"It wasn't your fault that this happened," the president said in his latest pre-taped message since leaving the hospital

By Sean Neumann
October 07, 2020 08:49 PM
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President Donald Trump
| Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

After a “restful” first night back at the White House, according to his doctor, President Donald Trump was back in the Oval Office and back on Twitter this week, with plenty of things to declare in all-caps and plenty of promises to make about his handling of the novel coronavirus.

In a pre-taped message released on the president's Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, he praised the treatment he received at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, particularly an experimental antibody therapeutic developed by Regeneron that he credited with his recovery. (He also received steroids, supplemental oxygen and the antiviral remdesivir.)

Calling himself "your favorite president," Trump declared that the treatment would soon be widely available and would — somehow — be free. He didn't provide more specifics, suggesting only that the military would carry out distribution.

As with other vows by the president, it remains unclear how easily he could accomplish this or with what authority.

Since the start of the pandemic, Trump has wondered multiple times about possible cures such as hydroxychloroquine, which was not found to be effective with the coronavirus. (The president took it anyway.)

Trump even once speculated in front of reporters about possibly injecting disinfectant, later saying he was being sarcastic despite video of his comments.

The Regeneron treatment is promising but not yet approved and is currently in human trials. The president reportedly received it under a "compassionate use" exception.

"I want everybody to be given the same treatment as your president, because I feel great. I feel, like, perfect," Trump said in his Twitter video. "So I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it. This was a blessing in disguise. I caught it, I heard about this drug, I said, 'Let me take it' — it was my suggestion. ... And it was incredible, the way it worked."

Trump had previously been focused on the development of a vaccine — repeatedly saying one might be ready before the Nov. 3 election against Joe Biden, in what critics said was a clear political ploy.

There were other signs of politicking in his Twitter video on Wednesday, as when he sought to remind the public that, in his view, the virus was "China's fault."

"It wasn't your fault that this happened. ... China's gonna pay a big price," he said in the video.

He also said politics might muck up the timeline of a vaccine — which, indeed, has shown much promise according to health experts — but that it would matter less than the antibody cocktail.

"We have to get them done, we have to get them approved. I want to get them to the hospitals where people are feeling badly. That's much more important to me than a vaccine," he said.

"It was like — unbelievable," he said.

Aides said Trump's Twitter video was recorded on Wednesday afternoon despite him making a reference to returning from the hospital the previous day — rather than two days ago, when he actually flew home.

President Donald Trump leaves Walter Reed Medical Center on Monday.
| Credit: SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

Ever the showman, Trump boasted of an impending wide-scale distribution of Regeneron, particularly for older people who are most at risk from the virus (and who have increasingly broken for Biden, some election polls show).

The president did not detail his plan further but promised: "I want to get for you what I got and I'm going to make it free."

His Wednesday video was the latest in a days-long pattern since he returned from Walter Reed on Monday night, as he pushes to reframe the discussion around his much-scrutinized handling of the pandemic as the election approaches.

While Trump has remained out of public view at the White House while sick, except for pre-taped messages on social media, he has tweeted dozens and dozens and dozens of times — a familiar mixture of attacks, complaints, retweets of supporters and messages to people to vote.

In one characteristic whiplash, he said Tuesday he would no longer participate in negotiations on the next stimulus bill for an economy upended by the coronavirus. He said Democrats in Congress were not acting in “good faith” and he did not want to send money, which he claimed was unrelated to the virus, to “Democrat” states.

Soon after this announcement, however, he began urging Congress to support individual bills to help the airline industry and to issue another round of stimulus checks.

Separately, the president's medical team says he is still recovering from the virus, as is First Lady Melania Trump, though they have released little new information about his health. (The White House has also refused to say when the president last tested negative for the virus, while he attended several large events last week.)

Donald Trump's doctors provide an update on his condition outside of Walter Reed hospital
| Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, said in a memo released Wednesday afternoon that the president's vital signs and physical exams "all remain stable and in normal range."

"He's now been fever-free for more than 4 days, symptom-free for over 24 hours, and has not needed nor received any supplemental oxygen since initial hospitalization," Conley wrote.

It was evident Trump, 74, aimed to get back to familiar activity, since returning home Monday from a three-day stint at Walter Reed hospital.

His hospitalization — seven months into the pandemic and less than a month from the election — was the most extreme health scare for a sitting president in recent memory.

Conley and administration officials have been scrutinized for giving conflicting reports on Trump's health, particularly over the weekend.

In one instance Saturday, Conley said Trump was "doing very well," and then moments later, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pulled reporters aside to inform them Trump experienced a "very concerning" episode the day before and that, at the time, the president was "still not on a clear path to a full recovery."

On Wednesday, officials again criss-crossed each other with contradictory statements about whether Trump left his residency to visit the Oval Office since leaving Walter Reed — an unadvised movement, according to federal guidelines for quarantining coronavirus patients.

President Donald Trump arrives back at the White House from the hospital on Monday night, where he was hospitalized with COVID-19.
| Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, a White House spokesman confirmed Trump was in the Oval Office.

At least nine members of his staff have tested positive, now that senior adviser Stephen Miller — a key policy aide who is widely seen as the architect of the administration’s immigration policies — announced late Tuesday night that he also has the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

The outbreak forced many officials to work remotely from home in recent days, one official tells PEOPLE.

The Washington Post reports that another official said “nearly everyone” who is on the grounds has been wearing a mask — including Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, who reportedly does not usually wear one.

The New York Times also reports staff members who come in contact with Trump are being asked to wear protective equipment, such as gowns, gloves, protective eyewear and surgical masks.

A Wednesday morning pool report — routine updates provided by journalists at the White House — noted that reporters continued to be tested before entering the building and that, once inside, they observed a “very quiet White House.”