Trump's physician 'bent over backwards' to put a positive spin on health: Jon Karl

ABC correspondents discuss the latest news on President Donald Trump's health.
10:04 | 10/04/20

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Transcript for Trump's physician 'bent over backwards' to put a positive spin on health: Jon Karl
What a week it has been. When we signed off last week, here's what we didn't know -- that president trump had paid just $750 in income tax in 2016 and 2017. On the hook now for several hundred million dollars in debt come due in a second term. Tuesday's debate would be widely labeled the worst presidential debate ever with president trump bearing most of the blame. That the rose garden ceremony celebrating judge Amy coney Barrett's nomination to the supreme court would turn out to be a super spreader for the coronavirus. As we come on the air this morning, at least eight of the attendees have tested positive for covid including, of course, first lady Melania trump and the president of the United States. And with president trump now being treated at Walter reed, the country is now facing a cascade of crises in a chaotic year. A personal health crisis for the president. Compounded by a credibility crisis for his white house during a public health crisis that has cost more than 209,000 Americans their lives. All with one month to go in a presidential election unlike any we've seen before. We're going to try to make sense of it all this morning starting with our team of correspondents. John Karl is at Walter reed. The repetition of falsehoods, it the refusal to give straight answers has been a hallmark at the trump white house. It reached something of a peak yesterday. Reporter: On one hand, it was a welcome development to see the white house doctor come out and brief reporters. But it was, frankly, maddening to see the medical team refuse to answer so many questions and to be spinning as if this were just another political briefing. Dr. Conley refused to answer basic questions such as how high is the president's temperature, he would not say. Has the president been on supplemental oxygen? As you saw, he wouldn't say. We later learned that, in fact, on Friday, the president was on oxygen. Dr. Conley also bent over backwards to try to put a positive spin on things saying that the president had been fever free for 24 hours, that he, quote, is doing great. But minutes after that briefing ended yesterday, a person described as somebody familiar with the president's health briefed the press pool here and said, quote, the president's vitals over last 24 hours were very concerning, and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We are still not on a clear path to a full recovery. That starkly different assessment, multiple news organizations identified the person as none other than chief of staff mark meadows. Overnight, we learned that yet another person close to the president has tested positive for coronavirus. Nick Luna, the president's personal aide. Somebody who travels with him virtually everywhere he goes. He has been tested positive for coronavirus. Perhaps the most reliable information throughout all of this actually came from the president himself with a four-minute video that he posted to Twitter yesterday. And George, I've got to say, the president looked good for somebody going through all that he is going through right now. Okay. Let me bring in Martha Raddatz. We saw the military doctors behind commander Sean Conley yesterday. No doubt they are giving professional care. They also seem to be used as political props. Reporter: They absolutely are, George. And these are medical doctors. They should not be spin doctors. Navy officers, not political appointees. So you saw Dr. Conley and the others come out there and give that briefing with very little information. Kind of cute in ways saying he wasn't on oxygen today. That should not be happening. This is a prestigious position. They may not have training for anything like this, this urgent care of the president of the United States, but they have to stick to the facts. They are not, again, spin doctors. I've traveled all over the world, I've been to North Korea, remember last may when people thought Kim Jong-un might be dead, it's because people absolutely didn't believe the information they were getting. That happens in North Korea. It should not happen here. So Dr. Jen Ashton, let's cut through the spin and focus on what the doctors are doing for the president. Let's talk about that rather than what everybody is saying. What are the various treatments they've been giving the president, the hospitalization, the regeneron, the remdesivir, tell you about the course of treatment and potentially the president's Well, the big-picture view from the clinical treatment aspect is that the president is getting early and aggressive treatment for what has heretofore been described as mild covid-19 disease. He's being treated with both an immunotherapy, that antibody cocktail, by regeneron, which is under compassionate use authorization. And then anti-viral therapy, remdesivir, which pretty much is the standard of care now in hospitalized patients. Both of which given very early in the course of disease indicating his medical team