On his personal health, Trump raises more questions than he answers

Ten months after Trump's unannounced visit to Walter Reed Medical Center, the president is still trying to explain what happened. It's not going well.
President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump walks from the Oval Office to board marine One and depart from the South Lawn at the White House on July 15, 2020.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file
By Steve Benen

Ten months after Donald Trump's unannounced visit to Walter Reed Medical Center, the president is still trying to explain what happened. It's not going well.

Yesterday, responding to claims that no news organization had reported, Trump insisted via Twitter that he had not "suffered a series of mini-strokes." Soon after, as the White House issued a statement echoing the president, the Republican added in another tweet, in apparent reference to strokes, "Not even a 'minor' one. Thank you!"

Last night, Trump kept this going with yet another tweet on the subject.

"Mike Pence was never put on standby, & there were no mini-strokes. This is just more Fake News by [CNN], a phony story. The reason for the visit to Walter Reed, together with the full press pool, was to complete my yearly physical. Short visit, then returned (with press) to W.H..."

The ellipses were in the original, and there was no follow-up missive. That said, the president apparently liked the tweet so much that he retweeted it again a little after 5 a.m. (E.T.) this morning.

The trouble is, the information in this latest statement includes claims we already know aren't accurate -- in large part because they contradict claims Trump made previously.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, let's take a step back and review how we arrived at this point. As Rachel has noted on the show, there was a curious development last November in which Trump went to Walter Reed for a previously unannounced visit, which, unlike his usual hospital visits, was not on his official schedule.

The public was told the president was getting part of a physical exam, which was also odd since physicals aren't usually done in separate episodes.

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.

Yesterday, the vice president appeared on Fox News and was asked about the story. Pence said Trump "is in excellent health," but added, "I don't recall being told to be on standby." As part of the same interview, the vice president also said, "I just refer any other questions to the White House physician."

This did not make the questions go away.

It was against this backdrop that Trump tweeted that the purpose of the visit was to "complete" his yearly physical. That's not what happened: the president had already completed a physical earlier in the year, and according to what Trump tweeted after going to Walter Reed, the point was to "begin phase one" of his yearly exam. (Why he characterized multi-phase physicals as normal has never been clear.)

What's more, the president claimed last night that it was a "short visit." Actually, Trump was at Walter Reed for more than two hours.

It was already an odd story. If the president thinks he's making this less mysterious, he's mistaken.