Trump doctor issues statement about unannounced hospital visit ahead of president's first public appearance in three days

'The problem is the president has a well-documented record of having doctors generate bogus health statements,' says expert

Chris Baynes
Tuesday 19 November 2019 11:22
Trump says impeachment inquiry is hard on family

An unannounced trip to hospital made by Donald Trump at the weekend was “routine” and did not involve “any urgent or acute issues,” the president’s doctor has insisted in a statement issued amid speculation about his health.

Sean Conley said Mr Trump visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre for a “planned interim check-up” which was kept off his weekly schedule “due to scheduling uncertainties”.

Rumours about the president’s health have swirled since Saturday’s trip, with one unsourced claim that the 73-year-old had been suffering from chest pain widely shared on social media.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham insisted Mr Trump had gone to hospital for routine medical tests which form part of his yearly check-up, but the explanation was met with scepticism as the president’s last annual physical was only nine months ago. Both his 2018 and 2019 check-ups were announced in advance.

“The one thing you can be absolutely sure of is this was not routine and he didn’t go up there for half his physical,” said Joe Lockhart, a press secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

In a statement issued by the White House early on Tuesday, Mr Conley stressed: “Despite some of the speculation, the president has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues. Specifically, he did not undergo any specialised cardiac or neurologic evaluations.”

He said the hospital visit was “part of the regular, primary preventative care he receives throughout the year” and involved “little more than an hour of examination, labs and discussions”. Mr Trump then took a brief tour of the hospital and spoke with medical staff and the family of a US soldier undergoing surgery, he added.

The doctor said the president’s cholesterol was now 165mg per decilitre of blood, which is considered healthy by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Mr Trump’s cholesterol was 196 at the time of his last annual physical in February and he is known to take medication to lower his levels.

But Mr Conley’s statement failed to dampen speculation about the president’s health.

Don Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Washington’s Georgetown University, said: “The problem is that the president has a well-documented record of having doctors generate bogus health statements … so why believe this?”

In 2015, Mr Trump’s personal doctor Harold Bornstein issued a statement declaring his “extraordinary” strength and stamina and “astonishingly excellent” test results would make him “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”. He later told CNN that Mr Trump “dictated that whole letter”.

Last year Ronny Jackson, then White House doctor, proclaimed the president to have “incredibly good genes, and it’s just the way God made him”. Mr Trump later appointed him chief medical adviser.

The White House issued Mr Conley’s statement as Mr Trump prepared to make his first public appearance since the hospital visit at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The president remained typically active on Twitter over the weekend, tweeting about the impeachment probe, Democrats and polling, but is not thought to have played golf, as he often does on days off.

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There were suggestions Mr Trump’s unexpected hospital visit showed the pressure of impeachment proceedings could be affecting his health.

“The real Donald Trump is getting exposed for what he’s done, and that’s what’s driving him to the doctor,” Rahm Emanuel, a former Bill Clinton aide and Chicago mayor, told ABC’s This Week.

Ms Grisham has condemned speculation about the president’s health as “irresponsible and dangerous”.

But Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, said it was reasonable for the press to be asking questions as there was a long history of US presidents concealing health problems from the public.

She added: “If this is routine, why was it not handled in a routine manner?”

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