not taking any chances that this disease will or could progress, doing as much as they can. Obviously in medicine there are no guarantees regardless of how aggressive the treatment is. In terms of predictions here, George, I want to emphasize and be crystal clear, in medicine, you evaluate a patient hour by hour, day by day. We avoid at all costs making long-term prognosis, especially in a situation like this with a virus so new, so variable, so mysterious that has shown us time after time it can be unpredictable. Right. And the general question for a lot of people, as you look at the cases, you have first the attack of the virus, and then the immune system response which is why everybody's concerned about that seven to ten-day period. Right. Seven to ten days. Let's be clear, it's not 48 hours, seven to ten days, and then at the mysteriously 11-day mark someone's miraculously in the clear. You know, again, that's why we take things hour by hour and day by day. A lot of people asking about steroids here. That typically is not given early in the course of disease because that can actually worsen outcomes. But they are going to be on the lookout for complications of covid like clotting disorders anywhere in the body, they're going to be monitoring kidney and liver function which can be affected by these medications and by covid itself. And then they'll be keeping a close eye for that secondary immune phase that can be so dangerous. Mary Bruce is covering the campaigns. No one knows for sure yet what it will mean for the outcome. We know it's has had an immediate effect on the campaigning. Reporter: And on both campaigns, George. We have seen the president's campaign trying to maintain events. Without the president, much of this campaign has come to a screeching hat. While Joe Biden is still going full steam ahead, we have seen him out there still keeping up his campaign events. He is having to tweak his messaging. We have seen him tempering his usually sharp attacks against the president. He's taken down much of his negative campaign ads. And he is, though, continuing to argue, of course, that this is a very severe virus, that he is the best leader who can tackle this. But he is in a tough position here. Joe Biden has made this campaign a referendum on the president's handling of this pandemic. He has argued for months that the president doesn't take it seriously. So it's hard to make that message while also being respectful of the president's diagnosis as he makes these overarching calls for unity. And of course, George, there are so many questions about what comes next with these debates. The next faceoff is set for just about ten days from now on the 15th. Right now, it is very hard to see how that still goes on as planned. You're also our senior congressional correspondent. This could have a huge impact on the confirmation battle for judge Amy coney Barrett to the supreme court. Three Republican senators, Mary, have tested positive for covid. Three Republican senators and two of them, senators Lee and Tillis, are on the critical judiciary committee. We saw them there at the celebrations at the white house for Amy coney Barrett's nomination. If they remain sidelined, it could effectively jeopardize and prevent Amy coney Barrett from being confirmed. Republicans have no room for error here. Mitch Mcconnell is very well aware of that. He has said that covid is the biggest threat to this confirmation. Now right now they are planning to go ahead with these hearings. Lindsey graham, the chairman of the committee, is adamant about that. Even if it means they have to break senate norms and do much of this virtually, Democrats, of course, who have been eager to try and slow down this process are calling for everyone to hit the pause button here. And John Karl, right now at least, the senate does not have the votes to confirm the justice. You have to vote in person in the senate. Reporter: That's right. There is no remote voting in the senate. There is no proxy voting. As you know, you already have two senators who said they would not go along with the confirmation on the Republican side. Ard add -- add three that can't be there because of self-isolating. The bottom line is Mitch Mcconnell at least at this moment does not have the votes to get Amy coney Barrett confirmed. He has to hope that those three senators recover and that no more senators, no more Republican senators come down with covid-19. And finally, Martha Raddatz, I wonder about the lingering impact of the country seeing marine one heading toward Walter reed. That was such a moment, George. And we, of course, talked about that together when that happened. The country is going to remember that. And it's great to see that the president looked so good in that video. But as Jen Ashton said, we don't know what happens next. We don't know when we'll see that helicopter bring president trump back. Of course, he does not want to look weak. That's part of this campaign, as well. That's part of who Donald Trump is. He wants to look strong and macho. This is very difficult for him. This is very difficult for the country and for his supporters to see, as well.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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