The Jury Talks Back

12/27/2018

Podiatrist’s Daughters Allege That Their Father Helped Donald Trump Avoid Vietnam

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 12:14 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The New York Times investigates whether President Trump’s medical exemption during Vietnam was the result of a Queen’s podiatrist doing a favor for Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump, who happened to own the building in which the podiatrist rented office space. According to the podiatrist’s daughters, it was:

The podiatrist, Dr. Larry Braunstein, died in 2007. But his daughters say their father often told the story of coming to the aid of a young Mr. Trump during the Vietnam War as a favor to his father.

“I know it was a favor,” said one daughter, Dr. Elysa Braunstein, 56, who along with her sister, Sharon Kessel, 53, shared the family’s account for the first time publicly when contacted by The New York Times.

Elysa Braunstein said the implication from her father was that Mr. Trump did not have a disqualifying foot ailment. “But did he examine him? I don’t know,” she said.

For decades, Dr. Braunstein saw patients in a congested ground-floor office below Edgerton Apartments in Jamaica, Queens, one of dozens of buildings owned by the Trumps in the 1960s. The family sold the building in 2004, records show.

A portrait of Dr. Braunstein from his podiatry school yearbook. His daughters say he made the diagnosis as a favor to Fred C. Trump, Donald’s father.

“What he got was access to Fred Trump,” Elysa Braunstein said. “If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.”

No paper evidence has been found to help corroborate the version of events described by the Braunstein family, who also suggested there was some involvement by a second podiatrist, Dr. Manny Weinstein. Dr. Weinstein, who died in 1995, lived in two apartments in Brooklyn owned by Fred Trump; city directories show he moved into the first during the year Donald Trump received his exemption.

Dr. Braunstein’s daughters said their father left no medical records with the family, and a doctor who purchased his practice said he was unaware of any documents related to Mr. Trump. Most detailed government medical records related to the draft no longer exist, according to the National Archives.

The doctor’s daughters said his role in Mr. Trump’s military exemption had long been the subject of discussions among relatives and friends.

“It was family lore,” said Elysa Braunstein. “It was something we would always discuss.”

She said her father was initially proud that he had helped a “famous guy” in New York real estate. But later, her father, a lifelong Democrat who had served in the Navy during World War II, grew tired of Donald Trump as he became a fixture in the tabloid gossip pages and a reality television star, she said. The daughters, both Democrats, say they are not fans of Mr. Trump.

Dr. Braunstein’s daughters said his role in Mr. Trump’s military exemption had long been the subject of discussions among relatives and friends.

Dr. Alec Hochstein, who worked with Dr. Braunstein in the late 1990s, said the podiatrist had recalled over dinner with their wives how the Trumps had treated him well, including backing off from rent increases. Dr. Hochstein did not remember any discussions related to Mr. Trump’s medical exemption.

“He spoke very highly of the Trumps, and they were very open to negotiating with him and letting him stay in the space at a rent he was comfortable with,” Dr. Hochstein said.

As a reminder:

Back in 1968, at the age of 22, Donald J. Trump seemed the picture of health.

He stood 6 feet 2 inches with an athletic build; had played football, tennis and squash; and was taking up golf. His medical history was unblemished, aside from a routine appendectomy when he was 10.

But after he graduated from college in the spring of 1968, making him eligible to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, he received a diagnosis that would change his path: bone spurs in his heels.

The diagnosis resulted in a coveted 1-Y medical deferment that fall, exempting him from military service as the United States was undertaking huge troop deployments to Southeast Asia, inducting about 300,000 men into the military that year.

The deferment was one of five Mr. Trump received during Vietnam. The others were for education.

Certainly Trump was not the only politician to receive military deferments. See: Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, Bill Clinton, etc.

None of this is surprising. Wealthy individuals using their power and position to help privileged young men avoid the draft was not uncommon. Unfortunately, the accepted practice unfairly impacted low-income families:

According to a report by the American Economic Review, the college-enrollment rate among young American men rose — and then fell — abruptly between 1965 and 1975. According to the report, many have said these patterns resulted from draft deferments.

This led to the majority of those who served in Vietnam to come from low-income families, a point made in 2017 by the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam prisoner of war.

“One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America,” McCain said in an interview. “And the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we’re going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”

Elliot Ackerman, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, wrote in a Time magazine article that “student deferments and various loopholes most often exclusively leveraged by the well-off, or influential, the brunt of that conflict fell to America’s poorest, most marginalized citizens, creating a toxic social rift.”

