President Donald Trump, according to the White House, made an unscheduled trip to Walter Reed hospital on Saturday for a “quick exam and labs” as the first stage of his annual physical.
You shouldn’t just believe them.
Which is not to say that whatever happened on Saturday wasn’t minor or maybe even routine. What it is to say is that this is a President and a White House who have set a standard of dishonesty and obfuscation – up to and including the President’s health – that should force any rational person to question the explanation currently being offered by the White House.
Remember what we already know about this President’s health. Trump is 73 years old and is the oldest person ever elected to a first term as president. In his most recent physical exam – conducted in February – he clocked in at 243 pounds.
In his previous physical conducted in 2018, Trump had been diagnosed with a common form of heart disease and high cholesterol. (As CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta noted at the time, Trump’s heart disease meant that the President had a moderate risk of a heart attack in the following 3-5 years, according to guidance from the Mayo Clinic.)
At the time of his 2018 physical, Dr. Ronny Jackson, who was then serving as the President’s physician, suggested that the President change his diet and get on a regular exercise regimen. Aside from regular rounds of golf, there is very little public evidence that Trump has taken that advice to heart. Sources told CNN that a year later, Trump had made only minor changes to his food intake and exercise habits.
“The President received a diet and exercise plan last year after his annual physical, but the President admits he has not followed it religiously,” said Hogan Gidley, the principal deputy White House press secretary.
Now consider what we know about Trump’s visit to Walter Reed on Saturday. It was unscheduled. Unlike his past physicals, it was not on his public schedule and was not announced to reporters. The medical staff did not get a heads up that a “VIP” guest was coming, as they typically would. While White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the trip was simply Trump getting a jump on his annual physical, he did not have that physical done in phases or over multiple days in the past two years.
So, there’s reason – lots of it! – to wonder. Especially when you consider that Trump has shown little hesitation to doctor, um, doctor’s reports in the past.
In December 2015, shortly before voting began in the Republican presidential primary, Trump released a letter from his longtime physician Dr. Harold Bornstein.
“His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary,” Bornstein wrote of Trump. “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
If it seemed like Trump had written the letter himself, it’s because he had! Bornstein told CNN in 2018 that Trump “dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter. I just made it up as I went along.”
So, the paper-thin medical “record” that Trump provided to quiet questions about whether he was physically and mentally up to the job of being president was made up. It wasn’t based on Bornstein’s medical judgment. It was Trump doing what he always does – making up a story to tell himself and the public.
(Trump, it’s also worth noting, repeatedly sought to make Hillary Clinton’s health an issue in the 2016 campaign – particularly after she was seen feeling faint at a September 11 commemoration.)
Given that history – and the fact that Trump has made more than 13,000 false or misleading claims since taking office, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker – there is every reason to suspect the original story the White House is telling doesn’t paint the full picture.
“We’re not going to get into security and movement protocols when it comes to the President, but as my statements said he’s in good health and it was a routine checkup as part of his annual physical,” Grisham told CNN. “I’ve given plenty of on-the-record statements that were truthful and accurate – actively trying to find and report conspiracy theories really needs to stop.”
Which is exactly the problem. Grisham, by her own accounting, has given “plenty of on-the-record statements that were truthful and accurate.” Which, of course, means she has given some that, well aren’t.
This – right here – is why a White House that lies as easily as it tells the truth creates major problems for the media and the country. How can we take the White House’s word for it when that word has, on so many occasions, been false. The answer is that we can’t take their word for it. And neither should you.