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Gait-gate? Trump's unsteady walk prompts questions on his health

President Donald Trump at the U.S. Military Academy

President Donald Trump at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Saturday. Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Nicholas Kamm

Fitness claim in a shamble?

From time to time, President Donald Trump will produce a doctor's note touting the excellence of his health. During the 2016 campaign, his personal New York physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, wrote that Trump would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." (In 2017, after Bornstein told a reporter that Trump "dictated that whole letter," the doctor said Trump's people came to his office and seized all of his medical records on the president.)

Trump also argues that Joe Biden lacks the physical and mental stamina to be president. That's one more reason for heightened attention to how physically unsteady Trump appeared to be twice on Saturday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he delivered a commencement address.

Descending a ramp from the platform after his speech, Trump walked slowly and hesitantly, one step at a time, and looked down, as seen in this video clip. He resumed a more normal pace and gait two steps from the bottom. By Saturday night, aware of buzzing social media speculation, Trump sought to explain himself in a tweet: "The ramp, he said, was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery. The last thing I was going to do is 'fall' for the Fake News to have fun with."

But Trump's claim about a slippery ramp was inconsistent with the sunny, dry weather. The grassy plain on which the commencement took place was dry, noted The Washington Post. Nor was the ramp particularly steep. Trump’s difficulty traversing stairs and ramps has come up before, most notably in January 2017, shortly after his inauguration, when he clutched the hand of Theresa May, then the British prime minister, as they walked at the White House, The New York Times recalled.

The ramp walk wasn't the only disconcerting moment. During the speech, when Trump paused to take a sip of water, he began raising the glass with his right hand but couldn't lift it all the way to his mouth. He used his left hand to steady the glass and push it up from the bottom until it reached his lips, as seen in this video clip. In his address, Trump mispronounced the names of such well-known historical figures as Army Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and Douglas MacArthur.

The videos again raised questions about the health of Trump. The Times wrote that his advisers have never fully explained his abrupt visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in November, saying at the time only that it was intended to get a jump on his annual physical. Trump turned 74 on Sunday.

Trump says playing golf is his best exercise, but he walks little, using a golf cart to get around. At a G-7 summit once, when the other six leaders took a stroll, Trump followed in a golf cart. Late last month on Memorial Day, Trump seemed to have trouble standing still during a solemn wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, though some commentators said he might simply have been weary, according to Yahoo News

Rally fervor could turn infectious

Coronavirus cases in Oklahoma's Tulsa County are at their highest levels since the pandemic began, and the head of the local health department wishes Trump's campaign rally, set for Saturday at a 19,000-seat indoor arena, could be pushed to a later date. 

“I think it’s an honor for Tulsa to have a sitting president want to come and visit our community, but not during a pandemic,” Dr. Bruce Dart told the Tulsa World. “I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event, and I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well.” The rally venue, the BOK Center, previously canceled all events through the end of July.

Oklahoma health authorities say anyone who attends a large public event should get tested for COVID-19 shortly afterward. The Trump campaign acknowledges the risk in a waiver to which attendees must agree, absolving it of any legal liability should people get sick.

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, called the upcoming Trump rally “an extraordinarily dangerous move for the people participating and the people who may know them and love them and see them afterward.” Trump supporters coming from neighboring cities and states could carry the virus back home, Jha said.

But except for postponing the rally by one day after the original June 19 date — when African Americans celebrate Juneteenth, marking the end of slavery — caused an uproar as insensitive, Trump seems determined that the show must go on. Campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted about the demand from people wanting to attend: "Just passed 800,000 tickets. Biggest data haul and rally signup of all time by 10x. Saturday is going to be amazing!"

Policing deal going to happen?

Republicans and Democrats on the Sunday talk shows expressed a willingness to compromise to ensure reforms in policing are passed by Congress, saying a failed effort would send a bad message to the public, reports Newsday's Rachelle Blidner.

Three weeks since the killing of George Floyd with a Minneapolis police officer's knee to his neck ignited worldwide protests against racism in law enforcement, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass, a California Democrat, said she was “extremely confident” Congress will get a bill on Trump’s desk. “The conversations with my Republican colleagues, even at our first hearing, has been very positive,” Bass said.

South Carolina's Sen. Tim Scott, who is developing Republican proposals, said he wants more federal tracking of when police use force, as well as better de-escalation training to prevent deaths like that of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was shot and killed by Atlanta police on Friday. Scott is open to decertifying problematic police officers to keep cops who engage in misconduct from moving on to another jurisdiction.

