For Trump, the Only Medical News Is Good Medical News

The White House said at the time that Mr. Trump was simply undergoing a series of “quick exam and labs” as part of his annual physical exam because he was anticipating a “very busy 2020.” Mr. Trump never completed that physical.

Much like the release of a president’s tax returns, releasing the results of an annual physical is a custom, not a legal requirement. (The White House physician’s responsibilities, meanwhile, are to the patient, not the public.) Presidents are not required to tell the public anything about their annual physical exam, or the status or history of their health, although all modern presidents since Richard M. Nixon have chosen to give out some information.

Dr. Conley’s predecessor in the job, Dr. Jackson, had served under the past three presidents. But Dr. Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral who is now a Republican candidate for Congress in Texas and endorsed by the president, seemed particularly eager to please Mr. Trump.

At a news conference in January 2018, Dr. Jackson said that Mr. Trump was in great health, citing his “incredible genes,” and his assessment that he had done “exceedingly well” on a cognitive test and was “mentally very, very sharp.” He also said that if Mr. Trump had adhered to a better diet over the past 20 years, he “could have lived to 200.”

It was also not clear whether Dr. Jackson fudged the president’s height — he said Mr. Trump was 6 feet 3 inches, when his driver’s license lists him as 6 feet 2 inches. Either way, his body mass index would have defined him as obese.

White House doctors have also refused to provide a full accounting of why the first lady, Melania Trump, visited Walter Reed in 2018 for what they described as a routine embolization procedure “to treat a benign kidney condition.” Her five-day hospital stay for a procedure that is typically completed in one was never accounted for.

The inaccurate and misleading briefing from the White House physician on Saturday was a disappointment to some administration officials, who had pushed for Dr. Conley to take over as the public face of the current news cycle, hoping he would be seen as a more credible source than Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary.


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