’ve watched some of the news today and it’s ridiculous to say the President is trying to kill off his detail…. He’s unconventional, but we get the job done.”
The White House maintains that measures were taken to protect all involved.
Deputy press secretary Judd Deere said, “Appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the President and all those supporting it, including (personal protective equipment). The movement was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.”
But health professionals, medical experts and physicians are all highly critical of the move.
Dr. James P. Phillips, affiliated with Walter Reed, tweeted, “That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack… The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play.”
Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential “drive-by” just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.— Dr. James P. Phillips, MD (@DrPhillipsMD) October 4, 2020
Dr. Leana Wen, an ER physician and CNN medical analyst, also tweeted about the situation, saying if her patient was “in unstable condition + contagious illness, & he suddenly left the hospital to go for a car ride that endangers himself & others: I’d call security to restrain him then perform a psychiatric evaluation to examine his decision-making capacity.”
If @realDonaldTrump were my patient, in unstable condition + contagious illness, & he suddenly left the hospital to go for a car ride that endangers himself & others:— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) October 4, 2020
I’d call security to restrain him then perform a psychiatric evaluation to examine his decision-making capacity.
Supporters had continued to gather all weekend outside the entrance to Walter Reed. And by Sunday afternoon, there were several dozen supporters hanging around.
Inside the hospital, Trump was told about the crowd and also saw coverage of it on TV in his room.
It might be worth noting that since he arrived at the hospital, Trump has watched countless hours of the television coverage of his health situation. Some might say this isn’t far from his normal routing at home where he watches TV for hours on end as well. The difference now, however, is that he gets interrupted by the monitoring the doctors have to do, doses of therapeutics which must be administered through an IV, and keeping tabs on that his physician Dr. Sean Conley calls the “ups and downs” of coronavirus, including concerning sips in blood oxygen level.
But according to his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who spoke to Fox News, “He’s functioning the same way he functions in the White House or the same way he functions 24 hours a day.”
Over the weekend, Trump pressed his team for some type of public appearance so he could show off his continuing health but the medical professionals involved resisted this.
He continued to push all through Saturday and on Sunday he got frustrated because of the media’s coverage of his sickness, which he deemed overly fatalistic. He was even furious when a quote came out that said his vital signs were “concerning” on Friday.
So, on Saturday, he taped a four-minute video thanking his supporters and he sat for some photos at a round table in what appeared to be a conference room and appeared to be looking at some documents. On Sunday, the White House released more photos, his time showing the President sitting at his wood-paneled conference room while having a conference call with Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.
At no point in the video or the photos was Trump wearing a mask and it has not been made clear if steps were taken to protect the photographers who were working those shoots.
At Walter Reed, Trump doesn’t have his normal wide field of aides- he is staffed by only a minimal number of advisers. Meadows spent both nights over the weekend and was joined by Scavino later on, who tweeted that after a series of negative tests, he planned to work from the hospital until Trump was released.
Scavino posted some pics that seemed to be taken from inside the President’s motorcade on Sunday as they drove past some supporters waving Trump flags. Dozens more supporters drove past, waving American flags and honking their support.
At about 5:15 p.m., police officers started blockading the busy intersection in front of Walter Reed where supporters had gathered. Just a few seconds later, the presidential motorcade rolled by and slowed to a crawl so the President could show his face to supporters.
Supporters cheered loudly as Trump waved and pumped his fist. Most supporters were NOT masked.
The motorcade circled back and as Trump drove past more supporters and cameras flashed, he gave them a thumbs up.
In a matter of minutes, it was over and the White House informed reporters that he was back in Walter Reed.