President Donald Trump will go to Walter Reed hospital on Saturday to visit wounded service members, multiple sources told CNN and the White House later confirmed.
“President Trump is expected to travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday to visit brave combat wounded service members and their families as well as health care staff who have been caring for Covid-19 patients during the pandemic,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNN on Thursday.
The visit comes after recent reports indicating that intelligence was relayed to the White House in 2019 warning about Russians offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing US soldiers in Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, the President told Fox Business that members of the intelligence community relayed that they “didn’t believe it happened at all” and that he thought the intelligence was “a hoax.”
“I think it’s a hoax, I think it’s a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats,” he said.
The Trump administration, so far, has declined to take action based on the intelligence and Trump claims he was not personally briefed on the bounties because the information was not verified.
This week the top US general overseeing operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan said the intelligence was “very worrisome” but that the information wasn’t solid enough to hold up in a court of law.
And while Trump has refused for months to wear a mask in public at events where social distancing was not always observed, he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday evening that he expects to wear a mask when he visit Walter Reed.
“You’re in a hospital setting, I think it’s a very appropriate thing,” the President said. “I have no problem with a mask.”
Trump explained that “if I’m with soldiers, people that – you know, I don’t want to spread anything.”
Trump’s last trip to Walter Reed, in November, raised questions about his health.
Then-press secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN at the time the President underwent a “quick exam and labs” but several experts familiar with White House medical procedures said Trump would be able to get any routine lab work done at the White House’s on site clinic.
Multiple sources and experts said after Trump’s visit last year that the President’s unannounced trip to Walter Reed was abnormal or outside of the protocol for routine visits to the hospital.
Trump visited Walter Reed to meet with wounded troops twice in 2017, and he also met with wounded service members after the November 2019 exams. He also bestowed Purple Hearts to wounded service members in 2017 and 2019.
Trump also visited the facility several times in 2018 when first lady Melania Trump was there recovering from a kidney procedure.
Trump’s two predecessors also made visits to Walter Reed to visit troops wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama said the visits were grueling emotionally, but they also spoke of the inspiration garnered by witnessing Americans recovering from terrible injuries. Obama visited Walter Reed 23 times as president.
This story has been updated with remarks later Thursday from President Donald Trump.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.