By JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump and the White House have issued confusing denials concerning questions raised in a new book about his unannounced visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last November, denying that the president had suffered from specific medical conditions, including a stroke, mini-stroke or “any acute cardiovascular emergencies.”
But the forthcoming book by New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt never actually alleges that the president suffered any of those specific medical conditions. In fact, Schmidt writes that “the reason for Trump’s trip to the doctor remains a mystery.”
However, Schmidt’s reporting does raise questions about the White House’s longstanding narrative that the president made the Saturday trip to Walter Reed in order to get “a quick exam and labs” as part of his regular annual checkup, writing that the vice president was put on standby in case the president had to be anesthetized.
“In the hours leading up to Trump’s trip to the hospital, word went out in the West Wing for the vice president to be on standby to take over the powers of the presidency temporarily if Trump had to undergo a procedure that would have required him to be anesthetized,” Schmidt writes in the book, obtained by ABC News on Tuesday.
Trump reacted to reporting on Schmidt’s book Tuesday, writing on Twitter that “it never happened” that he “went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes,” though it remained unclear what or whose allegations he was referring to.
Later in the day, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley also issued a rare statement of denial that the president had ever suffered a list of specific medical conditions. He noted that he was issuing the statement at the president’s direct request.
“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,” Conley wrote.
Conley went on to affirm that “the President remains healthy and I have no concerns about his ability to maintain the rigorous schedule ahead of him.”
Both of the initial denials responded to allegations that were never raised by Schmidt. And neither directly addressed the central claim of Schmidt’s reporting: that it was thought at the time that the president might have to be anesthetized for a procedure and that the vice president was put on standby.
In an interview with Fox News Tuesday evening, Vice President Mike Pence was asked about the book’s claim.
“I don’t recall being told to be on standby. I was informed that the president had a doctor’s appointment,” Pence said in the the interview.
“I’ve got to tell you, part of this job is you are always on standby if you’re vice president of the United States. But the American people can be confident that this president is in remarkable good health, and every single day I see that energy,” Pence continued.
The president tweeted later in the evening with an additional denial that Pence was ever put on “standby” and said he went to the hospital to “complete my yearly physical,” which further contradicts the official White House’s statement that he was getting a head start on part of his physical.
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… https://t.co/GUVdbJRvqD
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 2, 2020
Following the November trip to Walter Reed, the president did not return to the hospital to complete the rest of his physical. A White House official told ABC News that Trump did not need to go back because the rest of the tests were completed at the White House. On June 3, the White House issued a memo from Dr. Conley that said the president “remains healthy” and said his conclusions were based on examinations between November 2019 and April 2020.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Wednesday also insisted to reporters that the purpose of the president’s visit to the hospital was “routine” and that the matter has been “blown out of proportion,” but he also noted that “we make all kinds of precautions to make sure that you have continuity of government.”
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