- The president was backed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie during the meeting Tuesday
- But not one member of the cabinet said they were taken the drug when probed
- Trump said: 'Many of them would take it if they thought it was necessary'
- The president was also shown stimulus debit cards embossed with his name
- First Daughter Ivanka, her husband Jared and counselor to the president Hope Hicks watched on as he was handed one by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin
Donald Trump held a socially distanced cabinet meeting on Tuesday where he insisted his use of hydroxychloroquine is safe.
The president was backed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie during the meeting.
But not one member of the cabinet said they were taken the controversial drug when probed. Trump said: 'Many of them would take it if they thought it was necessary.'
Trump was also shown debit cards embossed with his name which will be used for stimulus payments.
First Daughter Ivanka, her husband Jared and counselor to the president Hope Hicks watched on as he was handed one by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
The stimulus debit cards will be sent out to Americans this month.
Mnuchin said: 'We now have developed debit cards. In an effort to expedite money to people even quicker in a very safe way, I'm pleased to show you what a debit card looks like with your name on it, Mr. President.
'We think debit cards are a safe and secure way of delivering refunds.'
Tuesday's meeting saw all of Trump's advisers present and accounted for, meaning there was no designated survivor left out of the gathering during the time of a national pandemic.
That doesn't mean the line of succession was not assured: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Pro Temp of the Senate Chuck Grassley follow Vice President Mike Pence to take over as commander-in-chief.
Neither Pelosi nor Grassley were present at Tuesday's meeting.
At Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, officials were seated apart in accordance with social distancing but none of them were wearing masks.
Defending his use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine Trump said Tuesday that veterans who passed away from the coronavirus while taking it were sick people who were 'ready to die.'
He blasted a study that used data from the veterans' administration and showed a higher rate of death among those who received the drug.
'There was a false study done, where they gave it to very sick people, extremely sick people, people that were ready to die,' President Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Tuesday.
He added: 'It's got a bad reputation only because I'm promoting and so I'm obviously a very bad promoter. If anybody else we're promoting it, they'd say this is the greatest thing ever.'
Probed on getting the 35 million Americans out of jobs back to work, Trump said: 'I think we've announced a plan. We're opening up our country. Just a rude person, you are.'
'It was given by, obviously not friends of the administration, and the study came out, people were ready to die. Everybody was old, had bad problems with hearts, diabetes and everything else you can imagine,' President Trump added, blasting what he called a phony study put out by the VA.
The president also denied the Food and Drug Administration put out a warning about hydroxychloroquine, which it did on April 30. The FDA warned the drug caused heart problems and said it should only be used to treat the coronavirus on patients already in the hospital.
'No that's not what I was told,' Trump said when asked about the warning.
Trump said he didn't feel any impact from taking a daily dose of hydroxychloroquine. 'I've had no impact from it. I feel the same. I haven't changed I don't think too much,' he noted during his Cabinet meeting.
He got two of Cabinet secretaries to defend his use of hydroxychloroquine: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Veterans Secretary Robert Wilkie.
Azar said any medical drug can be used for 'off-label' purposes or something it was not originally intended for but may have an effect on.
'The doctor in consultation with the patient may use it for what we call off-label purposes, which are indications that are not yet proven and not yet in the label,' he noted
Wilkie pointed out the study being quoted was not from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
'It was not a VA study,' he said. 'Researchers took VA numbers. And they did not clinically review them; they were not peer reviewed. They did not even look at what the President just mentioned, the various co-morbidities that the patients who were referenced in that study had.'
He added: 'We are doing everything we can to protect the lives of our veterans, and this is one of the means that we used.'
Earlier in the day, the president said the study using VA data was a 'Trump enemy statement.'
'Well I've worked with doctors and if you look at the one survey - the only bad survey - they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape. They were very old, almost dead. It was a Trump enemy statement,' he said during a visit to Capitol Hill.
An April study of 368 male patients at Veterans Affairs hospitals nationwide found hydroxychloroquine was linked to higher rates of death for those hospitalized with the coronavirus. The data was gathered from the veterans hospital by outside academics who then analyzed it and presented their findings.
