The Case Of Trump’s Strange Doctor Just Gets Stranger

Remember Donald Trump's strange doctor? Well, things just got stranger;.

Back in December 2015, the Trump campaign released a letter from the candidate’s longtime personal physician that, among other things, claimed that Trump would be the “healthiest person ever elected President” along with other wording that, nearly everyone agreed, certainly didn’t sound like it had been written by a medical doctor. Now, more than two years later, that same doctor is saying that the text of that letter was dictated to him by the then-candidate:

When Dr. Harold Bornstein described in hyperbolic prose then-candidate Donald Trump’s health in 2015, the language he used was eerily similar to the style preferred by his patient.

It turns out the patient himself wrote it, according to Bornstein.

“He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” Bornstein told CNN on Tuesday. “I just made it up as I went along.”

The admission is an about face from his answer more than two years when the letter was released and answers one of the lingering questions about the last presidential election. The letter thrust the eccentric Bornstein, with his shoulder-length hair and round eyeglasses, into public view.

“His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary,” he crowed in the letter, which was released by Trump’s campaign in December 2015. “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

The missive didn’t offer much medical evidence for those claims beyond citing a blood pressure of 110/65, described by Bornstein as “astonishingly excellent.” It claimed Trump had lost 15 pounds over the preceding year. And it described his cardiovascular health as “excellent.”

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment about Bornstein’s claim.

In a separate report, Bornstein is describing a somewhat odd incident that took place after the President took office:

In February 2017, a top White House aide who was Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard, along with the top lawyer at the Trump Organization and a third man, showed up at the office of Trump’s New York doctor without notice and took all the president’s medical records.

The incident, which Dr. Harold Bornstein described as a “raid,” took place two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he had prescribed a hair growth medicine for the president for years.

In an exclusive interview in his Park Avenue office, Bornstein told NBC News that he felt “raped, frightened and sad” when Keith Schiller and another “large man” came to his office to collect the president’s records on the morning of Feb. 3, 2017. At the time, Schiller, who had long worked as Trump’s bodyguard, was serving as director of Oval Office operations at the White House.

“They must have been here for 25 or 30 minutes. It created a lot of chaos,” said Bornstein, who described the incident as frightening.

A framed 8-by-10 photo of Bornstein and Trump that had been hanging on the wall in the waiting room now lies flat under a stack of papers on the top shelf of Bornstein’s bookshelf. Bornstein said the men asked him to take it off the wall.

Bornstein said he was not given a form authorizing the release of the records and signed by the president known as a HIPAA release — which is a violation of patient privacy law. A person familiar with the matter said there was a letter to Bornstein from then-White House doctor Ronny Jackson, but didn’t know if there was a release form attached.

“If Ronny Jackson was the treating doctor, and he was asking for his patient’s paperwork, a doctor is obligated to give it to him to ensure continuity of care,” said NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres, “but it has to be given in a secure fashion. Nobody who doesn’t have HIPAA clearance can see the patient records.”

NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said that patients generally own their medical information, but the original record is the property of the provider. “New York state law requires that a doctor maintain records for at least six years, so a doctor who hands over his original records runs the risk of violating New York state law,” said Cevallos.

Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts, including lab reports under Trump’s name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken.

Another man, Trump Organization chief legal officer Alan Garten, joined Schiller’s team at Bornstein’s office, and Bornstein’s wife, Melissa, photocopied his business card. Garten declined to comment for this article.

Schiller, who left the White House in September 2017, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Asked about the incident by Hallie Jackson of NBC News on Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that taking possession of medical records was “standard operating procedure for a new president” and that it was not accurate to characterize what happened as a “raid.”

“If Ronny Jackson was the treating doctor, and he was asking for his patient’s paperwork, a doctor is obligated to give it to him to ensure continuity of care,” said NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres, “but it has to be given in a secure fashion. Nobody who doesn’t have HIPAA clearance can see the patient records.”

NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said that patients generally own their medical information, but the original record is the property of the provider. “New York state law requires that a doctor maintain records for at least six years, so a doctor who hands over his original records runs the risk of violating New York state law,” said Cevallos.

Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts, including lab reports under Trump’s name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken.

