Donald Trump tested positive for Covid-19 three days before his first debate against Joe Biden, the former president’s chief of staff has revealed in a new book, according to The Guardian.
Mark Meadows writes that though he knew each presidential candidate was required “to test negative for the virus within seventy-two hours of the start time … Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there.”
According to Meadows’ memoir, The Chief’s Chief, Trump returned a negative result from a different test shortly after the positive.
The stunning revelation follows a year of speculation about whether Trump, then 74 years old, had the potentially deadly virus when he faced Biden, 77, in Cleveland on 29 September.
Trump publicly announced he had Covid on October 2. The White House said he announced that result within an hour of receiving it. He was flown by Marine One to Military Medical Center later that day for treatment.
In a statement on Wednesday, Trump called Meadows’ claims “Fake News”.
Meadows says Trump’s positive result on September 26 was a shock to a White House which had just staged a Rose Garden ceremony for the supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. The event is now widely considered to have been a Covid super-spreader event.
Despite the president looking “a little tired” and suspecting a “slight cold”, Meadows says he was “content” that Trump traveled that evening to a rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania. But as Marine One lifted off, Meadows writes, the White House doctor called to stop the president from traveling to the event.
“Stop the president from leaving,” Meadows says Sean Conley told him. “He just tested positive for Covid.”
“Mr President,” Meadows said, “I’ve got some bad news. You’ve tested positive for Covid-19,” he told Trump after he had boarded Air Force One.
Trump’s reply, Meadows writes, “rhyme[d] with ‘Oh spit, you’ve gotta be trucking lidding me’”.
Meadows writes of his surprise that such a “massive germaphobe” could have contracted the deadly virus, given precautions including “buckets of hand sanitizer” and “hardly [seeing] anyone who ha[d]n’t been rigorously tested”.
Meadows says the positive test had been conducted with an old model test kit. He told the president the test would be repeated with “the Binax system, and that we were hoping the first test was a false positive”.
After “a brief but tense wait”, Meadows called back with news of the negative test. He could “almost hear the collective ‘Thank God’ that echoed through the cabin”, he writes.
Meadows says Trump took that call as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened”.
Meadows, however, “instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive” throughout the Pennsylvania trip.
“I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks,” Meadows writes, “but I also didn’t want to alarm the public if there was nothing to worry about – which according to the new, much more accurate test, there was not.”