Donald Trump made what his campaign billed as two major disclosures on Wednesday. First, an attorney provided a timeline of his Slovenia-born wife’s immigration status. Then, amid questions about his health during a television interview, Trump pulled some medical test results out of his blazer pocket.
Yet despite these high-profile gestures, Trump remains the least transparent major presidential nominee in modern history. He is the first since 1976 to refuse to release his tax returns. He has declined to provide documentation of the “tens of millions” of dollars he claims to have donated to charity. He has yet to release a comprehensive accounting of his health. And, while Wednesday’s letter about Melania Trump’s immigration from her home country offers a few new details, there is no documentation to back up the claims.
At the same time, Trump and his aides are criticizing rival Hillary Clinton as secretive and demanding more information from her about her emails and health. Many Democrats also see Trump’s refusal to release basic information as hypocritical since for years, he was one of the loudest voices demanding that President Obama release his birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii and qualified to be president. Trump also called on Obama to release his college applications, school transcripts and passport applications.
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, played down Trump’s need to release health records on MSNBC on Tuesday: “I don’t know why we need such extensive medical reporting when we all have a right to privacy.”
In the same TV interview, Conway criticized Clinton for not immediately disclosing that she had been diagnosed with mild pneumonia last week, a decision that came to a head on Sunday when she left a 9/11 memorial service after feeling overheated. “Why in the world did Hillary Clinton lie to everyone and conceal such an important fact for two days?” Conway asked.
On Wednesday, Clinton’s campaign released a letter from her doctor describing her treatment for “mild, non-contagious bacterial pneumonia” and noting that she received a CT scan confirming the illness and that she is halfway through an antibiotic regimen. In July 2015, Clinton released a two-page letter from her doctor that contained several lab results and more information than what Trump has thus far released.
Clinton also recently made public the past nine years of her tax returns, showing that she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, had an income of $10.7 million for 2015 and paid about $3.6 million in federal taxes.
Most voters say they want transparency from candidates. In May, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 64 percent of registered voters said Trump should release his taxes, while 31 percent said it is okay that he has not done so.
Clinton supporters say Trump is creating the illusion of being transparent by releasing bits of information and saturating the airwaves with interviews. Instead of a full medical history, Trump released a four-paragraph letter from his personal doctor in December that declared he had “no significant medical problems” and would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” At the time, Trump was taking aspirin daily and “a low dose of a statin.” The campaign said he plans to release more soon.
Trump, 70, would be the oldest president ever elected to a first term. He loves fast food from McDonald’s and KFC and, according to media accounts, told the host of “The Dr. Oz Show” that his main exercise is the vigorous hand gesturing he does during his political rallies. Yet for months, Trump has said that Clinton, 68, does not have the “strength” or “stamina” for the presidency and has accused her of being “exhausted” and sleeping too much.
On Monday — the day after Clinton fell ill at the memorial — Trump announced on Fox News that he underwent a physical last week and would release the “very, very specific” results this week. He spoke of his health with great confidence and said he finds the campaign trail “very invigorating.”
During a taping of the interview with Dr. Mehmet Oz scheduled to air Thursday, Oz asked Trump why he has not released his medical records.
“Well, I really have no problem in doing it,” Trump said, according to a brief clip released by the show Wednesday. “I have it right here. Should I do it? I don’t care. Should I do it?”
Trump then pulled out what he called a “report” and a letter from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, which Oz examined — then the 30-second clip ended.
With the show and the campaign refusing to release any data, members of the audience shared details that they remembered with reporters, though the accounts varied. MSNBC interviewed Daniel Sinasohn, who struggled to remember exactly what Trump said he weighed. “I thought he said 267. My boyfriend said that maybe it was 230,” Sinasohn said. “ ... I am not 100 percent sure.”
Also on Wednesday, Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, posted a letter on Twitter from an immigration attorney that included new details about her immigration to the United States from Slovenia. But it also raised more questions, and no documentation was provided to confirm the claims.
Michael J. Wildes, an attorney who has worked for Donald Trump but was not involved in his wife’s immigration case, wrote that Melania Trump first entered the United States on Aug. 27, 1996, using a B-1/B-2 visa.
Wildes said that on Oct. 18, 1996, the U.S. Embassy in Slovenia issued her first H-1B work visa and that she got a total of five visas between 1996 and 2001, when she received her green card. Wildes said she got the card — which provides legal permanent residence — under the “extraordinary ability” category but did not outline how.
The federal government defines the “extraordinary ability” designation “for people who are recognized as being at the very top of their field.” Experts say the category is used by people with exceptional and renowned talent, including those who win Nobel Prizes. In 2000, Trump was a working model best known for her relationship with Donald Trump, but she was not a top international model.
Immigration attorney Bruce Morrison, who wrote the federal law including the “extraordinary ability” provision when he was a Democratic congressman from Connecticut, said it was known as the “Einstein category.”
“It wasn’t always good enough to be a player in the starting lineup of Major League Baseball; you had to be the most valuable player. The expectation was that you had to be truly extraordinary in your field,” Morrison said, adding: “If someone came to me with her ability, I would be dubious that she would get it.”
Wildes, the Trump attorney, also used his letter to rebut news stories that Melania Trump had posed for nude photos in New York in 1995, thereby raising questions about whether she was working as a model illegally before getting her visa in 1996. Wildes said Trump was not in the United States at all in 1995.
In late July, the New York Post ran the nude photographs on its cover and reported that they were taken in 1995. Marc Dolisi, former editor of the now-defunct men’s magazine Max told The Washington Post in August that the photos were published in the magazine’s February 1996 edition and been shot in late 1995. But when contacted again recently, Dolisi said he had made a mistake and that the photos were published in the February 1997 edition.