President Trump said to be improving but next 48 hours “critical”

BETHESDA, Md. — President Donald Trump went through a “very concerning” period Friday and faces a “critical” next two days in his fight against COVID-19 at a military hospital, his chief of staff said Saturday — in contrast to a rosier assessment moments earlier by Trump doctors, who took pains not to reveal the president had received supplemental oxygen at the White House before his hospital admission.

Trump offered his own assessment Saturday evening in a video from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to “be back soon.”

Hours earlier, chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters outside the hospital, “We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.” In an update on the president Saturday night, his chief doctor expressed cautious optimism but added that the president was “not yet out of the woods.”

The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the president’s health and the nation’s leadership on the line. With Trump expected to remain hospitalized several more days and the presidential election looming, his condition is being anxiously watched by Americans.

Moreover, the president’s health represents a national security issue of paramount importance not only to the functions of the U.S. government but to countries around the world, friendly and otherwise.

Saturday’s briefing by Navy Commander Dr. Sean Conley and other doctors raised more questions than it answered. Conley repeatedly refused to say whether the president ever needed supplemental oxygen, despite repeated questioning, and declined to share key details including how high a fever Trump had been running before it came back down to a normal range. Conley also revealed that Trump had begun exhibiting “clinical indications” of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, earlier than previously known.

Conley spent much of the briefing dodging reporters’ questions, as he was pressed for details.

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Colvin and Miller reported from Washington. Associated Press chief medical writer Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee contributed to this report.