In February 2017, a top White House aide who was Trump’s longtime personal bodyguard, along with the top lawyer at the Trump Organization and a third man showed up at the office of Trump’s New York doctor without notice and took all the president’s medical records.
The incident, which Dr. Harold Bornstein described as a “raid,” took place two days after Bornstein told a newspaper that he had prescribed a hair growth medicine for the president for years.
In an exclusive interview in his Park Avenue office, Bornstein told NBC News that he felt “raped, frightened and sad” when Keith Schiller and another “large man” came to his office to collect the president’s records on the morning of Feb. 3, 2017. At the time, Schiller, who had long worked as Trump’s bodyguard, was serving as director of Oval Office operations at the White House.
“They must have been here for 25 or 30 minutes. It created a lot of chaos,” said Bornstein, who described the incident as frightening.
A framed 8-by-10 photo of Bornstein and Trump that had been hanging on the wall in the waiting room now lies flat under a stack of papers on the top shelf of Bornstein’s bookshelf. Bornstein said the men asked him to take it off the wall.
Bornstein said he was not given a form authorizing the release of the records and signed by the president known as a HIPAA release — which is a violation of patient privacy law. A person familiar with the matter said there was a letter to Bornstein from then-White House doctor Ronny Jackson, but didn’t know if there was a release form attached.
“If Ronny Jackson was the treating doctor, and he was asking for his patient’s paperwork, a doctor is obligated to give it to him to ensure continuity of care,” said NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres, “but it has to be given in a secure fashion. Nobody who doesn’t have HIPAA clearance can see the patient records.”
NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said that patients generally own their medical information, but the original record is the property of the provider. “New York state law requires that a doctor maintain records for at least six years, so a doctor who hands over his original records runs the risk of violating New York state law,” said Cevallos.
Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts, including lab reports under Trump’s name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken.
Another man, Trump Organization chief legal officer Alan Garten, joined Schiller’s team at Bornstein’s office, and Bornstein’s wife, Melissa, photocopied his business card. Garten declined to comment for this article.
Schiller, who left the White House in September 2017, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked about the incident by Hallie Jackson of NBC News on Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that taking possession of medical records was “standard operating procedure for a new president” and that it was not accurate to characterize what happened as a “raid.”
“Those records were being transferred over to the White House Medical Unit, as requested,” said Sanders.
Bornstein said that Trump cut ties with him after he told The New York Times that Trump takes Propecia, a drug for enlarged prostates that is often prescribed to stimulate hair growth in men. Bornstein told the Times that he prescribed Trump drugs for rosacea and high cholesterol as well.
The story also quotes Bornstein recalling that he had told Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime assistant, “You know, I should be the White House physician.”
After the article ran on Feb. 1, 2017, Bornstein said Graff called him and said, “So you wanted to be the White House doctor? Forget it, you’re out.’ ”
Two days after the article ran, the men came to his office.
“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 was not a breach of medical trust to tell somebody they take Propecia to grow their hair. What’s the matter with that?”
Bornstein said he is speaking out now after seeing reports that Jackson, who has allegedly been called “the candy man” for loosely prescribing pain medications as White House doctor, will not return to his post after being considered to run the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“This is like a celebration for me,” he said.
Jackson has denied improperly prescribing drugs.
Bornstein, 70, had been Trump’s personal doctor for more than 35 years.
During Trump’s presidential campaign, Bornstein wrote a letter declaring “unequivocally” that Trump would be the healthiest president in history. He called Trump’s health “astonishingly excellent.” The Trump campaign released the letter in December 2015.
Bornstein told NBC News in 2016 that he wrote the note in just five minutes while a limo sent by the candidate waited outside his office.
Asked how he could justify saying Trump would be the healthiest president ever, Bornstein said, “I like that sentence, to be quite honest with you, and all the rest of them are either sick or dead.”