worry

White House Silence on Trump’s Health Fuels Wild Rumors and Worry Among DC Diplomats

Foreign diplomats are scrambling to figure out how the iconoclastic American President will cope with his COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalization, chasing rumors from the ridiculous — that he might somehow put his daughter in charge — to darker fears that U.S. adversaries like Iran or China might take advantage of this turbulent moment.



a man standing on top of a grass covered field: Members of the U.S. Secret Service wear protective masks as Marine One, with U.S. President Donald Trump on board, departs the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2, 2020.


© Sarah Silbiger—Bloomberg/Getty Images
Members of the U.S. Secret Service wear protective masks as Marine One, with U.S. President Donald Trump on board, departs the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2, 2020.

Trump’s hours-long silence after tweeting his positive diagnosis early Friday morning fed rumor and disinformation, foreign officials and Republican advisors both say. For several hours on Friday, a White House defined by Trump as its master, if not sole communicator, seemed frozen and slow to respond to queries even from Trump’s inner circle, the two GOP advisors say.

Video of Trump walking to Marine One to fly to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and his tweeted video message to well-wishers may reassure some, but his pale demeanor and infamously rocky relationship with the truth has laid the groundwork for skepticism toward the White House claims late Friday that the President was “fatigued” and only being moved to the hospital for “tests.” That language mirrors official statements from the British government when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to the hospital for “routine tests” as a “precautionary measure” before later admitting to the British public that he nearly died.

The President’s “loose association with the truth isn’t just a domestic problem, clearly it’s a huge foreign national security problem,” one of the GOP advisors says. “People just don’t trust this Administration.” The advisor said she was met with ominous silence when asking for talking points, when someone like

Power Up: Former Trump advisers worry about the waning influence of scientists inside White House

  • “In preparing Homeland Security officials for questions about Rittenhouse from the media, the document suggests that they note that he ‘took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.’”

At the White House

IT”S NOT JUST THE SCIENTISTS in the Trump administration who are alarmed by the expanding role of Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who joined the White House as a pandemic adviser in August.

Joe Grogan, the former Domestic Policy Council chief and member of the coronavirus task force who left the White House in May, told Power Up he is “troubled” by the recent spate of attacks “from within senior leadership ranks” on Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, top infectious disease expert Anthony S. Fauci, and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. 

  • “Exposing the president to iconoclastic or dissenting views isn’t a mistake especially with Trump, Grogan told Power Up. “He benefits from having a multitude of views and allowing him to participate in back and forth … But I am troubled by some of the attacks that have come from within senior leadership ranks on [Birx], Redfield and Fauci. A number of those attacks are unfounded.”
  • “Who they want to get up there and speak is one thing, Grogan said, referring to briefings for the public. “But who is in the Oval Office debating issues? Is Atlas in there alone? Or in there with Birx, Redfield and other scientists who have spent their lives devoted to fighting infectious diseases?” 

Atlas, who does not have a background in infectious diseases or epidemiology, has said that fears about the novel coronavirus are overblown and introduced controversial ideas and measures to the president in response to the pandemic that has killed 206,000 Americans. NBC’s