The Slatest

Donald Trump Is Being Surprisingly Strategic About Hillary’s Pneumonia

Democratic presidental nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves as she leaves the home of her daughter Chelsea Clinton on Sunday in New York City.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Donald Trump responded to the news of Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia with surprising restraint on Monday.

Clinton could be seen stumbling and struggling to get into a van after having to leave a 9/11 memorial ceremony on Sunday, which was followed by the revelation that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday and was on antibiotics. Clinton’s campaign later on Sunday canceled a two-day swing to California during which she was scheduled to appear on Ellen, attend fundraisers, and give a major economic speech.

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Talking to Fox News and CNBC, her Republican presidential rival responded to the news by wishing Clinton improved health and promising to reveal more of his own medical records.

“Well, I don’t get satisfaction, Joe. And, frankly, you know, I hope she gets well, and I hope she gets well soon,” Trump told Joe Kernen, co-host of CNBC’s Squawk Box. “But, you know, it was quite sad, to be honest with you, and I hope she gets well soon. No satisfaction, believe me, whatsoever.”

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Trump had previously raised the issue of Clinton’s recurring cough and last month called on her to release her medical records. Some of his supporters, meanwhile, have pushed a conspiracy theory that Clinton may be covering up a serious illness. The closest Trump came to continuing these attacks on Monday was to imply that previous coughing episodes might be related to the pneumonia diagnosis.

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“Like you, I just, I see what I see. The coughing fit was a week ago, so I assume that was pneumonia also. I mean, I would think it would have been, so something’s going on,” Trump said on Fox News. “But I hope she just gets well and gets back on the trail. And we’ll be seeing her at the debate.”

Trump said almost the exact same line to CNBC.

“It was interesting because they say pneumonia on Friday but she was coughing very, very badly a week ago and even before that, if you remember. This wasn’t the first time, so it’s very interesting to see what is going on,” he said. “I want her to get better. I want her to get out there. I look forward to seeing her in the debate.”

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This unusual discipline from the Republican nominee was reportedly part of a concerted strategy to maintain focus on comments she made describing half of Donald Trump’s supporters as racists and “deplorables.” From the Washington Post:

According to two Trump advisers, Trump decided to stay away from seizing on the Sunday incident with the aim of bringing Clinton’s “deplorables” comments—for which she has expressed regret—back to the forefront of the campaign this week and avoiding any chance for Clinton to say that Trump was overstepping on the health front.

If confronted by reporters about Clinton’s health, Trump plans to say that he hopes she gets well and may raise questions about the campaign’s transparency Sunday, they added. The advisers spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss campaign deliberations.

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Bloomberg News also reported that Trump would even refrain from highlighting the video that showed Hillary struggling physically:

Instead of coming out swinging like he often does, the plan is for him and his campaign aides to refrain from commenting on the bystanders’ videos that showed Clinton stumbling or collapsing as she was helped into her vehicle by staff and Secret Service agents, according to the people briefed on the strategy.

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Trump is also taking advantage of the news of Clinton’s illness to announce that he had a physical last week and would be revealing “very, very specific” results this week.

“I saw what was going on with her and I said, ‘You know I’m going to do something,’ ” Trump said on CNBC. “I’ll be announcing, sometime during the week I’ll be handing out a paper with some very large numbers, hopefully very good statistics.

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“I feel very confident, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be telling you I did this,” he added.

Trump was scheduled to appear on The Dr. Oz Show later this week to talk about his health. If Monday’s interviews are any indication, he has discovered some newfound campaign discipline—at least on this topic.

For its part, Clinton’s camp has been attempting to portray the pneumonia news as no big deal, and at least one staff member has been quoted anonymously as saying that some sort of sickness has been going around the entire Clinton office.

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Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.

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