What ought to worry Trump is not the shattering of his image as the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” but that Bornstein is suddenly saying unhelpful things in the press — and that he could embolden others who feel burned by Trump to do the same.
Before discussing the health report with CNN, Bornstein told NBC that the president's former bodyguard and another “large man” executed a “raid” of his New York office in February 2017, seizing all of Trump's medical records. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders countered Tuesday that “those records were being transferred over to the White House Medical Unit as requested,” according to “standard procedure,” although Bornstein's claim that he retained no copies of the records suggests a violation of state law.
Bornstein told NBC that the episode left him “frightened and sad.” He stayed quiet for more than a year.
But now he is talking at a time when another keeper of confidential information about Trump, attorney Michael Cohen, is being stress-tested by a federal investigation of possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. In a moment of unusual candor, Cohen appeared to admit to CNN on Tuesday that he believes the Trump-allied National Enquirer is trying to pressure him not to trade dirt on the president for leniency from prosecutors.
“What do you think?” he said to a CNN reporter who asked whether a recent Enquirer cover about his “SECRETS & LIES” was meant to send a message.
Cohen and Bornstein have similar reasons to feel betrayed by Trump. The Washington Post reported last month that Cohen was, at one point, a leading candidate to become White House counsel and felt wounded by his ultimate rejection.
“Here was a guy who dedicated his life to Trump, who was sure he would be a top pick,” said a Trump associate who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe conversations that he heard. “He was iced out.”
Bornstein reportedly hoped to accompany Trump to the White House, too, but was similarly left behind. He told NBC that early last year, after he disclosed the president's use of a drug that can be used to treat hair loss and an enlarged prostate, he received an angry phone call from Trump's longtime assistant. “So you wanted to be the White House doctor? Forget it, you're out,” she allegedly said.
The list of people from whom Trump demanded unrequited loyalty is long and includes his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and press secretary, Sean Spicer. Priebus and Bannon already have made comments in books that reflected poorly on the president. Spicer has a book coming out in July that will surely involve a promotional media blitz.
The question that should preoccupy Trump is whether Bornstein's sudden willingness to speak publicly is a bad omen that foretells more unfavorable revelations by those who might feel mistreated.