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White House releases letter from Biden's doctor after questions about Parkinson's specialist's White House visits

Washington — The White House released a letter from President Biden's doctor Monday night after press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre faced repeated questions at a briefing earlier in the day about Mr. Biden's health and whether visits to the White House by a Parkinson's disease specialist involved the president. 

White House visitor logs, details of which were first reported by the New York Post and New York Times, show that Dr. Kevin Cannard, an expert on Parkinson's disease, visited the White House eight times from last summer to this spring. The logs show Cannard met at least once with Mr. Biden's personal physician. 

Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday afternoon that the president is not being treated for Parkinson's. 

"Has the president been treated for Parkinson's? No. Is he being treated for Parkinson's? No, he's not. Is he taking medication for Parkinson's? No," she said. 

But at the time, the press secretary refused to confirm the doctor's visits, citing "security reasons." 

It led to a tense back-and-forth between Jean-Pierre and reporters. It came as the president holds firm against critics who have urged him to end his reelection campaign after a disastrous debate performance against former President Donald Trump on June 27. 

"You're not answering a very basic, direct question" about the doctor's visits, CBS News' Ed O'Keefe said to Jean-Pierre. 

"Every year, around the president's physical examination, he sees a neurologist," she said. "That's three times." 

"At the White House or Walter Reed?" O'Keefe asked, referring to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where presidents typically receive their annual physical exam. Mr. Biden had a checkup there in February.

"That is what I'm sharing with you. So every time he has a physical, he has had to see a neurologist. So that is answering that question," Jean-Pierre said. 

"Did Dr. Kevin Cannard come to the White House specifically because of the president's condition?" O'Keefe asked again. 

"For security reasons, we cannot share names," the press secretary said. "We cannot share names of specialists broadly, from a dermatologist to a neurologist." 

CBS News noted the visits were public information, but Jean-Pierre said she could not confirm the visits because "we have to keep their privacy." 

"It doesn't matter how hard you push me. It doesn't matter how angry you get with me. I'm not going to confirm a name. It doesn't matter if it's even in the log," she said. "It is inappropriate. It is not acceptable. So I'm not going to do it." 

On Monday night, the White House released a memo from the president's physician, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, in which he said he had obtained permission from Mr. Biden and Cannard to share more details.

"Dr. Cannard was the neurological specialist that examined President Biden for each of his annual physicals. His findings have been made public each time I have released the results of the President's annual physical. President Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical," O'Connor wrote, noting that Cannard has been the neurology consultant to the White House Medical Unit since 2012.

"The results of this year's exam were detailed in my February 28th letter: 'An extremely detailed neurologic exam was again reassuring in that there were no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, or ascending lateral sclerosis,'" O'Connor wrote.

O'Connor also noted that Cannard has made regular visits to the White House Medical Unit "in support of the thousands of active-duty members assigned in support of White House operations. Many military personnel experience neurological issues related to their service, and Dr. Cannard regularly visits the WHMU as part of this General Neurology practice."

The president, adamant that he's staying in the race, has gone on offense in recent days. 

Since the debate, Mr. Biden has been trying to prove he can do the job for another four years, participating in a number of interviews, campaign events and making outreach to prominent Democrats and donors in an effort to shore up support. 

"I am not going anywhere," Mr. Biden said in a phone interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday. "I wouldn't be running if I didn't absolutely believe that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in 2024. We had a Democratic nominating process where the voters spoke clearly." 

In a letter to congressional Democrats on Monday, Mr. Biden said he is "firmly committed" to continuing his campaign and called for the discourse on whether he has a path forward to end. 

First lady Jill Biden, seen as one of the few who might be able to sway his decision, echoed his message during a campaign stop in Wilmington, North Carolina. 

"Joe has made it clear that he is all in," she said. "That's the decision that he's made, and just as he has always supported my career, I am all in too." 

Though several House Democrats have called for him to withdraw from the race, many have said they're still backing him. No Senate Democrats have publicly called for the president to step aside, though some have urged him to do more to show he's up to the task.

Among those wanting Mr. Biden to withdraw is Washington Rep. Adam Smith, who told CBS News on Monday, "there would be a huge sigh of relief amongst just about every Democrat in the House" if the president ends his campaign. 

"We would be better off with another nominee," Smith said. "I believe that in my heart, my soul, my brain — I'm 100% convinced of that." 

A recent CBS News poll found that the race shifted slightly in former President Donald Trump's direction after the July 27 debate. Trump now has a 3-point edge over Mr. Biden in battleground states and a 2-point lead nationally. 

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