In one breath, Trump commends soldiers for working hard to protect our country. In the next, he insults prisoners of war, quarrels with a slain soldier’s parents and disparages those who aren’t candid about their involvement in the Vietnam War (in October, he insulted Senator Richard Blumenthal for being dishonest about his time in Vietnam). New findings from the New York Times show, yet again, how hypocritical Trump is. Thanks to an anonymous tipster, the Times led an investigation suggesting that Trump himself used familial connections to dodge the draft.
Donald Trump was diagnosed with bone spurs in his heels in 1968, an analysis that would exempt him from military service in the Vietnam War. The Times found that Dr. Larry Braunstein, who died in 2007, was the podiatrist who provided Trump with that diagnosis and reached out to his two daughters, Dr. Elysa Braunstein and Sharon Kessel. Dr. Elysa Braunstein said “it was family lore,” and “something we would always discuss.” She added, “I know it was a favor,” and implied that her father knew that the young Trump didn’t actually have bone spurs. Apparently, at the time, Dr. Braunstein saw it as a kindness.
Braunstein gave the diagnosis in an office he rented from Trump’s father, Fred Trump—that’s where the favor part comes in. “If there was anything wrong in the building,” Elysa Braunstein said, “my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.” That account is corroborated by one of the podiatrist’s coworkers, Dr. Alec Hochstein, who recalls Braunstein talking about Trump’s kind treatment and openness to backing off rent payments.
Another doctor was frequently brought up in Dr. Larry Braunstein’s family tale: Dr. Manny Weinstein. The kids aren’t certain about how he was involved since their father never specified, but records show he moved into a Trump-owned building the same year Donald was granted his medical exemption. It’s suspected that Weinstein played a deeper role. During final examinations, a citizen specialist would have been present at the exam station to give a second opinion, and help approve or deny medical exemptions. Although there’s no paper evidence, the Braunsteins believe Weinstein was this man for Trump, working with the podiatrist and Trump’s father to move the exemption along.
Unfortunately, there are no remaining medical documents from this time, and Dr. Weinstein and Dr. Braunstein are both deceased, meaning these stories cannot be corroborated, convincing as they are. Trump, however, doesn’t help his case.
When asked by the Times about his medical exemption, Trump dodged questions with his trademarked ham-fisted confidence. Trump told a biographer in 2014 that he “didn’t have power” in those times, but a doctor who moved into the neighborhood later on said “everybody recalls the Trump family around Jamaica Estates,” per the Times. Trump couldn’t remember the name of the doctor who diagnosed him either, but note that the president’s memory is notoriously faulty when it comes to potentially incriminating circumstances. He also mentioned that he had paperwork (no one was allowed to examine it) and that the real reason he was able to avoid the draft was thanks to a high lottery number. Yet Trump received his medical exemption a year prior to the draft lottery.
Even without the faulty story, experts say the diagnosis is doubtful. Before Trump’s bone spurs, he passed a physical exam and had already avoided military service with an educational deferment four times. He was declared fit for service, then, out of nowhere, he had bone spurs in his heels that just happen to be severe enough to keep him home. Oh, and no—they don’t bother him anymore.