WASHINGTON — Allies of President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to leave Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to drive by his supporters and wave from his motorcade despite criticism that he put Secret Service agents at risk.
Several close associates of the president said Trump did the drive-by Sunday to show he was doing well during his treatment for Covid-19. They also dismissed the possibility of the Secret Service personnel contracting the disease because of the precautions taken.
"The president wanted to thank all the supporters who had been standing out there for days supporting him," said Corey Lewandowski, one of Trump's 2016 campaign managers, on NBC's "TODAY" show.
Lewandowski said he was told that the detail leader of the Secret Service and the driver "both volunteered for that assignment."
"They were not required to do that," he said. "They both volunteered, and there was a piece of Plexiglass, I believe, between the president and the two Secret Service agents who were in the vehicle."
Trump friend and adviser Rudy Giuliani said Monday that the Secret Service is going to be at risk when they're protecting Trump over the next several days, although, he added, "The chances now, at this point, of his spreading the infection, is small. He's wearing a mask, they're wearing a mask."
Asked if the drive-by was a good idea, Giuliani said, "The president has to keep the spirits of America up" after there were conflicting reports about Trump's health over the weekend.
The former New York City mayor helped prep Trump for the first presidential debate last week and said he has tested negative for Covid-19 and spoke to the president by phone Sunday night.
"I was worried when I woke up this morning that he escaped during the night," Giuliani joked. "I mean, he wants to get out. He sounds perfect. I just cautioned him to listen to his doctors."
Meanwhile, Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University and an attending physician at Walter Reed, said Monday that he wasn't sure that Plexiglas was used as a partition between Trump and the agents in the SUV.
"This was inside a chemical weapon-proof vehicle with no Plexiglas that I don't see — I'd love to see that clarified — without fully appropriate PPE," Phillips said on "TODAY." "One person has a valved mask. The president is wearing a cloth mask. They're not wearing sealed goggles. So there are plenty of failures in that PPE, and full PPE still doesn't protect you. Numerous doctors and nurses have died on the front lines because of getting exposed despite wearing PPE."