Grisham’s book says Trump made the decision to keep his visit a secret because, she suspects, he didn’t want to be the “butt of the joke” on late-night television. The book also explains her belief that he avoided anesthesia because of the painful and invasive procedure because he did not want Vice President Mike Pence to temporarily assume the post of commander in chief and loathed to show any kind of weakness.
Former White House staff say they were surprised the detail was never revealed while Trump was president. After all, almost everything else eventually made its way into TV chyrons and newspaper headlines.
Instead, the moment became emblematic of another standout feature of the Trump years: the president took an otherwise normal event – more than 19 million colonoscopies were performed in the US alone in 2018 – and turned it into something much larger and more controversial from its cryptic dealings in order to. It has fed a destructive feedback loop: in which the White House operates in secret, the press is motivated by it and the resulting speculation and reporting feed a narrative of the irresponsibility of the media.
Trump, a notorious germaphobe who is also obsessed with maintaining an image of extremely prime health, went to great lengths to hide the news of his colonoscopy; so much so that few aides besides Grisham, the president’s doctor and chief of staff’s office, were even made aware of why he was hospitalized at the time.
The first line offered to explain his two hour visit was that he would simply go for a routine checkup. Grisham himself told reporters he was taking advantage of “a weekend off” – a half-truth that would raise questions about her checking account if others hadn’t confirmed it.
Trump himself seemed particularly eager to turn his visit to the doctor.
“I went to an examination on Saturday. My wife said, ‘Oh darling, this is wonderful.’ Because I had a little more time, ”he said during a cabinet meeting shortly after the visit. “But I went for an exam and came back and my wife said, ‘Oh darling, are you all right? What’s happening? They report that you may have had a heart attack. ‘ I said why am I having a heart attack? Because you went to Walter Reed, we’ll go there when we have the investigations. I was only there for a very short time. “
Trump told Fox & Friends the following Friday that White House doctor Dr. Sean P. Conley, noticed a break in his schedule and asked if he would come to Walter Reed for part of his physical exam.
“I said yes, go ahead, let’s go,” Trump recalled. “I’m starting my physical one. Go to soldiers. Go to families. Did a little tour of the building. Get back on. On the way back I hear rumors that I’m in the hospital. Then I hear rumors that I had a chest pain. Then I hear rumors that I’ve just had a massive heart attack. Then I hear rumors that I’m not coming back, I’ll be staying with Walter Reed overnight and maybe a long time. “
But Trump’s disbelief over the coverage of his Walter Reed visit did little to contain speculation about what actually happened. In fact, it had the opposite effect. The topic became a fascination for editorial offices. Helpers also looked for answers in the White House.
The day of the trip itself had been relatively calm, save for a spate of tweets from Trump about everything from Donald Trump Jr.’s book to the stock market. The impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill had just taken place, but as usual most weekends, there were few staff members in the sleepy west wing. Then, in the early afternoon, a press officer called the pool to gather for a secret movement.
A reporter from the pool service later informed the public around 3 p.m. that the president had arrived at the hospital about 30 minutes north of Bethesda, where they waited almost two hours. The White House’s schedule for the weekend had no upfront events, and using a motorcade on a clear day – instead of a Marine One helicopter – only added to speculation about Trump’s health.
“Did he go to the CIA building?” A journalist in the pool remembered being surprised. “We didn’t know where we were going, but of course we tried to think about whether it was an urgent health problem. We speculated, I think some people were wondering if it could be a heart problem, but nobody had a clue and everyone was trying to figure it out. We all spat. “
The President was spotted by a photographer when he was leaving Walter Reed at 5:03 p.m., “shirt open, no tie,” and with the exception of a punctured press car, the evening ended unceremoniously. Shortly after 8 p.m. Trump was back on Twitter.
On Fox News that evening, Grisham told presenter Jeannine Pirro that Trump was “as healthy as possible … He has more energy than anyone else in the White House.”
But many in the public were not convinced. There were questions about why Trump wasn’t wearing a tie, or whether he looked like he was walking normally, or why he was carrying an envelope (probably his collection of working papers and news clips).
“The question is less what they did on Saturday afternoon. The more important question is why was it done? ”Dr. Jonathan Reiner, the former cardiologist for Vice President Dick Cheney, asked on CNN. “Doing tests like this at Walter Reed without provocation makes little sense.”
President Donald Trump takes a break during a health awards event in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, November 15, 2019, in Washington, one day prior to his trip to Walter Reed Medical Center. (Evan Vucci / AP Photo) | Evan Vucci / AP Photo
The first hint of what actually happened came in a book by New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt about a year after the mysterious trial. Schmidt noted that “in the hours leading up to Trump’s hospitalization in the West Wing, news was circulating that the Vice President should be on standby to temporarily assume the presidency if Trump were to undergo any procedure that might have” demanded that he be was drugged. ”
Trump reacted as expected to Schmidt’s reporting and loudly denied that his visit had anything to do with the fact that he had “mini-strokes,” as suggested on Twitter. Shortly afterwards he ordered Dr. Conley to weigh himself in public.
“I can confirm that President Trump has not experienced or investigated a cerebrovascular accident (stroke), transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke), or any acute cardiovascular emergency, as has been erroneously reported in the media,” Conley wrote in an unusual one statement passed on to the press.
And that was it. Walter Reed’s trip remained an object of fascination and intrigue until Grisham answered to finally clarify.
Looking back, a former Trump White House official said it was understandable that the former president refused to reveal that he had a colonoscopy.
“If you’re President Trump and you think you’re definitely going to get bad press, you can freak out everyone [by keeping it secret] or you say you are going to have a colonoscopy and people will joke about it, you would prefer to have everyone in an upset when people imagine he is going to have a colonoscopy, ”the officer said.
But Grisham himself had a different perspective on the incident. In retrospect, she writes, it was like much else in the Trump years: a missed opportunity to confront the country and educate the public on a really important issue, in this case the benefits of disease detection.
“I thought the American people had a right to know about the president’s health, and I still do. But I haven’t pushed the matter too far, ”Grisham wrote. “I think the President was embarrassed about the process, even though President George W. Bush had the same thing done when he was in office and was very transparent about it.”