We know that President Trump has not had a heart attack because he’s told us so. He laughs off speculation that an unannounced visit to Walter Reed hospital in Washington DC was for anything other than a ‘routine physical’. He told a rally in Florida that the doctors at Walter Reed all agreed he had a ‘gorgeous chest’. ‘We want to see, sir. We’ve never seen a chest quite like it.’ For the rest of us, he posted a picture on Twitter.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2019
But at least some of Washington’s cognoscenti are skeptical of Trump’s denial. It could just be swamp-talk from Trump haters, but a different account is circulating about these events, which took place over the weekend before last. According to this version of what happened, the president fell ill on the Friday night, suffering from ‘shortness of breath’. He went to Walter Reed the following day, where doctors checked his heart enzymes and did a coronary angiogram. For this, Cockburn’s own cardiologist helpfully explains, dye is injected into the heart’s blood vessels and an X-ray reveals any narrowing or blockages. Trump had ‘three blocked vessels’ and was told he needed stents to keep his arteries open.
The story goes on: the president refused to have the stents put in straight away, worrying that the media had seen his motorcade. ‘I have to be seen to leave.’ He is said to have returned secretly the next day to have no less than three stents inserted. Cockburn’s source said: ‘He has basically been working from his bedroom.’ Trump did make an appearance at a Cabinet meeting the day after it’s claimed he had the stents put in. But Politico reports that he has been conducting official business from the residence rather than the Oval Office. Politico says this is because the residence is a ‘sanctuary’ where he doesn’t have to run into staffers he doesn’t like. Cockburn’s informant maintains it’s because Trump is hiding out as he recovers.
This story has been in circulation for a week or so. All that can be said about its provenance is that the ultimate source for it is apparently ‘someone well connected to the Trump White House’. At least two major news organizations have his or her account and have apparently been trying to substantiate it. You can hardly blame them for not accepting Trump’s denials. During the 2016 campaign, his personal physician, Dr Harold Bornstein, issued a letter stating that Trump’s lab results were ‘astonishingly excellent’. ‘If elected, Mr Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.’ It turned out that Trump himself had written the letter. Nobody said he was without a sense of humor.
So now, once again, we have Trump’s own word for it that his health is ‘astonishingly excellent’. At that Monday Cabinet meeting, he spoke of reassuring Melania that the trip to Walter Reed didn’t mean he’d had a heart attack. ‘I was only there for a very short period of time, I went, did a very routine, just a piece of it, the rest takes place in January…I got back home and I get greeted with the news that “We understand you had a heart attack!”’ Since then, he’s returned regularly — even obsessively – to the question of his ‘heart attack’. Close observers of the president will have noticed his tendency — always — to talk about what’s on his mind, even if by doing so he draws attention to the thing he is trying to conceal. The more Trump denies he’s had heart problems, the more Cockburn wonders if the rumors may have some truth to them.