4 min read

Wake Up To Politics - October 5, 2020

It’s Monday, October 5, 2020. Election Day is 29 days away. The vice presidential debate is 2 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Listen: The latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast goes inside the “judicial wars,” explaining how Supreme Court confirmations devolved from bipartisan affairs to bitter slugfests. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or Stitcher.

White House offers conflicting reports on Trump’s health

Presidential physicians and White House officials repeatedly gave the public conflicted or limited information on President Trump’s health over the weekend, as Trump continues his hospitalization at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after being diagnosed with COVID-19 last week.

Dr. Sean Conley, the top White House physician, has briefed reporters only twice since Trump was diagnosed. On Saturday, he announced that Trump was “doing very well” and said the medical team was “extremely happy” with his progress, while dodging questions about whether the president had receiving supplemental oxygen over the course of his treatment.

But White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — in comments originally intended to be anonymous — immediately contradicted Conley’s optimistic portrayal, telling reporters after the briefing that “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.”

“We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” Meadows added.

Conley returned to brief reporters again on Sunday, acknowledging that Trump had, in fact, been on oxygen on Friday when his blood oxygen levels dropped to a concerning level. Conley also revealed that the president’s blood oxygen levels had dropped again on Saturday, although he sidestepped questions about whether supplemental oxygen was administered again.

The doctor admitted that he had given an overly rosy depiction of the president’s health the day before. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true,” Conley said, a comment that did little to lift his draining credibility.

Just as he had refused to answer questions about Trump receiving oxygen on Saturday, he also danced around inquires about the president’s lung scans on Sunday.

None of the president’s doctors have returned to give the public an update since Conley’s 10-minute briefing Sunday morning, so Trump’s current status is unclear. But there are some signs that his condition may be worse than the White House is letting on. According to the doctors, the president has received three treatments since testing positive: an experimental antibody cocktail, the drug remdesivir, and the steroid dexamethasone.

Dexamethasone has generally been used only to treat severe COVID-19 cases and is not recommend for mild cases of the disease, raising questions about the president’s condition.

Meanwhile, the circle of Trump allies who have tested positive for COVID-19 continues to grow, including his wife Melania Trump, party chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, campaign manager Bill Stepien, counselor Hope Hicks, and “body man” Nick Luna. In addition, five other guests who attended a White House ceremony celebrating Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on September 26 have also tested positive: Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Notre Dame president John Jenkins.

The diagnoses of Lee and Tillis — as well as a third GOP senator, Ron Johnson (R-WI) — could threaten Republican plans to quickly confirm Barrett before Election Day. The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to begin the process of voting on Barrett’s nomination on October 15; Lee and Tillis, both members of the panel, will need to be present to ensure a quorum.

While his aides and doctors betrayed signs that his condition could be severe, Trump has sought to project strength throughout his stay at Walter Reed. The White House has released multiple videos and pictures of Trump working while hospitalized, and on Sunday he briefly left the hospital to wave to a gathered group of supporters from his motorcade.

Many health experts criticized Trump’s decision to potentially expose Secret Service agents in the car with him to the virus. “This is insanity,” Dr. Jason Phillips, a Walter Reed attending physician, said on Twitter.

The White House medical team has signaled that Trump could be discharged from Walter Reed as early as today. Although his own Twitter presence has been limited since arriving at the hospital, the president has already tweeted 19 times this morning. Each missive ended with the same word: “VOTE!”

At the height of a high-stakes presidential campaign, it is message he would usually be delivering to supporters at rollicking in-person rallies. Now, recovering from a deadly virus that has spread quickly across the country, it is one he can offer only electronically.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled as he continues his stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will travel to Miami, Florida. He will visit the Little Haiti Cultural Center at 2:45 p.m., deliver remarks in the Little Havana neighborhood on “ building back the economy better for the Hispanic community and working families” at 4 p.m., and participate in an NBC News town hall at 8 p.m.

The Senate will convene at 4:30 p.m. to consider a unanimous consent request from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to postpone legislative business and meet only in pro forma sessions until October 19, while three senators recover from COVID-19.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court will return for the first day of its new term. The eight current justices will hear oral arguments in two cases:

  • Carney v. Adams: Unlike in federal courts, where judges are appointed by residents, prospective judges in state courts must run for office on a political platform. But can Delaware’s constitution limit judges affiliated with one party to a “bare majority” on their courts and then reserve the remaining seats for the minority party? To the Third Circuit, this limit violates the First Amendment and entrenches governance by Democrats and Republicans; to the Supreme Court, which often grants cases with the express goal of overturning them, the answer might be different.
  • Texas v. New Mexico: A complex case about water disputes along the Rio Grande is back at the Supreme Court. The question last term was whether the federal government can enforce the terms of a treaty between Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. This term the Court will make a narrow factual decision about whether the “River Master” — a state official tasked with river administration — erred when he calculated how much water New Mexico owed its neighbors.

Supreme Court case summaries contributed by Anna Salvatore

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, please consider donating to support me and my work, listening to my podcast with St. Louis Public Radio, and spreading the word about the newsletter to your friends and family. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, go to wakeuptopolitics.com to subscribe and learn more.