Another man, Trump Organization chief legal officer Alan Garten, joined Schiller’s team at Bornstein’s office, and Bornstein’s wife, Melissa, photocopied his business card. Garten declined to comment for this article.

(…)

Bornstein said that Trump cut ties with him after he told The New York Times that Trump takes Propecia, a drug for enlarged prostates that is often prescribed to stimulate hair growth in men. Bornstein told the Times that he prescribed Trump drugs for rosacea and high cholesterol as well

The story also quotes Bornstein recalling that he had told Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime assistant, “You know, I should be the White House physician.”

After the article ran on Feb. 1, 2017, Bornstein said Graff called him and said, “So you wanted to be the White House doctor? Forget it, you’re out.’ ”

Two days after the article ran, the men came to his office.

“I couldn’t believe anybody was making a big deal out of a drug to grow his hair that seemed to be so important. And it certainly was not a breach of medical trust to tell somebody they take Propecia to grow their hair. What’s the matter with that?”

To be completely frank about it, Dr. Bornstein doesn’t come across as the most credible person in his own right. He didn’t in December 2015 when that health letter was released and he doesn’t come across any differently now. I guess the reason I say that is mostly because he’s just, well, weird and doesn’t act at all the way you’d expect a doctor to act. The best example of that, of course, was the original letter, which pretty much everyone had assumed had been dictated in some form or another by Trump. A normal physicians letter describing a patients health status quite simply doesn’t normally read the way that Bornstein’s December 2015 letter did, and in interviews that Bornstein granted around the time the letter was released, he just seemed like an odd guy. There are other examples of odd behavior on the part of Bornstein that makes one wonder how he ended up being the personal physician to someone like Trump. For example, telling reporters that he had prescribed Propecia or any other medication for Trump would seem to me to be a clear violation of HIPAA privacy protections that forbid medical providers from discussing a patient’s private medical information. If Trump didn’t give Bornstein permission to discuss those matters, then he could have some serious legal and ethical issues to deal with.

As for the report about the circumstances regarding the manner in which Trump took custody of his medical file, that too comes across as rather strange. It’s generally true that a patient owns the medical records that a physician keeps regarding their treatment, the manner in which those records are turned over is usually conducted far differently than the manner in which Bornstein described what happened in this case. For one thing, it’s typically required that the treating physician is given a copy of a signed release from the patient authorizing the release of the records to whoever is requesting them, even if that person is another doctor. It doesn’t appear that this was done in this case. Second, the doctor is typically given the opportunity to make copies for his own records since most states require doctors to maintain copies of patient files for a set number of years. In this case, Bornstein was apparently not given an opportunity to make those copies and now has no copy of Trump’s files for his own records, potentially exposing him to a violation of state law.

Like so many things surrounding this President, this is just not normal.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    I can think of two reasons for the surprise raid:

    1. Trump didn’t want Bornstein making copies of his records, not knowing or not caring that Bornstein was supposed to keep copies, because who knows what else Bornstein might reveal.
    2. Trump wanted to frighten and humiliate Bornstein for revealing to the world that he takes a hair loss drug, and this was a great way to do it–send in a lawyer and two tough guys to push him around.




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  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    It’s generally true that a patient owns the medical records that a physician keeps regarding their treatment

    IANAL, but I have close family members going through a lot of medical treatment, and have dealt with medical records pretty extensively. In most states, the patient does not own the records. The hospital or doctor’s office does. The patient cannot be barred from seeing his/her records, and obtaining copies, but they do not own the records. I cannot find NY’s laws on this matter, but if their laws are similar to the rest of the states’ laws regarding this, then this whole “incident” is actually a robbery.

    If that is the case, then, this story strikes me as quite huge. To recap, the President of the United States ordered two white house employees and a lawyer for the Trump Org* to strong arm their way into a private citizen’s office, rob that person of his (or rather his company’s) property, obtain the medical records of the President of the United States without that president’s written permission (as required by law), and destroy said records/doctor’s private property.

    A rather strange affair indeed.

    *in the process showing that Trump hasn’t at all set up a firewall between himself and his business, revealing this while an emoluments case is winding its way through the courts.




