Politics

O’Brien says Trump transfer of power “not something that’s on the table”

Washington — White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Sunday that a transfer of power from President Trump to Vice President Mike Pence is not “on the table right now” as Mr. Trump continues to receive treatment for COVID-19 at Walter Reed Medical Center.

“That’s not something that’s on the table at this point,” O’Brien said on “Face the Nation” when asked whether there have been discussions about handing the powers of the presidency to the vice president. “We have a great vice president, we have a government that is steady at the tiller.”

O’Brien said Mr. Trump will receive a national security briefing remotely Sunday afternoon and stressed that the government and the president are “doing well.”

“So far the president is in great shape. He’s firmly in command of the government of the country,” he said.

Mr. Trump was admitted to Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland, on Friday after he revealed he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus late Thursday night. But Mr. Trump’s health status and the timeline of his diagnosis became muddled Saturday after Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, briefed reporters about the president’s progress.

Conley told White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a memo late Saturday that the president is “not out of the woods,” but doctors are “cautiously optimistic.” The president is being treated with remdesivir, which has been found to shorten recovery time for some COVID-19 patients, Conley said, and did not have a fever.

In a video released on Twitter on Saturday night, Mr. Trump said he is “starting to feel good.” 

“You don’t know, over the next period of a few days, I guess that’s the real test,” he said.

O’Brien said he last spoke with the president Friday and expects Mr. Trump to remain at Walter Reed for “at least another period of time.”

“Even if you have no symptoms — and I had very, very minor symptoms — day seven and eight are the critical days,” O’Brien, who tested positive this summer, said. “I think the doctors want to make sure that they’re there for the president and that he’s getting the best treatment.”

It remains unclear how Mr. Trump became infected, though several others close to the president have tested positive for the virus, including his campaign manager Bill Stepien, former senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his personal aide Nick Luna. Conway, Luna and Christie were among those who attended a ceremony at the White House last week where Mr. Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court.

O’Brien said the White House medical unit is conducting contact tracing, though it remains unclear how widely the coronavirus may have spread within the highest ranks of the U.S. government.

“There are many men and women on the watchtower at the Pentagon, at the State Department, here at the White House, making sure that the country is safe,” he said. “And we’re in very good shape. We’ve got a  great team in place. And the president’s firmly in control.”

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