During yet another nighttime phone chat with Sean Hannity, Donald Trump started off with an effort to once again claim that Democratic candidate Joe Biden is confused. In the process, Trump wandering into a claim that he took a cognitive impairment test, “very recently when I, uh—when I—you know, the radical left was saying ‘Is he all there? Is he all there’ And I proved I was all there ‘cause I got—and I aced it. I aced the test. Heh. [Biden] should take the same exact test, a very standard test, I took—took it at Walter Reed, uh, medical center, uh, in front of doctors, and they were very surprised. They said, ‘That’s an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did.’”
Trump may believe that this little tale both defends his own brainpower and challenges Biden, but there are a number of things to note here. First, Trump is known to have taken the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test in 2018. That test is a “screening instrument” for cognitive dysfunction that uses language and spatial orientation to assess possible damage. Trump was said to have passed that test. However, that was over two years ago, which doesn’t seem like “very recently.” Which brings in the question of why doctors were administering another cognitive impairment exam to Trump, and does it have a connection to something much more recent: Trump’s still-unexplained late night trip to Walter Reed?
Trump is slated to pay a visit to Walter Reed in the next two weeks, and has even said he expects to wear a mask while he’s there. But the last time he was there was back in November, when he slipped out of the White House on a Saturday evening and made an unplanned visit to the medical center. The White House attempted to pass this off as an attempt by Trump to get an “interim checkup,” but it was clearly done in response to some real or perceived medical emergency that no one in the White House has revealed.
It’s also worth noting that Trump’s statement seems at odds with the White House official statements on his Walter Reed visit. In addition to claiming that Trump had not suffered any chest pain or “acute” condition, the White House statement at the time specifically said “he did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurologic evaluations.” It seems like a test for cognitive impairment would fall under that umbrella.
Based on Trump’s statement that he “very recently” took a cognitive impairment test at Walter Reed, it seems very likely that after Trump was taken from the White House on a Saturday, he was given a second cognitive impairment test, which he took in front of “doctors”—plural. According to Trump, he “aced” this test. But then, this is the guy who hired someone to take his SAT, so Trump’s real score on the test is far from certain. In any case, Trump claims that doctors were “very surprised” at how well he did.
Why would doctors be shocked that Trump could draw a clock face and pin a name on zoo animals? It seems likely this was because of something like a transient ischemic event, or minor stroke. If the Trump’s own statements are to be trusted—and really, they are not—he was taken to the hospital on a Saturday evening, doctors administered a cognitive impairment test, and were surprised that he scored well on this test. All of this points to an expectation that he would not score well because of some perceived impairment.
Cognitive impairment and dementia in all forms are not a joke. They’re also not a cause for shame. However, they are a cause for concern, especially when someone is charged with making critical decisions for the nation.
It’s clear that Trump has made the idea that Joe Biden “isn’t all there” a key element of his campaign for the fall. But why do Donald Trump’s doctors keep asking him to take these assessments, and why are they surprised if he does well?