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With White House return, Trump seeks to ‘show strength’

President Trump returned to the White House Monday evening, after spending just under three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for coronavirus treatment. How will his medical care continue outside the hospital, and what does his illness mean for White House staff and Trump’s reelection campaign? Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now the president is on his way back to the White House.

    This evening, he left Walter Reed National Medical — Military Medical Center, where he had spent just under three days being treated for COVID-19. He was flown on Marine One. He is saying that he will continue his treatment and recovery from Pennsylvania Avenue.

    And Yamiche Alcindor joins me now.

    Yamiche, we're learning the president has — his helicopter has just arrived at the White House.

    So, tell us, what have you heard from the people around the president? What are they saying about how he is going to continue his treatment and recovery at the White House?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    We just saw an extraordinary scene of the president leaving Walter Reed Medical Center and really wanting to show strength.

    He arrived at the White House, walked up the stairs on his own with a mask on, and then removed that mask and waved to the Marine One, the helicopter that had just transported him from the hospital.

    This is no doubt a show of strength. The president wants to appear confident.

    But the president's doctors continue to say that he is not out of the woods.

    But let's read a tweet that the president sent just before he walked out the hospital.

    He wrote — quote — "We will be back on the campaign trail soon. The fake news only shows the fake polls."

    So, that's the president saying, essentially, that he wants to get back in the game. A reporter was asking him, how many people on your staff are sick and how many people are you worried about? Also, are you a super-spreader?

    But the president took no answers. The president's doctors say that he is going to continue his treatment at the White House. He's going to be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They say that, also, Walter Reed medical staff will be helping in monitoring the president.

    But there are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to the president's health and how this will move forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what about that, Yamiche?

    I know that from, listening to the reporting today, what are you and other reporters who spend so much time covering this president, what questions do you still have? And what is known about what's called contract tracing, trying to find people who were in contact with the president?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There are a lot of unanswered questions, a long, long list of them, and partly because the president's doctor, Sean Conley, he has said himself that he was not fully transparent and at times wanted to seem upbeat, instead of actually giving out facts.

    So, some of the questions that we don't have answers to are, when was the last time the president tested negative for the coronavirus? Also, was he tested before the Tuesday debate when he was on stage with Joe Biden? Also, what do scans show of the president's lungs? Are there damage there? Is there some sort of pneumonia that the president is still feeling there?

    And, also, where is he going to be working at the White House? We — he just went to the residence. But there are people wondering, is he going to be in the Oval Office? Are other people going to be exposed?

    Answers that I have been pushing to get answered, but answers that we're not getting.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally, Yamiche, the president — among other things, the president tweeted today, "Don't be afraid of COVID"?

    How does that square with the public health guidelines around this very infectious disease?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, we can see that the president is already starting to hint that he's going to really use his coronavirus diagnosis, as well as his hopeful recovery, to really his own political benefit.

    He is focused on the fact that he is down in the polls nationally, that Joe Biden has opened up a lead in very critical battleground states.

    So, what the president there is saying, that people should not be worried about this virus. That is something that the president has been doing for a long time, downplaying the virus. He's admitted to doing that.

    There are health officials who say, that is dangerous, that the president needs to be telling people, stay vigilant, keep wearing your mask, keep washing your hands, keep doing social distancing.

    So, there are a lot of people who are worried that the president is not being right when he's saying, don't worry and don't let this dominate your life.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, from talking to — again, from talking to your sources in and around the White House, how are they saying this decision was made for the president to come back after not even three days?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president really has been pushing his doctors to let him out of the White House (sic).

    From what I can tell and from what my sources are telling me, the president was calling people, saying: I need to get out of here. I don't want to be here anymore.

    He was very cognizant of the fact that the campaign might be looked at as weak because he was sitting in a hospital bed. So, the president really wanted to make sure that he was out.

    And we heard from the White House doctor that he wanted to reassure the president, that he wanted to put out information that would put the president at ease.

    And that's why we have these critical unanswered questions, which are, how can the president safely be back at the White House, when he's on at least three different drugs fighting the coronavirus? He is also 74. He's at risk. He's overweight.

    So, there are a lot of people who are worried that this was a decision that wasn't really made in the best interests of his medical status, but, rather, that this was made to try to make sure that the president got what he wanted.

    It's a very, very big issue. And it's an issue that I'm going to continue to press on and, of course, we're going to continue to report on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, our White House correspondent, thank you very much.

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