There appears to be growing bipartisan consensus about limiting the use of chokeholds. But Scott indicated Republicans won't go along with the Democrats' call to end the “qualified immunity” legal doctrine that helps shield officers from liability.

White male 'rage'? Sounds right to Trump

Is Trump still counting on angry men as his key to reelection? He seemed to explicitly acknowledge that in a Sunday tweet.

Trump tweeted a link to an article on the right-wing Breitbart website based on an MSNBC interview with left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore. The president wrote: "Michael Moore: I'm 'Begging' Dems -- Don't Underestimate White Male Trump Supporter's 'Rage,' 'Emotion' … via @BreitbartNews Well, he got it right in 2016?" Moore predicted Trump's win four years ago.

Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez writes an in-depth look at how the death of Floyd has pushed long-standing issues of racial discord and police brutality to the forefront of the 2020 presidential race, with Trump and Biden responding in starkly different tones to the national outcry.

Trump, declaring himself “president of law and order,” insisted on a militarized response to quell the protests. Biden has said the current state of unrest must be met with legislation to address “systemic racism," which Trump administration officials insist doesn't exist.

How Melania wields power

Melania Trump delayed her move to Washington after her husband became president to gain leverage in renegotiating her prenuptial agreement, according to a new book about the first lady. Part of the effort by Trump's third wife was to ensure that their son, Barron, got his “rightful share of inheritance” along with Trump's three adult children from his first marriage.

The author, Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan, portrays Melania as a canny operator who believed "she had more to gain by standing by her husband than walking away" because of his infidelities. She has influence over policy and personnel decisions. She also blocked what was seen as an effort by her stepdaughter Ivanka to encroach on her role by renaming the “First Lady’s Office” the “First Family Office.”

The Post's website has a lengthy excerpt from the book, “The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump."

Bolton: It's always Trump first

In a news release teasing the publication of his tell-all book next week — assuming the White House fails to block it — former national security adviser John Bolton will allege that “Trump’s Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy."

The longtime conservative foreign policy hand argues in the book that House Democrats “committed impeachment malpractice” by focusing their inquiry narrowly on Ukraine, according to the publisher.

“What Bolton saw astonished him: a president for whom getting reelected was the only thing that mattered, even if it meant endangering or weakening the nation,” the news release from Simon & Schuster said. In Bolton's words: "I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations."

The 592-page book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” will portray a president "addicted to chaos, who embraced our enemies and spurned our friends, and was deeply suspicious of his own government," the publisher said.

Will this make Trump cry uncle?

Trump’s niece — the daughter of his deceased brother Fred Trump Jr. — is set to publish a tell-all book this summer that will detail “harrowing and salacious” stories about the president, the Daily Beast reported, citing people with knowledge of the project.

Mary Trump, 55, will reveal how she played a critical role helping The New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation about Trump’s taxes, including the newspaper's reporting that he was involved in “fraudulent” tax schemes. She supplied Fred Trump Sr.'s tax returns and other highly confidential family financial documentation to the paper, the Daily Beast said.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Lisa L. Colangelo and Michael O'Keeffe. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • At least four black women are getting a closer look from Biden as potential running mates on the Democratic ticket, The Washington Post reports. They are Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Rep. Val Demings of Florida, former national security adviser Susan Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom. Former Georgia legislator Stacey Abrams has openly expressed interest but said last week she hasn't gotten any calls.
  • Accounts from law  enforcement officials whose agencies were involved in handling Washington protests cast doubt on claims from Trump administration officials that the forceful clearing of demonstrators from Lafayette Square two weeks ago had nothing to do with the president's plan to walk to a nearby church for a photo-op, The Washington Post reported.
  • In agreement with Trump's attacks on expanded mail-in voting, a group of his supporters in Michigan burned letters they were sent by the state inviting them to apply for absentee ballots.
  • Ahead of his birthday Sunday, Trump started fishing on Twitter three days earlier for greetings for the big day. Supporters and Cabinet officials such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin obliged, while detractors flooded his timeline with photos of Barack Obama and Biden as well hashtags such as #ObamaAppreciationDay and #AllBirthdaysMatter.
  • Is Trump so desperate for TV sports that he's gone wobbly over athletes who kneel in protests? A Trump tweet Saturday about U.S. Soccer no longer requiring players to stands for the national anthem said: "I won’t be watching much anymore!" Just not much? He was less equivocal in a tweet four minutes later about pro football. "It looks like the NFL is heading in that direction also, but not with me watching!"
  • The Israeli government approved plans to build a new settlement in the occupied Golan Heights named "Trump Heights" in honor of the U.S. president. The Trump administration last year recognized Israeli sovereignty over the territory seized from Syria in the 1967 war.

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