The Trump campaign has called for next week’s presidential debate to take place in person as it had originally been planned after a statement from White House physician Dr. Sean Conley appeared to clear him for a return to public engagements.
The statement released late Thursday said that there was “no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it or otherwise alter it in any way.”
“The commission must stop protecting Joe Biden from this in-person debate and allow the event to proceed as it was agreed to months ago,” Trump’s reelection campaign said. “The American people can see through this obvious attempt to shield Biden from another shellacking like he got two weeks ago in Cleveland and the CPD must reverse course and let the debate proceed.”
The statement comes after President Donald Trump told Fox News early Wednesday that he would not participate in a virtual debate after the commission said the two candidates would join the second presidential debate remotely while its moderator and town hall participants convened in Miami in consultation with the Cleveland Clinic “to protect the health and safety of all involved.”
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump told Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo on Thursday morning dismissing a measure that was installed after Trump staffers and his family appeared at the debate hall in Ohio last month and largely refused to wear masks. Days later the President tested positive for coronavirus and a ripple of cases have spread throughout the White House.
The Biden campaign later on Thursday scheduled a town hall with ABC News on Oct. 15, the night of the originally scheduled town hall debate with Trump.
But in a statement on Thursday night, Conley said that Trump “has responded extremely well to treatment,” adding that Saturday would mark 10 days since Trump’s diagnosis last Thursday.
“Based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the President’s safe return to public engagements at that time,” Conley said.
But it’s still unclear whether Trump has formally tested negative for COVID-19 since he began his recovery. The test is a key indicator — identified by the CDC — to determine whether or not a person previously infected with coronavirus remains contagious.
Conley’s memo did not explicitly say if a negative test had been obtained and Trump dodged a question from Fox News host Sean Hannity on the issue when asked directly about it on Thursday night.
Conley’s comments also appeared to contradict earlier statements made by the White House doctor, who on Monday suggested that President Trump might be at risk through Saturday and Sunday.
“We’re looking to this weekend,” he told reporters during a news conference at that time. “If we can get through to Monday, with him remaining the same — or improving, better yet — then we will all take that final deep sigh of relief.”
The sudden shift in Trump’s recovery timeline points at the possibility of White House pressure to medically clear the President for public activity again amid the President’s resistance to a virtual debate where he is unable to rely on familiar bullying tactics.