Shortly before Christmas 2018, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a curious announcement: the cabinet secretary assured the public that he’d initiated talks with the heads of each of the nation’s largest financial institutions to discuss, among other things, their liquidity.
There was, however, a problem: Mnuchin had answered a question no one had asked. The public wasn't aware of any liquidity fears before the Treasury secretary brought it up, so his assurances actually sparked more fears than they eased.
The anecdote came to mind this morning, as Donald Trump denied a claim that no one had reported. The president wrote on Twitter:
"It never ends! Now they are trying to say that your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes. Never happened to THIS candidate - FAKE NEWS. Perhaps they are referring to another candidate from another Party!"
"Mini-strokes"? Who said anything about "mini-strokes"?
Let's take a step back and review how we arrived at this point. As Rachel noted at the top of last night's show, there was a curious development last November in which Trump went to Walter Reed Medical Center for a previously unannounced stop. The public was told the president was getting part of a physical exam, which was odd since physicals aren't usually done in phases.
This returned to the fore this week because the New York Times' Michael Schmidt has a new book, Donald Trump Versus The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President, in which the author reports that Vice President Mike Pence was told to be on standby during Trump's hospital visit, in case Pence had to temporarily assume the powers of the presidency in case Trump had to undergo a procedure that would have required him to be anesthetized.
As it turned out, that wasn't necessary, though the book acknowledges that the actual reason for Trump's trip to the doctor remains a mystery.
It was against this backdrop that Trump this morning denied the visit was related to "mini-strokes." Michael Schmidt published a tweet soon after that read, "Book says nothing about mini-strokes."
For what it's worth, NBC News' Peter Alexander spoke to a White House aide who said the president was referring to a tweet yesterday from Joe Lockhart, who speculated about whether Trump had "a stroke which he is hiding from the American public."
Evidently, the president thought it'd be wise to (a) draw more attention to Lockhart's question, and (b) embellish Lockhart's tweet, turning "a stroke" into "a series of mini-strokes."
The smart thing for Trump would be to shift attention away from these 10-month-old questions. Instead, for reasons that make sense only to him, the Republican is doing the opposite.
Update: Following Trump's tweet, the White House issued a statement that read, "President Donald J Trump has asked that I, Dr. Sean Conley, Physician to the President, address the recent public comments regarding his health. I can confirm that President Trump has not experienced nor been evaluated for a cerebrovascular accident (stroke), transient ischemic attack (mini stroke), or any acute cardiovascular emergencies, as have been incorrectly reported in the media."
The statement added, "The President remains healthy and I have no concerns about his ability to maintain the rigorous schedule ahead of him. As stated in my last report, I expect him to remain fit to execute the duties of the Presidency."
Conley did not elaborate as to what, if anything, precipitated Trump's hospital visit last fall.