Mystery around Trump’s hospital visit
A lack of notice. Past failures to level with the American people. A tough week for the White House as public impeachment hearings got under way.
Add it all up, and President Donald Trump's unscheduled weekend visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center raised suspicions about his health, despite White House officials' insistence that the President was merely getting a head start on his annual physical.
For any President, a sudden trip to the hospital would raise questions. But such scrutiny was magnified with a President who has a history of exaggeration and playing loose with the facts, giving sceptics room to run with their own theories.
"The one thing you can be absolutely sure of is this was not routine and he didn't go up there for half his physical," tweeted Joe Lockhart, a press secretary under former president Bill Clinton, who was himself impeached for perjury and obstruction.
"What does it mean? It means that we just won't know what the medical issue was."
The President's medical appointment wasn't listed on his Saturday public schedule, and his last physical was just nine months ago.
Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the 73-year-old President was "anticipating a very busy 2020" and wanted to take advantage of "a free weekend" in Washington to begin portions of his routine check-up.
She did not specify which tests he'd received or explain why the visit had not been disclosed in advance. Mr Trump's 2018 and 2019 physicals were both announced ahead of time. Ms Grisham said after the visit that the President had gotten "a quick exam and labs".
"The President remains healthy and energetic without complaints, as demonstrated by his repeated vigorous rally performances in front of thousands of Americans several times a week," she said.
But some weren't buying Ms Grisham's explanation.
"The real Donald Trump is getting exposed for what he's done, and that's what's driving him to the doctor," Rahm Emanuel, a former Clinton aide and Chicago mayor, said on Sunday on ABC's This Week.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said it's reasonable for the press to be asking questions about the President's health.
She said the country has a long history of presidents hiding physical ailments from the public.
Woodrow Wilson suffered a paralytic stroke in 1919 and the full details of his disability were kept from the public. Franklin D. Roosevelt won a fourth term despite severe hypertension that would contribute to his death 11 weeks into his term.
Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in his first term in 1955 and a reassessment of his medical records and public information four decades later found the information released to the public was recast to serve the president's political interests ahead of his 1956 re-election campaign.
Ms Jamieson noted that Mr Trump was criticised for releasing only cursory details on his health prior to the election.
The President's doctor, Harold N. Bornstein, wrote in December 2015 that Mr Trump would "unequivocally" be the healthiest President in history and deemed the celebrity businessman's condition "astonishingly excellent".
Dr Bornstein later said he wrote the note in five minutes while a limo sent by the candidate waited outside his office. Ms Jamieson said there was a set of expectations about how a president's annual exam was handled, which included the advance public notice that the Trump White House provided for his first two exams.
She said the reasonable question was: "If this is routine, why was it not handled in a routine manner?" Ms Grisham said everything the White House has said about the Walter Reed visit was "true and accurate".
"Just because it was done a little differently doesn't mean anything is wrong," she said.
Mr Trump's doctor issued a report on Monday, saying that contrary to some reports he had not suffered any chest pain.
"Despite some of the speculation, the President has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues," presidential physician Sean Conley said in a statement issued by the White House.
"Specifically, he did not undergo any specialised cardiac or neurologic evaluations."
Some Washington reports suggested that the check-up was unscheduled and had been triggered by Mr Trump suffering chest discomfort.
"Due to scheduling uncertainties, the trip was kept off the record," Mr Conley said in the statement, which added details of the President's cholesterol results.
Mr Trump and the White House have characterised the visit as "phase 1" of his annual physical. But the explanation raised questions simply because its handling was unusual.
First, annual physicals typically aren't performed in instalments unless someone needs a special test not available at their doctor's office - something that shouldn't be an issue at a military hospital.
Nor are they usually performed three months early; Mr Trump's last physical was last February. Some lab tests might be performed every few months if a doctor suspects a problem, but otherwise blood tests such as a check of whether Mr Trump's medication was keeping his high cholesterol in check normally would be performed at the one-year mark.
His prior physicals were scheduled in advance not only because that's how doctors schedule everyone's "wellness" check-ups - even VIPs - but because a presidential visit to a hospital prompts extra security concerns.
AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report