More of the rich and powerful playing by a different set of rules. But rest assured, years after the conflict in Vietnam ended, Donald Trump shared that he too had endured his own Vietnam. Describing his perilous journey, he noted that he managed to outmaneuver and avoid the dangerous landmines of a feared enemy. Like a soldier. Like a hero:

“It’s amazing, I can’t even believe it. I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world, it is a dangerous world out there. It’s like Vietnam, sort of. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave solider,” Trump said in the interview when Howard Stern asked how he handled making sure he wasn’t contracting STDs from the women he was sleeping with.

Also appearing on Stern’s show in 1993, Trump bragged about his promiscuous lifestyle while single and stated that men who didn’t go to Vietnam didn’t need to feel guilty because dating during the AIDS epidemic in the ’80s was also dangerous.

“You know, if you’re young, and in this era, and if you have any guilt about not having gone to Vietnam, we have our own Vietnam — it’s called the dating game,” Trump said to Stern in a 1993 interview. “Dating is like being in Vietnam. You’re the equivalent of a soldier going over to Vietnam.”

–Dana

8 Comments »

  1. This is the first time I’ve read that the bone spurs were just one of his five deferments, the others being for education. Also, given this article is written based wholly on third party sourcing it not only reeks of desperation but also raises ethical questions as it could be viewed as an attempt to libel a sitting President.

    Comment by Sean — 12/28/2018 @ 8:24 am

  2. Trump’s questionable medical deferment was known before this story. Sen Duckworth has been calling Trump Cadet Bone Spurs for almost a year and it was known before then.

    Comment by DRJ — 12/28/2018 @ 11:31 am

  3. The Smoking Gun ran a piece about Trump’s multiple deferments back in 2015. Thanks to a FOIA request made by the outlet, Trump’s Selective Service record was made available to anyone interested.

    Comment by Dana — 12/28/2018 @ 12:11 pm

  4. Sean, I would ask, that given everything we know about Trump and his lack of ethics in both his personal and professional life, do you believe that his father seeking a favor from a tenant would not be in the realm of something possible, or even plausible?

    Comment by Dana — 12/28/2018 @ 12:26 pm

  5. Hi Dana. Your Smoking Gun link is actually to an article published 4/28/2011 when Trump reportedly considered running for President (while calling on Obama to release his birth certificate). The article was updated in 2015 when Trump was again thought to be running, which of course he ultimately did.

    Comment by DRJ — 12/28/2018 @ 1:47 pm

  6. Hi DRJ, Merry Christmas a few days late!

    The original article was indeed published in 2011, and then updated in 2015. Thanks for the correction.

    This has been an issue for a number of years, and one that Trump has waffled on when it’s discussed.

    Whether the NYT article in question presents the truth of the matter is an unknown. I do know that I would not be surprised to find that the sisters’ account is as they claim. It would dovetail neatly with what we know about Trump, Trump Sr., and how they treated people, in and out of business.

    Comment by Dana — 12/28/2018 @ 1:56 pm

  7. Dana, of course it’s possible, and I’ll go so far as saying I believe it is something his father would most certainly have done given the way individuals of Trump’s means and fortune treated the draft in those days. However, there is no news here, just unverifiable claims from the kids of the doctor that gave Trump one of his many deferments. If they had the doctor’s notes, actual evidence that he gave a false diagnosis because of pressure from his landlord then great, but that isn’t the case. The fact that so many people want something to be true that they’ll cast aside all reason and grasp onto any and all allegations no matter the lack of evidence to further their biases is a trend that has lost its sway with me over the last several years.

    Furthermore, I find it sad that so many people that either actively subverted the war effort in the 60’s, protested against the draft, derided troops coming home, or did everything in their power to avoid being drafted themselves are now pointing fingers while unashamedly ignoring the planks in their own eyes. I’ll be glad when this generation is done fielding candidates for office so the Vietnam War and the continued denigration of the brave men that fought and died in that War can stop being used as a political tactic.

    Do I think Trump is a draft dodger? Yes. Do I have evidence to support that belief? No. Is there evidence to suggest his deferment based on bone spurs was a lie? No. Do I think it’s possible? Yes. But does it matter? No. Any why not? Because as DRJ pointed out, this is OLD news that was already “baked” into candidate Trump for his supporters (of which I was not one, and am still not one) and those of us who knew Trump’s background. This is like someone publishing an article in 2003 detailing a story from a source stating George W. Bush’s had drinking problems in his past, or an article in 1994 outlining an allegation that Clinton did in fact inhale.

    Comment by Sean — 12/29/2018 @ 12:09 am

  8. This is hearsay evidence. It probably would not be admissible in court because it is hearsay, but it is still evidence.

    Comment by DRJ — 12/29/2018 @ 9:08 am

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