The official explanation of how President Trump avoided serving in Vietnam is that in 1968, he was diagnosed with bone spurs in his heels and given a medical exemption. But no one knows who made that diagnosis.
Now, the New York Times has spoken to a family who say their father was the podiatrist who diagnosed the president and helped him evade military service. They say that their father, the late Dr. Larry Braunstein rented an office owned by Fred C. Trump, Donald’s father, who was a notorious New York City landlord.
“I know it was a favor,” one of the doctor’s daughters, Dr. Elysa Braunstein, told the Times.
“What he got was access to Fred Trump,” 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.”
Braunstein suggested that Trump did not in fact have bone spurs, and the diagnosis was made in order to help him get out of serving in the war.
“It was family lore,” she said. “It was something we would always discuss.”
Others who knew Larry Braunstein remembered him speaking fondly of the Trump family.
“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. Alec Hochstein, who worked with Dr. Larry Braunstein in the late ‘90s.
Braunstein died in 2007. Because he didn’t save his records, there’s probably no way to prove this version of events, according to the Times:
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.
In 2016, Trump told the Times that he didn’t remember which doctor gave him the diagnosis, but said he had paperwork proving it somewhere.
After he was declared available for service, Trump used four educational deferments to stay out of the draft while he was at University of Pennsylvania. It was then that he was given the medical exemption. But in the past, Trump has said it was a high draft number that allowed him to avoid service, something that doesn’t square with the timeline of events—the lottery didn’t begin until 1969, at which point Trump had already had a medical exemption for more than a year.
Trump has previously suggested that his father didn’t have the pull to make this kind of a deal for him.
“I didn’t have power in those days,” Trump told his biographer Michael D’Antonio in a 2014, according to transcripts obtained by the Times. “I had no power. My father was a Brooklyn developer, so it wasn’t like today.”