Update, 7:28 p.m.: White house physician Sean Conley now says President Trump has been tested for COVID-19 and that the test came back negative.
After being documented interacting with several people who went on to contract the coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Saturday announced that he had taken a COVID-19 diagnostic test Friday evening. While the news was initially hailed as further evidence that the president was taking the outbreak seriously following weeks of downplaying the severity of the global pandemic, the announcement directly contradicted a letter from the president’s physician.
The letter, released Friday at 11:55 p.m. EST, said there was no need for Trump to take a test.
“I also took the test. They sent it to the lab” Trump said during a White House press conference Saturday, adding that it should take between one to two days for the lab to return his results.
Over the last week, President Trump met with at least two people who were subsequently confirmed to have the coronavirus – a Brazilian government official with whom he shook hands and took photos, and a dinner guest who sat at Trump’s table. But Friday’s letter from presidential physician Dr. Sean P. Conley said testing was not necessary.
“These interactions would be categorized as LOW risk for transmission per CDC guidelines, and as such, there is no indication for home quarantine at this time,” Conley wrote. “Additionally, given the President himself remains without symptoms, testing for COVID-19 is not currently indicated.”
Legal and political experts were bewildered by how or why the administration would deliver conflicting narratives on such a critical issue, with many openly speculating that Trump was simply lying about being tested.
“Completely insane they can’t keep their stories straight on something that’s entirely binary. Either he had/is having the test or he isn’t,” attorney George Conway, husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, wrote following Trump’s remarks.
“A mentally stable person of mere ordinary dishonesty would do a much better job of keeping his lies straight than [Donald Trump],” the anti-Trump Conway said.
Conway was not alone in criticizing the administration for botching another public address related to the virus.
Former Intelligence Community attorney and CNN legal analyst Susan Hennessey was equally appalled.
“Was the original plan to not test him and Trump changed his mind last night? Or was the original plan to lie to the country about testing him and Trump unexpectedly told the truth this morning?” she tweeted.
Attorney, CNN analyst and former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa floated a more intricate theory about the White House’s messaging.
“I suspect it went something like this: Trump makes doc write letter that he doesn’t ‘need’ to get tested, much like he wanted [former FBI Director James] Comey to announce that he wasn’t under investigation,” she wrote. “Doc complies, no one else knows. Once it gets out, someone figures out that since rationale is not based on the general medical consensus, dumb letter is only going to *increase* pressure to get tested. So Trump seamless moves to Plan B, which is to say he was tested, pretending that Plan A never happened.”
Former National Security Council advisor Sam Vinograd wondered about who was actually overseeing the president’s health.
Professor Marty Lederman of Georgetown University Law Center also noted the unnecessary confusion.
[image via Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images]
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