Washington The US President is not allowed to receive visitors, but his supporters are still close to him. A handful of Donald Trump fans posted themselves outside the Walter Reed Military Hospital in Maryland on Saturday night to show their solidarity with the President.
The most important and largest military clinic on the US East Coast, where Washington’s political figures are treated, is 15 kilometers from the White House as the crow flies. Trump had himself delivered on Friday after a positive Covid test and with symptoms of the disease. The last documented request from him came from Twitter. “Everything is fine, I think,” he wrote late on Friday night.
His personal physician Sean P. Conley answered questions about the president’s health for the first time on Saturday. “He’s doing very well,” said the doctor, standing in front of the hospital in white work clothes. Trump has been free of fever for 24 hours, his organ function is normal, he has a “slight cough” and is “in a good mood”. It was unclear when the president could be dismissed.
White House employees, however, contradict this representation. US journalists quoted people familiar with the situation that the president’s vital signs were “very worrying in the past 24 hours.” “The next 48 hours are critical. We are still not on our way to a full recovery,” said the press pool – these are the journalists permanently stationed in the White House – a few minutes after Conley’s appearance.
Is the White House crisis under control or not? There is confusion about this. Trump’s infection has plunged the US into extreme uncertainty and provokes many questions to which there are still no answers: How is Trump really doing? What happens to the elections if the president gets worse? What can you still believe in a White House that has been constantly spreading disinformation in recent years – and what not?
There seem to be no more certainties in this election campaign, which began seven months ago with the outbreak of the corona pandemic in the USA. “If someone had written a novel about the current situation a year ago, every publisher would have mocked the plot as too far-fetched,” commented Alan Dershovitz, ex-Harvard professor and confidante of Trump.
The fact that the US president, who is also the top candidate of his party, is so close to the vote in the hospital, is a novelty. In addition, there are extreme circumstances, as the pandemic triggered the largest economic and health crisis in modern US history. In addition, Trump has cast doubts about the validity of the elections in advance and leaves it open whether he would accept a defeat at the ballot box. US democracy was destabilized even before Trump was hospitalized for an indefinite period of time. Now Trump’s infection is triggering a chain reaction on several levels.
The question of the hour is whether Trump will recover soon. The disease is mild in most people, but at 74, Trump belongs to the risk group that is particularly threatened by long-term effects and a fatal course. The television broadcaster CNN reported, citing White House employees, that Trump developed a fever and cough on Friday and that he was “very tired”. Overall, his symptoms are stronger than first lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive.
According to Trump’s doctor Conley, the president is being treated with the drug remdesivir, a drug that is being tested but not yet officially approved on the market. The US government had announced in the summer that almost all of the US manufacturer’s inventories Gilead to buy up manufactured drugs.
A battle of interpretation has broken out on US television as to which conclusions can be drawn from Trump’s hospital stay. Apparently, strict medical observation is needed, some doctors said. Other medics stressed that Trump could have been admitted out of sheer caution. According to his annual survey, Trump is generally fit, but slightly overweight, he takes medication for high cholesterol and blood pressure lowerers.
Disinformation from the White House
One reason for the speculation is that communications from the White House have been unsatisfactory from the start. The infection of Trump’s adviser Hope Hicks was first made public by the US medium Bloomberg. And in the election year, Trump claimed the pandemic would go away on its own. In phone calls with investigative journalist Bob Woodward, the president admitted that he had deliberately kept the risks of the pandemic small. “I always wanted to downplay it. I still like to downplay it because I don’t want to panic, ”he said.
Covid-19 has killed at least 208,000 people and infected more than 7.2 million in the United States. Nevertheless, Trump held so-called “fly in, fly out” events. These are mass events across the country that do not require a mask, often right on the tarmac in front of the Air Force One presidential plane.
When Trump finally fell ill himself, the government headquarters only gradually released details. It gradually came out that Trump was still traveling with Hope Hicks for days and holding fundraising events, although there was suspicion of Covid. Until Friday, the White House announced that Trump would take part in a switch with governors, which his deputy Mike Pence then took over at short notice.
Trump’s personal physician Conley has published several notices since the infection became known. He also answered many questions during his appearance on Saturday. But apparently he did not want to reveal any information. When asked if Trump was connected to an oxygen device at any point, he did not answer clearly.
It is now clear that many people from Trump’s closest circle are infected, including two Republican senators on the judiciary committee. That, in turn, could jeopardize the Conservative candidate for the Supreme Court in Congress. Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien, Trump’s ex-advisor Kellyanne Conway and Republican leader Ronna McDaniel also tested positive. Just a week ago, the White House held a well-attended no-mask event to celebrate Barrett’s nomination.
There is also economic uncertainty
Even if Trump recovers quickly, the pandemic will haunt him into election day. Every attempt to draw attention to Corona has now failed at the latest. Actually, Trump wanted to send the message that the worst of the pandemic was over. A cornerstone of his campaign was the promise that the economy would recover rapidly. Trump is pushing for a fast vaccine, and the US government is funding clinical trials for several pharmaceutical companies with $ 13 billion.
Trump warns of an economic “collapse of the US” should a lockdown and a mask requirement be imposed, as Joe Biden demands. At least investors reacted negatively to Trump’s illness on Friday, and the stock markets collapsed. The American aviation giants had previously threatened with new layoffs. The US Congress has not been able to agree on a new corona bailout package for months, and there are still ten million jobs missing to bring the US up to the level before the pandemic broke out.
At this point in time, it is unclear whether Trump’s infection will have an acute impact on his election chances. A survey by the Morning Consult institute initially found no change in voter favor. The US president lags behind his Democratic challenger in polls. Biden announced that his election campaign would continue as usual. Some TV spots that sharply criticize Trump have been stopped for the time being. “I hope it is now clear to everyone: wear a mask, keep social distance, wash your hands”, tweeted Biden. Ex-President Barack Obama sent his recovery wishes via video message.
Washington is preparing for an emergency
Should Trump survive the disease well, his supporters could see the president as living proof that the virus is hardly dangerous. If his health is damaged, it is uncertain whether Trump can even remain a Republican candidate. The US Constitution regulates in Section Three of its 25th amendment that Trump’s duties would be transferred to his Vice Mike Pence should he fail as President. The addition was written into the constitution after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
What is not clearly regulated, however: What would happen to Trump’s candidacy for re-election? Almost three million people have already cast their votes by postal vote. These could become invalid because Trump’s name is already printed on the ballot papers.
The New York law professor Rick Pildes told the US portal Vox: If Trump were to fail before the elections, the 168-member Republican National Committee (RNC) would have to nominate a new candidate. That could be pence, but it doesn’t have to be. Ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are also said to have ambitions.
On the other hand, should Trump fail after the US elections, but before the start of the new legislative period on January 20, the RNC also has the authority to nominate someone else. In the unlikely event that a majority does not come about, the US House of Representatives would have to take over the election. The Congress Chamber is currently democratically dominated. According to US media, Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi is already preparing for this scenario.
More: Read here how Trump’s illness affects the US election campaign – the most important answers.