Then-Vice President Mike Pence and then-President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden on March 29, 2020.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
  • The White House had no plans in place to swear in Pence, if needed, during Trump's bout with Covid-19.
  • A new book by two Washington Post reporters reveals more of the chaos during Trump's sickness.
  • Trump, who became sick with Covid-19 in October 2020, was a very high-risk patient.
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Former US President Donald Trump's October 2020 Covid-19 diagnosis caught the White House so off-guard that they were left with no plans in place to swear in Vice-President Mike Pence if Trump died or became immobilised from his sickness, a new book reveals.

More of the internal panic and scrambling around Trump's Covid-19 illness was detailed in an excerpt of the book "Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History," published in The Washington Post on Thursday. The book, written by The Post's reporters Yasmeen Abultaeb and Damian Paletta, is due for release on June 29.

Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19 on October 1, 2020, throwing both the functions of government and the 2020 presidential election into chaos and the White House into a tailspin, with aides completely unprepared for the possibility of Trump dying or becoming too sick to carry out the duties of his office.

Trump was at high risk for severe illness and death because of his advanced age and weight, which qualified him as medically obese. And as Abultaeb and Paletta previously reported and documented in the book excerpt, Trump's condition was far more serious than the White House let on at the time.

Under the Presidential Succession Act, Pence would take over as commander in chief if Trump died.

A president can also temporarily transfer the powers of the presidency to the vice- president under Section 3 of the 25th Amendment - George W. Bush briefly handed over the reins to his vice-president, Dick Cheney, when he went under anaesthesia for colonoscopies under his presidency, for example.

The book excerpt also further detailed the White House's frantic behind-the-scenes efforts in October 2020 to secure FDA approval for the compassionate use of experimental monoclonal antibody drugs, which were not available to the public, and remdesivir, another anti-viral therapeutic that was in very short supply.

After being treated with multiple anti-viral therapeutic drugs and steroids during a short stay at Walter Reed Medical Center, Trump returned to the White House and recovered. But the episode did not, as many aides hoped, help Trump take the virus more seriously.

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