More than eights month since Trump was hospitalized with covid, we’re still getting a steady drip of revelations about just how sick he was, the White House officials who feared his imminent death, and the extraordinary lengths his aides went to to help him recover.
Trump and former White House aide Hope Hicks received “compassionate use” exceptions to get experimental treatments after they’d gotten sick despite warnings from FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn who was pressured by the White House to “bend the rules” when the president fell ill. Hahn, who at the time did not know who the exception was for did not immediately agree to speed along the process.
When Hahn later learned the effort was on behalf of the president, he was stunned. For God’s sake, he thought, it’s the president who’s sick, and you want us to bend the rules? Trump was in the highest-risk category for severe disease from covid-19—at 74, he rarely exercised and was considered medically obese. He was the type of patient with whom you would want to take every possible precaution.
These new juicy tidbits come from a new book by Washington Post reporters Yasmin Abutaleb and Damian Paletta which, among other things, details a specific week in the history of the pandemic where then-president Trump was admitted to the hospital after he was infected by the virus along with several other members of the administration all of whom had been skirting quarantine rules. Trump would reportedly routinely ask anyone in the White House who did wear a mask to remove it in his presence.
The book excerpt goes on to explain how Trump came much closer to death than he led the public to believe and how he and his staff largely remained in denial of that the whole time. (Though Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was reportedly “consumed with fear” that Trump would die.)
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As we already know, Trump’s brush with covid didn’t play into the administration’s pandemic response at all once he was healthy, although doctors who treated him thought it might. Their hopes were dashed with this absurd scene that immediately followed Trump’s hospital stay:
But Trump didn’t waver. Facing the cameras from the balcony, he used his right hand to unhook the mask loop from his right ear, then raised his left hand to pull the mask off his face. He was heavily made up, his face more orange tinted than in the photos from the hospital. The helicopter’s rotors were still spinning. He put the mask into his right pocket, as if he was discarding it once and for all, then raised both hands in a thumbs-up. He was still probably contagious, standing there for all the world to see. He made a military salute as the helicopter departed the South Lawn, and then strode into the White House, passing staffers on his way and failing to protect them from the virus particles emitted from his nose and mouth.
Right then, Redfield knew it was over. Trump showed in that moment that he hadn’t changed at all. The pandemic response wasn’t going to change, either.
The night Trump returned from the hospital and stood on that balcony looking like a caricature of an old-timey dictator is a moment frozen in time for most Americans. For his unyielding supporters, it was an indefatigable show of lasting strength. But for those who had lost family members and livelihoods because of the virus it was a relentless taunt screaming look at me, I’m still here.