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  3. Kathy says:

    I have the notion that in Bizarro World, Trump would be exactly the same.




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  4. @Neil Hudelson:

    Fair enough and perhaps “owns” isn’t the proper way to put it. Suffice it to say that a doctor generally has to turn over copies of a medical file to a patient or a properly identified representative. In the case of a medical file, this generally means that the patient has to sign a HIPAA waiver authorizing a provider to turn over the file to a representative unless they are picking it up themselves.

    I’ve had this experience in the past since the rules are generally the same with respect to a client’s file for attorneys, although in our case we’re allowed to keep material that constitutes “work product.”

    In this case, not only didn’t Bornstein get to keep the records (or a copy) for his own files but the people who came to his office apparently didn’t have a HIPAA waiver. Like I said, this whole thing is weird.




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  5. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    unless they are picking it up themselves.

    In Ohio, I’ve been told by medical providers repeatedly, that after providing valid ID, I must sign a HIPPA release to obtain a copy of my own records.

    So yes, the concept of a “robbery” is not entirely far fetched.

    My question is: Did Trump give Borenstein authority to release medical information in 2015 , and was that authorization time limited? OTOH, was there no authorization to release medical information in 2015, only a request by Trump to the Doctor to summarize his medical records in a letter to Trump (which Trump released). If the latter is the case, then Borenstein violated HIPPA both in 2015 and recently.




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  6. CSK says:

    I’d be interested in knowing the identity of Tough Guy #2 who accompanied Gartner and Schiller to Bornstein’s office. Is it too farfetched to think that perhaps this lends some credence to Stormy Daniels’s claim of being threatened?




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  7. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    So Dennison sent a tough guy to intimidate his hair-growth DR…but we are supposed to believe he didn’t send a tough guy to intimidate Stormy Daniels?
    The only thing that surprises me any more is how Dennison lasted this long without being locked up.




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  8. James Pearce says:

    I suppose the idea is that “the healthiest president in history” stuff becomes more believable if the records are missing?




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  9. @James Pearce:

    To be fair, it is understandable that the President’s White House physicians would want the records from the doctor(s) that treated him before he became President. The manner in which this happened is what’s unusual, not the fact that the records were transferred.




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  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    The only thing that surprises me any more is how Dennison lasted this long without being locked up.

    Like someone in Cabaret said, “Money money money money money money.” Dennison should be impeached for the sheer stupidity of raising his profile so far with his record.




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  11. gVOR08 says:

    There was a reference wrt/ his medical records of aliases, plural. Was he getting prescriptions for an assumed name? There’s usually one reason for that.




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  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Didn’t Admiral what’s-his-name say at some point he didn’t have access to past records?




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  13. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    This should really be a massive scandal.
    Dennison committed deliberate fraud in deceiving the people about his health…while making a fake issue of Clinton’s health. We did not know what his real health situation was then, and we do not know now, because Ronny Jackson’s appraisal was clearly fraudulent as well; Dennison does not weigh just 239 pounds, and an obese guy on cholesterol drugs is not in excellent health.
    This is just another example of Dennison playing by a different set of rules than anyone before, and a supine Congress and Fourth Estate allowing it.




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  14. gVOR08 says:

    I can’t see Dr. Bornstein without thinking of Brent Spiner’s Dr. Okun in Independence Day.

    On checking for the spelling of the character name I stumbled over a bit of trivia. Anyone besides me old enough to remember Night Court? Remember the Wheelers, a family of hillbillies who occasionally showed up in court? Bob Wheeler was Brent Spiner.




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  15. de stijl says:

    That rug really pulled the whole room together.




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  16. de stijl says:

    If The Dude went to med school, this would be the result.




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  17. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    FWIT, the report Jackson released did refer to Trump’s past medical history of hypercholesterolemia and rosacea, and an appendectomy at age 11.




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  18. James Pearce says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The manner in which this happened is what’s unusual, not the fact that the records were transferred.

    Sure, but whatever records were transferred, they most definitely don’t show that Trump is the “healthiest president in American history.”




