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President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump walks to board Marine One and depart from the South Lawn at the White House on Feb 7, 2020.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Imagesfile

Trump asked doctors to sign non-disclosure agreements in 2019?

Trump's unexplained visit to Walter Reed last fall just got quite a bit more mysterious.


There's no shortage of unanswered questions surrounding the details of Donald Trump's coronavirus infection and recent hospitalization. But let's not overlook the importance of the questions surrounding the president's other trip to Walter Reed.

President Donald Trump required personnel at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to sign nondisclosure agreements last year before they could be involved with treating him, according to four people familiar with the process. During a surprise trip to Walter Reed on Nov. 16, 2019, Trump mandated signed NDAs from both physicians and nonmedical staff, most of whom are active-duty military service members, these people said.

NBC News' report added that at least two doctors at Walter Reed refused to sign the NDAs and were "subsequently not permitted to have any involvement in the president's care," according to the network's sources.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, let's review how we arrived at this point. As Rachel has noted on the show, there was a curious development last fall 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 last month because the New York Times' Michael Schmidt released a new book in which the author reported that Vice President Mike Pence was told to be on standby during Trump's hospital visit, in case Trump had to undergo a procedure that would have required him to be anesthetized, which in turn would require Pence to temporarily assume the powers of the presidency.

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.

The vice president appeared on Fox News in September and was asked about the story. Pence said he didn't "recall being told to be on standby." As part of the same interview, the vice president added, "I just refer any other questions to the White House physician."

This did not make the questions go away.

Around the same time, the president denied having suffered "a series of mini-strokes" -- an assertion no news organization had reported -- adding that the purpose of last fall's visit was to "complete" his yearly physical.

Except, we know that's not what happened: 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 month that it was a "short visit," while in reality, Trump was at Walter Reed for more than two hours.

It was already an odd story. The reporting on non-disclosure agreements makes the mystery all the more notable.