Physicians, Secret Service agents criticize Trump for leaving hospital to wave to supporters

Physicians, Secret Service agents criticize Trump for leaving hospital to wave to supporters
Posted at 9:04 AM, Oct 05, 2020

Physicians, Secret Service agents and White House reporters have criticized President Donald Trump's decision to leave Walter Reed Medical Center so he could wave to supporters outside the hospital in a presidential motorcade.

Some doctors have said that Trump may have exposed Secret Service agents to the virus by entering a car with them — especially a car that is hermetically sealed against chemical attack, which is standard travel procedure for a president.

Dr. James P. Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed, tweeted Sunday evening that the "irresponsibility" behind the decision was "astounding."

"That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack," he tweeted. "The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play."

At least one Secret Service agent in the car with Trump was wearing what appeared to be a medical-grade N95 mask. But Trump was wearing just a cloth mask, and it did not appear that anyone in the car was wearing goggles.

"There are plenty of failures in that PPE, and full PPE still doesn't protect you," Phillips told the Today Show. "Numerous doctors and nurses have died on the front lines because of getting exposed despite wearing PPE."

Phillips added that the agents who were in the car with Trump "absolutely must quarantine," noting that CDC guidelines require a 14-day quarantine for spending a short amount in close contact with a COVID-19 patient, even if all parties are wearing masks.
Several former Secret Service also expressed outrage about the motorcade to various media outlets.

"I mean, I wouldn't want to be around them," a current agent told CNN, adding that his views were shared by "multiple" people at the agency. "The frustration with how we're treated when it comes to decisions on this illness goes back before this though. We're not disposable."

“Where are the adults?” a former Secret Service member told The Washington Post.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows addressed the criticism during an appearance on Fox & Friends Monday morning, explaining that it was part of the job of protecting the president.

"They're criticizing, 'well he put his Secret Service at risk.' Well, the Secret Service agents — how do you think that he got here?" Meadows said. "We came here in Marine One. The Secret Service agent with him has been with him, he's been with him in cars, and we took additional caution with him with PPE."

Meadows did not make a distinction between essential presidential travel and travel for a photo opportunity.

Other Secret Service agents have pushed back against the criticism.

"I've watched some of the news today and it's ridiculous to say the President is trying to kill off his detail," one agent told CNN. "He's unconventional, but we get the job done."

First Lady Melania Trump — who remains quarantined at the White House with her own COVID-19 diagnosis — said over the weekend that she will not be visiting her husband at the hospital because she did not want to expose Secret Service agents to the virus.

Trump addressed the criticism in a tweet on Monday afternoon.

"It is reported that the Media is upset because I got into a secure vehicle to say thank you to the many fans and supporters who were standing outside of the hospital for many hours, and even days, to pay their respect to their President," Trump tweeted. "If I didn’t do it, Media would say RUDE!!!"

Trump did not address criticism levied by medical professionals and the anonymous sources in his Secret Service.

In addition to criticism from physicians and Secret Service agents, the administration also faced criticism from the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA).

The Association — a coalition of reporters from various outlets that work with the White House to fight for continued presidential coverage — said that White House did not inform the press pool that Trump would be leaving the hospital.

The pool is a group of reporters that follow the President's public schedule and inform all news outlets on his actions. Keeping the press pool in the dark about the President's whereabouts is a stark break in precedent.

“It is outrageous for the president to have left the hospital — even briefly — amid a health crisis without a protective pool present to ensure that the American people know where their president is and how he is doing," WHCA said in a statement condemning the White House's actions. "Now more than ever, the American public deserves independent coverage of the president so they can be reliably informed about his health.”