Donald Trump: Physician Letters, 2015-2016

Circus-like physicals
For physical exams while he was a private citizen, Trump said, "Well, I try and do it every year" 1. His long-time personal physician has written: "He has had an annual physical exam in the spring of every year" 2.

As a candidate, Trump issued three statements about his medical health:

  • 2015: (December)   SEE BELOW 3 (Physician statement #1)
  • 2016: (September)  SEE BELOW 2 (Physician statement #2)
  • 2016: (September)  MORE 1 (Interviews: Dr. Oz, Fox)
Since taking office, Trump has had more-or-less yearly physical examinations at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center:
  • 2017: (January)  Takes office.
  • 2018: (January)  MORE 4 Press briefing: MORE 5
  • 2019: (February) MORE 6
  • 2019: (November) MORE 7 sham exam part 1
  • 2020: (June)     MORE 8 sham exam part 2
The main medical results from these evaluations are tabulated elsewhere MORE, and are discussed in various pages.

Comment: Incredibly, these physical examinations, which one would expect to be routine, staid affairs, took on circus-like characteristics:

  • The 2015 report had ridiculous, unprofessional hyperbole that made Trump's physician a national laughingstock. It later emerged that Trump wrote this report himself.
  • The 2018 report was delivered during a press conference in which the President's physician made good-humored and properly caveated remarks that commentators unfairly inflated to ridiculousness.
  • The first 2019 report, though more subdued (and, sadly, far less complete), still contained unsupportable prognostications from the new presidential physician.
  • The second 2019 report, for Trump's "interim checkup" -- if that's what it really was -- is a shambles. Subtexts of the nonsensical statements from the White House and the President's physician strongly suggest it was not a routine examination at all, but a hurried, abrupt consultation at Walter Reed for undisclosed medical reasons.
  • The 2020 report was no report at all, except for confirming with painful clarity the degree to which the White House physician is a patsy of his President. Worse, with a presidential election occurring less than five months later, the results of this physical examination will be the only recent medical data available to the electorate when they vote.

Hence, four times in three years confidence in the office of the President's physician was undermined -- a low ebb in its history. Even if one credulously believes that the President's medical team has been completely and honestly forthcoming, all this sturm und drang is itself dangerous, as it can easily detract from substantive medical issues -- as it already seems to have done with Trump's sleep.

During the time Donald Trump was campaigning for President, Dr. Harold Bornstein, wrote two letters describing the candidate's health. Drama has surrounded the first letter, which hardly qualifies as a medical document. Dr. Bornstein ultimately disclosed that Trump has written that letter himself. (Details below.)

*   *   *

This tweet from December 3, 2015 9 started it off:

The next day Dr. Bornstein wrote his first letter. Ten days after that, the letter was released publicly 3, heralded by a boastful cover note from the candidate that gets the name of his physician wrong:

This first letter of Dr. Bornstein's 3 was hardly the "full report" that candidate Trump promised in his tweet:

The release of this letter created a sensation, not so much for its lack of detail as for its laughably hyperbolic non-professional language and tone:

  • "only positive results"
    • Actually, this is bad: when a person "tests positive" for a disease, it means they have the disease. So "only positive results" means everything was abnormal!
  • "laboratory results were astonishingly excellent"
  • "physical strength and stamina are extraordinary"
  • "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
    • Perfectly described as a "quackish assertion" by the Washington Post 10.
The letter unfortunately made Dr. Bornstein a national laughing stock (aided no doubt by his unconventional hairstyle).

Nine months later NBC News interviewed him about the letter and reported that

Bornstein said that after he was asked to write the letter, he thought about what he would say all day but did not type it out until the last minute as a black car sent by Trump waited to collect it. He said he didn't even proofread it. 11
The NBC report was headlined: "Wrote Health Letter in Just 5 Minutes as Limo Waited." When asked about the bombastic language Dr. Bornstein said: "I think I picked up his kind of language and then just interpreted it to my own." When asked specifically about the "healthiest individual" claim, Bornstein replied, "I like that sentence to be quite honest with you and all the rest of them are either sick or dead."

Thus, at this point in time (August 2016), Dr. Bornstein is still covering for Donald Trump.

*   *   *

A month after the NBC interview and two months before election day 2016, Bornstein released a second letter 2 12, more professional in language and tone. (With it, he also released a letter appointing him to the active staff at Lenox Hill Hospital, viewable here. At the time his first letter was released, he had been accused of inflating his connection to Lenox Hill.)

Here is Dr. Bornstein's second letter:

*   *   *

Sadly for him, the Dr. Bornstein saga did not end when Trump moved to Washington as President. Speaking too freely to the New York Times in February 2017 13, Dr. Bornstein remarked that Trump used two previously undisclosed medications: the hair-growth agent Propecia (finasteride), and a tetracycline antibiotic for the skin condition rosacea.

