What happens when the president is too sick to lead?
President Donald Trump wants to return to the Oval Office on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after being released from a three-day hospital stay for treatment of COVID-19, according to people familiar with the matter.
Some of Trump’s aides don’t want the restless president to leave the White House residence yet but are unsure how long he’ll continue to isolate himself, the people said. He has not yet gone to the West Wing and it’s not clear if he will.
Trump is also considering a televised address to the nation, another person said, and his physician released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the president reported “no symptoms” of the disease after a “restful first night at home.”
Trump and his campaign have sought to cast his return from the hospital as a triumphant presidential moment just weeks before Election Day, but he has fallen far behind his challenger Joe Biden in both public opinion polls and fundraising.
A CNN poll taken after Trump’s chaotic first debate with Biden, released Tuesday, found the president trailing the former vice president by 16 points nationally.
Meanwhile, more coronavirus infections emerged in the White House. One of the president’s military aides, Jayna McCarron, tested positive, as did one of the president’s valets, who traveled with Trump last week, according to people familiar with the matter.
The duties of Trump’s five military aides -- one from each service branch -- include carrying the nuclear “football,” the system the president would use to initiate a nuclear weapons attack. The valets also come from the ranks of the military.
Trump discussed further coronavirus economic relief Tuesday in a conference call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, according to a person familiar with the matter.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed a US$2.2 trillion bill through her chamber last week with only Democratic votes. The White House has proposed a US$1.6 trillion package.
On Monday, Trump issued a video on Twitter imploring Americans not to let the coronavirus “dominate” their lives, based on his personal experience receiving the best medical care available. Tuesday morning, he again erroneously likened the virus to the seasonal flu, a disease epidemiologists consider far less dangerous.
The coronavirus has killed more than 210,000 Americans since February. Trump’s consideration of a televised speech was reported earlier by The New York Times.
The top White House physician, Sean Conley, had said that Trump will continue to recuperate in isolation at the White House until he’s no longer infectious, but the president has made clear he’s eager to get back to his re-election campaign.
“FEELING GREAT!” Trump said on Twitter, after a post earlier in which he likened the novel coronavirus to seasonal flu -- a comparison the president was criticized for making earlier in the year, before the U.S. outbreak blossomed into the worst in the world.
“Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the flu,” Trump said. “Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with COVID, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
The U.S. has not lost 100,000 people to the flu in a single season in more than a decade, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while direct comparisons are difficult because of differences in counting deaths from the diseases, there is consensus among epidemiologists that the coronavirus is far more dangerous than common strains of flu.
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