Trump’s White House doctor faces new scrutiny over Covid testing timeline

While Trump denied having Covid before the first debate, the positive results on September 26, 2020, raised new concerns that Trump put his Democratic opponent at risk in the debate hall. , along with dozens of aides and guests – including the Gold Star family at the reception – whom Trump met at the White House while maintaining a full schedule.

Art Caplan, a bioethicist and director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, told CNN that as Trump’s physician, Conley has an obligation to patients. , which means he will not share the information without the President’s permission. “It leaves the public in a dark, dark way about what serious problems can be,” he said.

But Conley also has a duty to warn as a doctor, Caplan argues, if his patients could put others at risk.

“Ethically, any doctor has an obligation to make sure their patients do not harm others,” he said. “So if you know Trump is positive and you know he’s going to a reveal event and you know there are vulnerable people going to be there… I assume you have an obligation to speak up and notify them.”

Caplan added: “It might be the last thing you’ll ever do as a White House doctor if you do it, but nonetheless, you have an obligation to protect people from harm and let people continue. Being exposed to Covid is absolutely dangerous and I think you have to break the assumptions about privacy.”

Conley, a Navy commander who served as Trump’s doctor from 2018-2021, is not the only White House doctor facing scrutiny. Former Republican congressman turned White House doctor Ronny Jackson of Texas faced criticism this week for falsely suggesting that the new Covid-19 variant Omicron was an “electorate variant”. midterm elections” invented by Democrats so they can push “unclaimed mail-in ballots nationwide” in next year’s election.

Jackson was Conley’s predecessor in the White House Medical Office, where he convened an unusual press conference describing Trump in “excellent health” following his 2018 physical, despite his qualifications. heart disease and obesity. Then, after Trump nominated Jackson to be his Veterans Affairs secretary, allegations of misconduct surfaced, including drinking on the job. A follow-up report by the Department of Defense inspector general earlier this year offered a scathing assessment of Jackson’s conduct as a White House physician.

As White House physicians, both Conley and Jackson served in the Navy. But they did respond to the White House – not the Pentagon – as White House military officials.

When Jackson was investigated by the Department of Defense inspector general for his conduct as a White House physician, it was the result of the inspector general receiving specific complaints about him. So far, there’s been no indication of any complaints against Conley.

A Navy official referred CNN to the White House when asked to comment on Conley. Conley did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The job of a White House doctor is a one-of-a-kind job; While they oversee a team of doctors and nurses, who tend to manage staff, their primary role is to oversee the health of a single patient: the President. A White House doctor travels everywhere the President goes, often following closely behind with a medical bag. They make sure vials of the President’s blood are readily available aboard Air Force One in the event of an emergency, and conduct annual physicals at the Walter Reed National Medical Center.

Proximity can create a relationship that goes beyond the usual dynamics between patient and physician. Biden, who replaced Conley with Dr Kevin O’Connor as his doctor after taking office, asked O’Connor to join him when he met Pope Francis at the Vatican in October.

It’s not uncommon for a president to name his doctor by name when he takes office, even though Biden’s two most recent predecessors both served as incumbent doctors who have attended those who have served before them.

‘Breach of his obligations’

Covering up a president’s health problems is nothing new. But questions surrounding the conduct of Trump’s White House doctors underscore how the administration’s eventual willingness to deceive – and frankly lie – often pervades the nooks and crannies of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump’s decision to keep his first positive test secret was condemned by at least one person former White House aide, Alyssa Farah, who said that Trump showed a “blatant lack of concern for public health” by not disclosing a positive test result.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday that Conley “breached his obligation” by not isolating Trump.

“If I were the White House doctor and I was told, ‘Don’t say anything about this,’ I would resign,” Reiner said.

According to the Guardian, Conley called Meadows on the night of September 26 while Trump was on his way to a rally in Pennsylvania, telling him that Trump had tested positive. Meadows wrote that Conley told him, “Stop the President from leaving. He just tested positive for Covid,” according to the excerpt.

Trump was later retested and received a negative result. Meadows writes that Trump made the negative test “fully allowed to hit as if nothing happened.”

“I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks,” Meadows wrote, according to The Guardian, “but I also don’t want to alarm the public if there’s nothing to worry about.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Trump said, “Actually, a test showed I did not have Covid prior to the debate.”

Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for Covid-19 early on October 2 and that he was hospitalized later that day. In the days between Trump’s first positive test and the publicly revealed positive on October 1, Trump held events at White House, including the White House reception for Gold Star families. He also took part in his first debate with Biden on September 29 in Cleveland, where he arrived too late to be tested. And he held a rally in Minnesota the day after the debate.

Review of pink

After Trump was hospitalized on October 2, Conley faced a wave of questions about The President’s status is under fire for giving a positive diagnosis at the same time that Meadows has issued a more alarming assessment of Trump’s health.

Conley was also criticized for not disclosing that the President was given oxygen, which he said was because he wanted to “reflect the upbeat attitude of the entire team.”

Later reports revealed Trump was sicker than what was revealed at the time.

Explaining why assessing his rosy condition, Conley said at the time, “I’m trying to reflect the optimistic attitude that the whole team, the President, his illness process. I don’t. wanted to present any information that might steer the course of the disease in a different direction, and in doing so we were trying to hide something.”

During his briefings, Conley was pressed by reporters about when the President received the last negative Covid-19 test result. He won’t answer.

“I won’t participate in all the tests that will return, but he and all staff are tested regularly,” Conley said on October 3.

“I don’t want to go back,” he said on October 5 when asked again about when Trump last tested negative.

A long secret history

Trump’s Covid diagnosis is hardly the first time the President’s health has been scrutinized – and shielded by the White House.

Timothy Naftali, CNN presidential historian and professor at New York University, wrote last year after Trump’s diagnosis about how often the president’s health problems were hidden. He explained how, 100 years earlier, White House doctors had covered up President Woodrow Wilson’s flu and the mild stroke he suffered in 1919. Naftali noted that presidents’ illnesses continued to followers, including Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, have been preserved. from the general public too – even though they are not dealing with infectious diseases that can spread to those around them.

“The president’s health is considered a national security secret and the president’s private matter,” Naftali said. “And when presidents become seriously ill, the wall of secrecy grows thicker.”

In the nuclear age, health issues are often overlooked or hidden for national security reasons, Naftali said, arguing that America’s adversaries should not know that the commander-in-chief is in a state of emergency. weakened state. But Naftali argues that once the president leaves office, the records surrounding the president’s health, which are usually kept private, should be made public.

Under the Presidential Records Act, an outgoing president can restrict access to medical records for 12 years, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“At a certain point, that national security argument disappears, which is why we should know everything about President Trump’s duel with Covid,” he said. “There’s no national security reason – one could argue there’s a fall 2020 reason – at this point it’s not known exactly when he tested positive.”

CNN’s Barbara Starr and Jen Christensen contributed to this report.


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