According to Dr. Bornstein, this rapidly precipitated two events:

  • Two days after the Times interview, three men representing Trump -- his longtime body-guard, the Trump Organization's chief legal officer, and another "large man" -- "raided" Bornstein's office and seized all of Trump's medical records that Dr. Bornstein had on file 14. The White House physician had earlier sent Bornstein a letter requesting the records, but the men who seized the records did not have a signed HIPAA release form to give Bornstein 14. A White House statement claimed this was "standard operating procedure" 15. Comment: Dr. Zebra is not an attorney, but he agrees with those who have said there were illegal elements in this action 14. Medical records are legal documents, and there are weighty responsibilities on the physician to maintain them, even after a patient leaves his or her care. By seizing the original records, rather than making copies, the White House agents left Dr. Bornstein in a legally precarious state. One assumes there is no special case in the law for presidential medical records, nor for physicians who speak too freely about the contents of the records. As for being standard operating procedure, a legally proper transfer of records may be standard, but a thuggish raid is not.

  • Dr. Bornstein had earlier contacted a member of the White House to suggest that he become the president's physician in Washington. Two days after the disclosure, Bornstein said he received a gruff phone call from Trump's longtime personal assistant Rhona Graff, who said "So you wanted to be the White House doctor? Forget it, you're out." 14 Over the next year, he found that he had been completely removed from the President's orbit, his patient of 36 years 15.

*   *   *

With his hopes for being Presidential physician dashed in early 2017, Bornstein contradicted many of his earlier statements and admitted in May 2018 16 that Trump himself wrote the fatuous first letter released under Dr. Bornstein's name in 2015: "He dictated that whole letter. I didn't write that letter." The White House did not respond to questions about Bornstein's claim.

Cited Sources
  1. Cillizza, Chris; Blake, Aaron. Donald Trump's interview with Dr. Oz was just as amazingly strange as we thought it would be. (Published 15 September, 2016. Downloaded on 2019-12-01.) Available on the web:

    Comment: Also includes annotations by Cillizza and Blake. Their interview transcript is archived here: MORE

  2. Bornstein, Harold N. [Public Letter]. (Published 13 Sept. 2016. Downloaded on 2019-11-30.) Available on the web:

    Comment: Dr. Bornstein became Trump's physician in 1980. Bornstein's letter is linked to by Frizell (op cit) and is archived here -->   MORE

  3. Bump, Philip. Donald Trump's doctor came down with a case of Trumpitis. (Published 26 Aug. 2016 (revision of original Dec. 2015 story). Downloaded on 2019-11-25.) Available on the web:

    Comment: This articles relates to the first of Dr. Bornstein's letters, reprinted here -->   MORE

  4. Jackson, Ronny L. (M.D.). The President's Periodic Physical Exam. (Published January 16, 2018. Downloaded on 2019-11-21.) Available on the web:

    Comment: The document is archived here -->   MORE. Also highly informative is the press briefing where the report was delivered: MORE.

  5. Sanders, Sarah; Jackson Ronny. Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Dr. Ronny Jackson. (Published 16 Jan. 2018. Downloaded on 2019-12-28.) Available on the web:

    Comment: A transcript of the press briefing is archived here --> MORE

  6. Conley, Sean (D.O.). The President's Second Periodic Physical Exam. (Published February 14, 2019. Downloaded on 2019-11-25.) Available on the web:

    Comment: The document is archived here -->   MORE

  7. Conley, Sean (D.O.). Interim Check Up. (Published November 18, 2019. Downloaded on 2019-11-21.) Available on the web:

    Comment: The document is archived here -->   MORE

  8. Conley, Sean (D.O.). President Donald J. Trump's Periodic Physical Exam. (Published June 3, 2020. Downloaded on 2020-06-10.) Available on the web:

    Comment: The document is unacceptably vague about dates. For example, it is not possible to determine on what date between Nov. 2019 and April 2020 the President's weight was measured. The document is archived here -->   MORE

  9. Trump, Donald J.. [Tweet: As a presidential candidate, I have instructed my long-time doctor to issue, within two weeks, a full medical report-it will show perfection]. (Published December 3, 2015. Downloaded on 2019-11-30.) Available on the web:
  10. [Unsigned Editorial]. Is Rudy Giuliani okay?. (Published 24 Aug. 2016. Downloaded on 2016-08-25.) Available on the web:
  11. Schecter, Anna; Francescani, Chris; Connor, Tracy. Trump Doctor Wrote Health Letter in Just 5 Minutes as Limo Waited. (Published Aug. 26, 2016. Downloaded on 2019-11-30.) Available on the web:
  12. Frizell, Sam. Donald Trump's Doctor's Letter Reveals He is Overweight, But 'In Excellent Health'. (Published September 15, 2016. Downloaded on 2019-11-30.) Available on the web:

    Comment: This article links to Dr. Bornstein's second letter, with the Lenox Hill preface.

  13. Altman, Lawrence K. Donald Trump's Longtime Doctor Says President Takes Hair-Growth Drug. (Published 1 Feb. 2017. Downloaded on 2019-12-24.) Available on the web:
  14. Schecter, Anna. Trump doctor Harold Bornstein says bodyguard, lawyer "raided" his office, took medical files. (Published 1 May 2018. Downloaded on 2019-12-24.) Available on the web:
  15. Rogers, Katie; Altman, Lawrence K. Trump's Former Doctor Says Office Was Raided and Files Seized. (Published 1 May 2018. Downloaded on 2019-12-29.) Available on the web:
  16. Marquardt, Alex; Crook, Lawrence III. Exclusive: Bornstein claims Trump dictated the glowing health letter. (Published May 2, 2018. Downloaded on 2019-11-30.) Available on the web:

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