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Pence was on standby to 'take over' during Trump's unannounced Walter Reed visit, Michael Schmidt's book reports

CNN logo CNN 9/1/2020 By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera: President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a media briefing in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) © Alex Brandon/AP President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a media briefing in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Vice President Mike Pence was put on standby to temporarily assume the powers of the presidency during President Donald Trump's unannounced visit to Walter Reed hospital in November 2019, according to a copy of New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt's forthcoming book obtained by CNN.

Trump had undergone a "quick exam and labs" as part of his annual physical out of anticipation of a "very busy 2020," the White House had said of the trip at the time.

Schmidt writes, however, that he learned "in the hours leading up to Trump's trip to the hospital, word went out in the West Wing for the vice president to be on standby to take over the powers of the presidency temporarily if Trump had to undergo a procedure that would have required him to be anesthetized." Schmidt does not specify the sourcing for this reporting beyond "I learned."

The White House declined to comment on the record to CNN about the report.

While Pence did not ultimately assume the powers of the presidency, according to Schmidt, the account raises fresh questions about the reason for Trump's unscheduled visit.

The visit did not follow the protocol of a routine presidential medical exam, a person familiar with the matter told CNN at the time. Medical staff at Walter Reed did not get a staff-wide notice about a presidential visit to the medical center in Bethesda, Maryland, ahead of Trump's arrival, according to that source.

Typically, Walter Reed's medical staff would get a general notice about a "VIP" visit to the medical center ahead of a presidential arrival, notifying them of certain closures at the facility. That did not happen this time, indicating the visit was a non-routine visit and scheduled at the last minute.

The source told CNN it was possible a small group of doctors involved in Trump's medical exams were notified before Trump arrived, but that all medical staff at Walter Reed would typically be aware if the President was arriving for a routine medical exam.

Trump tweeted the morning after his visit, "Everything very good (great!)" regarding his health.

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