Trump’s personal dentist highlights friendship with president to obtain Florida dental license

TALLAHASSEE — President Donald Trump’s personal dentist went before the state licensing board on Friday and specifically highlighted his friendship with the president in a bid to obtain permission to set up shop in Florida, according to three people present at the meeting.

Dr. Albert Hazzouri ultimately withdrew his licensing application after receiving significant pushback from the Florida Board of Dentistry, which was concerned that he failed to properly complete the application, a state law requirement.

Missing were scores for a written and clinical exam, official transcripts and CPR certification, according to a Feb. 26 letter from Florida Department of Health Executive Director Jennifer Wenhold. “Typically, when applications are before the Board for consideration, it helps to have a complete application so that all credentials can be reviewed,” she wrote.

At Friday’s board meeting, Hazzouri stressed his personal relationship with Trump, according to three people who attended the meeting but did not want to be identified for fear of retribution.

"This guy was so arrogant. He was saying you should break all the rules and make an exception for me,” said one attendee.

“So basically, he was being lazy and thought that he could just come in and say, ‘I’m the president’s dentist, give me a license,’” said a second attendee.

A third person present at the board meeting described Hazzouri’s actions as “bizarre,” noting that he “implied it hard” that Gov. Rick Scott supported him receiving special permission. Scott’s office denied any special treatment.

“It was just weird,” the third attendee said. “Everyone was kind of looking around, wondering if this was happening.”

When contacted by POLITICO on Friday, Hazzouri did not directly address the allegations that he tried using his personal relationship with Trump to get license approval based on an incomplete application. He said his ultimate goal is to help underserved patients.

“The American Dental Association has asked me to help them form an over-sight committee to insure [sic] that federal funds used to help veterans, Native Americans, underprivileged children and pregnant women were properly deployed and used in the best interest of the patients,” he wrote to POLITICO. “We had hoped to start the program in Florida. As part of that effort I had sought to get a license.“

Hazzouri also called attention to his close friendship with Trump and his family in a Feb. 12 letter to the board.

“As the dentist and personal friend of the President of the United States, I am writing to you with a request to grant me a license to practice in the state of Florida,” Hazzouri writes in the first paragraph of the letter.

“As you know, the President and his family spend a significant amount of time in Florida and he recently made a request to Governor Scott to assist me in obtaining a license,” Hazzouri wrote implying that Scott was supportive of his license application.

Scott’s office told POLITICO on Friday that the governor didn’t support Hazzouri getting special treatment by the board.

“The Governor does not have a position on Dr. Hazzouri’s request and leaves those decisions to the Board of Dentistry,” said Scott spokeswoman Mara Gambineri. “There is a clear process to obtain licensure to practice dentistry in Florida outlined in Florida law. Neither the Governor, nor his staff, made any calls or conducted any outreach on behalf of Dr. Hazzouri. Dr. Hazzouri was directed to the Department of Health for explanation on how to obtain a license in Florida.”

Hazzouri does have close ties to Trump. He‘s reportedly known him for years and more recently was the president’s guest at last year’s New Year’s Eve party at Mar-A-Lago, according to published reports and photos.

Trump himself pointed out Hazzouri during a speech at a presidential campaign rally in July 2016 at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa. Hazzouri‘s dental practice is in Scranton.

Said Trump: “Stand up, Albert; where the hell are you, Albert? Stand up, Albert. He’s a good golfer, but I’m actually a better golfer than him, right? OK, but I have a lot of friends in the room.”

In his Feb. 12 letter to the licensing board, Hazzouri said he had plans to use the private practice in South Florida to “serve as a dental delivery site on selected dates for U.S. veterans and children from underserved populations.”

At Friday’s meeting, the board ultimately suggested he go that route and apply for a limited-access license where a dentist can more easily get established if they practice in an underserved area. Such an area exists nearby Mar-a-Largo outside Palm Beach.

Hazzouri instead chose to withdraw his application.

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