More than 27 per cent of patients who received the drug died and 22 per cent of patients who were treated with a combination of hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin – known as z-pack - also died.
The death rate for those who did not receive the drugs was 11.4 per cent.
President Trump claimed many of those working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are taking hydroxychloroquine.
'A lot of our front line workers take it because it possibly and - I think it does but you know these people are going to have to make up their own mind. Plus, it doesn't hurt people. It's been out of the market for 60 or 65 years for malaria, lupus and other things,' he said during brief remarks after his lunch with senators on Tuesday.
'I think it gives you an additional level of safety, but you can ask many doctors are in favor of it. Many front line workers won't go there, unless they have the hydroxy. And so again this is an individual decision to make, but it's had a great reputation. And if it was somebody else other than me, people would say gee isn't that smart,' he added.
The president has come under heavy criticism from doctors, Democrats, media commentators and foreign countries after his shocking announcement on Monday he is taking a daily dose of hydroxychloroquine even as he test negative for the coronavirus.
Trump blasted Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a 'sick woman' with a lot of 'mental problems' after she called him 'morbidly obese' and he claimed academic research showing the dangers of hydroxychloroquine was done by his enemies.
'Pelosi is a sick woman she's got a lot of problems, a lot of mental problems,' President Trump said during a visit to Capitol Hill where he had lunch with Senate Republicans.
Pelosi said the 'morbidly obese' president was putting his health at risk with his daily dose of hydroxychloroquine in an interview with CNN Monday night.
Trump said his doctor did not recommend hydroxychloroquine to him, but that he requested it from the White House physician.
That physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said in a statement that, after 'numerous discussions' with Trump, 'we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.'
China claimed Trump was using 'witchcraft' to lead during the coronavirus pandemic after he admitted to taking hydroxychloroquine.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China Communist Party's official publication, Global Times, blamed Trump for the high number of U.S. deaths from coronavirus, claiming the White House would be 'burned down' by the public if it were China.
'President Trump is leading the US's struggle against pandemic with witchcraft, and as a result, more than 90,000 people have died,' Hu wrote Tuesday in a now-deleted tweet. 'If it were in China, the White House would have been burned down by angry people.'
The editor of the governing publication is close with Chinese leadership.
Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News on Tuesday he is not taking hydroxychloroquine but he wouldn't 'begrudge' anyone who was.
''I'm not. But I would never begrudge any American taking the advice of their physician. Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that's been around for more than 40 years for treatment of malaria. But, early in this process, the FDA approved what's called off-label use where physicians could prescribe hydroxychloroquine in terms they deemed appropriate. So my physician has not recommended that, but I wouldn't hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor. Any American should do likewise,' he said.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president shared his personal health information because he wants to be 'transparent' with Americans.
'The president just wanted to be transparent about his personal health decision that he made in consultation with his doctor,' McEnany told Fox & Friends Tuesday morning, adding others should only take the anti-malaria drug if they are prescribed it by their doctors.
Hope was sparked early on in the crisis when an early French study suggested the drug could have both antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects.
It triggered a flurry of research across the world, an endorsement from Trump and emergency authorization from US regulators.
But other research has dealt a blow to the drug, with one Chinese trial last month finding it did not speed up the recovery of COVID-19 patients.
And New York researchers last week said patients got no benefits whether they took just the drug or paired it with the antibiotic azithromycin.
Leading doctors have warned the drug can cause severe side effects, and can even throw off the process that makes the heart beat in time – and one trial in Brazil was stopped short because so many of the enrolled coronavirus patients given the drug developed these arrhythmias.
The president has repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine - used to treat malaria, lupus and other diseases - and the antibiotic azithromycin, often referred to as 'Z-pack,' to be used to treat the coronavirus.
At least two White House staffers tested positive for the coronavirus this month, both of whom had access to the president: his Navy valet who serves him meals and Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary Katie Miller, who speaks for the Coronavirus Task Force and is married to Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller.
After the outbreak, new safety protocols were put into effect at the White House, including daily testing of senior staff who get close to the president.
Additionally, staff and Secret Service agents have started wearing face masks around the complex, where close working conditions make social distancing impossible.