Donald Trump has unexpectedly spent more than two hours in hospital for what the White House said were tests that form part of his annual physical check-up.
The appointment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre near Washington was not on the president’s public weekend schedule, and his last physical was only nine months ago.
Press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the 73-year-old was “anticipating a very busy 2020” and wanted to take advantage of “a free weekend” in Washington to begin portions of his routine check-up.
She did not specify which tests Mr Trump had undergone or explain why the visit was not disclosed in advance. The president’s 2018 and 2019 physicals were both announced ahead of time and appeared on his public schedule.
Ms Grisham said following Saturday’s hospital visit that the president had “a quick exam and labs” and was assured he remains in good health.
“The president remains healthy and energetic without complaints, as demonstrated by his repeated vigorous rally performances in front of thousands of Americans several times a week,” she added.
But the unscheduled hospital visit prompted speculation among political commentators, with CNN’s White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond describing the circumstances as a “little bit strange”.
“Trump’s two previous physical exams in office were announced ahead of time by the White House and noted on his daily public schedule,” he added. “This time, the president’s motorcade drove to Walter Reed unannounced, with reporters directed not to report the movement until arriving.”
Jonathan Wackrow, a former US Secret Service agent who was posted to the White House, said he had “never seen the annual formality occur in stages”. He added: “This does not add up.”
Following his hospital visit, Mr Trump tweeted that he “began phase one of my yearly physical” and “will complete next year”.
Ms Grisham condemned speculation about the hospital visit as “irresponsible and dangerous for the country”.
While at Walter Reed, the president also met the family of a special forces soldier injured in Afghanistan and spoke to medical staff “to share his thanks for all the outstanding care they provide,” the press secretary said.
It was the president’s ninth visit to the hospital since taking office.
Walter Reed spokeswoman Sandy Dean said the hospital did not comment on patients and referred questions to the White House.
Mr Trump’s last check-up in February showed he had gained weight in office. At 243lb (110kg) and a height of 6ft 3ins, he was officially classed as obese.
That check-up, which was supervised by his personal doctor Sean Conley, took more than four hours and involved a panel of 11 specialists. Test results were released six days later.
Mr Conley said at the time: “I am happy to announce the president of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency, and beyond.”
About 40 per cent of Americans are obese, raising the risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some forms of cancer.
Mr Trump does not drink alcohol or smoke, but is known to enjoy fast food, steaks and desserts. His primary form of exercise is golf.
Saturday’s tests came as House investigators on Capitol Hill were interviewing a White House budget official as part of the impeachment inquiry.