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Harold Bornstein: Former Trump doctor now ‘frightened and sad’

  • Author: Kyle Swenson, The Washington Post
  • Updated: May 2
  • Published May 2

They came knocking because of loose talk about the president's hair.

On Feb. 3, 2017, Donald Trump's longtime bodyguard, a Trump Organization lawyer and a third man allegedly pushed into the Park Avenue offices of Harold Bornstein, according to an account Trump's former physician gave NBC News on Tuesday.

Just days before the visit, Bornstein, an Italian-speaking gastroenterologist with his own shoulder-length locks and funky eyewear, had spilled to the New York Times about his most famous patient. Bornstein slipped to the Times that Trump took Propecia, a medication that stimulates hair growth. Bornstein confided to the paper he, too, took the drug. "He has all his hair," the doctor told the Times. "I have all my hair."

Two days later, the men from Trump – including security head Keith Schiller and attorney Alan Garten – arrived to reclaim all the files Bornstein had on the president. According to the doctor, they spent 25 to 30 minutes hoovering up the original copies of Trump's medical records – retaliation, he intimated this week, for speaking to the press. "It created a lot of chaos," Bornstein told the network.

"I feel raped – that's how I feel," the doctor dramatically said. "Raped, frightened, and sad. 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 is not a breach of medical trust to tell somebody they take Propecia to grow their hair. What's the matter with that?"

Trump's New York inner circle often seems stocked with blaring characters tuned to the president's own unique frequencies. There was Sam Nunberg, a fast-gabbing political operative. Omarosa Manigault Newman, a merciless reality television contestant. Michael Cohen, the tough-guy lawyer. Unbending loyalty knit them all to the man whose name was plastered on the building.

But as Trump's tenure in the White House continues, squeezed by a special prosecutor, low approval ratings and the legal fallout from his alleged relationship with porn star Stormy Daniels, each of those old guard loyalists has slipped away. Nunberg repudiated the president in a bizarre blitz of cable news appearances. Manigault used a stint on "Celebrity Big Brother" to knock the administration. And Cohen, Trump's attack-dog defender, is now the subject of a criminal investigation and featured in an unflattering light in the National Enquirer.

Bornstein, who served as Trump's physician for more than three decades, is the latest longtime Trump figure to publicly split from the president. And the repudiation did not stop with the doctor's revelation about the February 2017 visit. On Tuesday, Bornstein told CNN he did not write the 2015 glowing review of the president's health, a typo-pocked assessment that brought the doctor scrutiny.

"He dictated that whole letter," Bornstein told CNN. "I didn't write that letter."

Bornstein did not respond to a request for comment.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the visit to retrieve the records as "standard operating procedure for a new president."

In a December 2015 file image, Dr. Harold Bornstein, the one-time personal physician to Donald Trump, arrives at his New York office. (Joe Marino/New York Daily News/TNS)

For Bornstein, ministering to Trump's health has been a family business.

Bornstein's father, Jacob Bornstein, served as Trump's personal physician until 1980. The elder Bornstein's life was "a tribute to the uniquely American concept of 'anything is possible' if you are born here," according to his 2010 obituary. The son of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Jacob graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University and later earned a degree at Harvard Medical School. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II before setting up a private practice in New York City.

Bornstein followed his father into medicine, attending Tufts University School of Medicine after Tufts University in Boston.

Throughout his career, Bornstein has been hit with three malpractice lawsuits, according to the Daily Beast. Two of the cases involved allegations of overmedicating that led to a patients death, the website reported. "He prescribed for her medication disproportionate for her physical weight and she ended up falling and dying," one family members of a Bornstein patient told the Daily Beast. "I'm not saying it is because of him, but he contributed to her death."

Each complaint was settled before a trial, and Bornstein admitted no liability.

Last February, Bornstein told the New York Times he treated Trump each year with annual checkups and colonoscopies. Trump's first and third wives were also the doctor's patients, and he treated Trump's second wife occasionally. "I am probably the only person in the world who has every phone number for him and all the wives," Bornstein told the Times.

Bornstein first came to national attention after Trump's campaign released the December 2015 letter signed by the doctor attesting to the candidate's health. The breathless praise immediately raised eyebrows and questions.

The letter said that Trump's laboratory results were "astonishingly excellent." The candidate's "physical strength and stamina are extraordinary." It concluded: "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

The note drew scrutiny, and Bornstein eventually admitted he dashed off the letter in five minutes while a limo from Trump waited outside the doctor's Manhattan office. "I was just rushed for time," the doctor told CNN in 2016. "I had people to see."

This week, Bornstein offered a drastically different account of how the health report was compiled. According to a report from CNN, Bornstein said the letter was put together while he was on the phone with Trump. The patient offered up the language he wanted Bornstein to write, he now claims.

"[Trump] dictated the letter and I would tell him what he couldn't put in there," Bornstein told the network. "That's black humor, that letter . . . It's like the movie 'Fargo.' It takes the truth and moves it in a different direction."

Bornstein, who once had told Trump's personal secretary Rhona Graff he hoped to be the White House physician, said this week that his comments to the Times in February squashed that possibility. "So you wanted to be the White House doctor? Forget it, you're out," Graff told Bornstein after the records were taken from his office, the doctor told NBC News.

An 8-by-10 picture of Bornstein grinning with his famous client once hung prominently on the doctor's wall. According to NBC News, the photo is now lying unseen on a bookshelf. Bornstein claims Trump's men told him to remove the photo of happier times.

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