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  19. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Dennison does not weigh just 239 pounds

    I’m the same height as Dennison, and weigh 10 pounds more than his stated weight. My body looks like a Greek God compared to him. Sure, aging changes how your body distributes weight, but by my estimation as someone who’s in the ballpark of Trump’s BMI, I’d say he weighs 270 – 280.




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  20. JohnMcC says:

    stolen and no regrets:

    Keith Schiller: Boss, just got back. Here’s the medical records you wanted.
    Donald Trump: What medical records?
    Schiller: You wanted the Doctor’s records, right?
    Trump: No! I wanted the DOCTORED records! The ones in Michael Cohen’s office.




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  21. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    If The Dude went to med school, this would be the result.

    Blasphemy!

    He isn’t The Dude, he’s Brent Spiner from Independence Day.

    http://digitalspyuk.cdnds.net/16/25/980×490/landscape-1466514057-brent-spiner-independence-day.jpg




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  22. Hal_10000 says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    It’s been a long time since I worked in medicine, but I believe this is still correct. We had to maintain medical records on people who had passed away long ago. You simply can not take your medical records away from a practice because it is how they document for billing and protect themselves against potential allegations of malpractice.




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  23. Gustopher says:

    I’m not going to defend Trump completely here, but if his doctor was violating HIPAA by releasing some information (even “harmless” information, like the hair growth drug) without consent, I can understand the desire to have someone seize the records.

    By most accounts Dr. Bernstein appears to have violated Doctor-Patient confidentiality.

    I don’t have access to a bunch of thugs, and two wrongs don’t make a right, but I know I wouldn’t want that Doctor to have a copy of my records.




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  24. @Gustopher:

    Good point, but as I said above, the fact that Trump was going to have a new primary physician going forward is reason enough for wanting access to the medical records. It’s also worth noting that New York law apparently requires doctors to maintain copies of patient records even after they are turned over to another provider. Because Bornstein was prevented from making copies of any of the records, Trump and his representatives thus exposed him to violating that law.




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  25. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I don’t think being the victim of a robbery exposes you to a violation of the law. And, just for the record, I’ll say it again: I’m putting my money on prescription drug abuse




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  26. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    …Brent Spiner from Independence Day…

    OMFG! So effing true!

    Data goes Baby Boom boojie / hippie human!




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  27. teve tory says:

    I’m starting to think I really Don’t want trump impeached. Pence would get some bad shit done. Trump’s gang is the keystone kops.




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  28. KM says:

    @Gustopher:

    I can understand the desire to have someone seize the records.

    Except you can’t just have somebody walk in there and *take them*. There’s actual legal procedures and rules for obtaining records you think are in questionable hands and sending Thing 1 & Thing 2 is not one of them. Let’s reframe this: if you think your doctor is handling your records improperly and you decided to send some thugs to his office to “re-acquire” your property, what do you get charged with and how fast do the cops show up at your door?

    That’s how the mob works, not a law abiding citizen. Where I worked, I dealt with HIPAA violators and we never had random goons raid our office to get back personal medical records. I’d have called the cops immediately because (1) it’s trespassing no matter how you slice it and (2) there’s no guarantee they’ll only witness or take said patient’s records and not violate anyone else’s rights. How did they know what to take and where it was? Either they made him tell them – coercion – or they guessed and took things which is straight up theft if anything in there wasn’t the medical record in question. Again – this is how the mob works, not a normal citizen concerned about their medical info!




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  29. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Wait a minute…

    Have we gotten so used to bizzare behavior that this just goes on with out… anything?

    Why are the police not involved in an illegal entry and seizure?

    If anyone else barged into a medical office and started going through files and talking data, they would be stopped… if I minority, they would be shot! (…sorry, wish it wasn’t so, but this is America under Trump, and the cops are LITERALLY getting away with murder.)

    But the president’s “personal bodyguard”… which is NOT a thing (!!!) somehow is OK???

    Is this the point where the POTUS has decided that he is above the law?




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  30. the Q says:

    To JohnMcC….I said ping pong balls, not King Kong’s balls!!!!

    Bret Spiner comparison…classic.




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  31. Mu says:

    The robbery aspect is a bit far fetched, my guess is a “the boss is pissed that you talked, but we won’t sue if you turn over all the records” scenario. Instant settlement.




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