Former President Donald Trump has denied claims by his last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, that Trump tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before his first debate with Joe Biden last year.
“The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News,” Trump said Wednesday in a statement released by his Save America PAC. “In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate.”
Meadows makes the claim in his forthcoming book “The Chief’s Chief,” which recounts his time in the Trump administration and is due out next week. An advance copy of the book was obtained by the Guardian.
According to Meadows, Trump initially tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 26, three days before the first of two debate showdowns with Biden.
The test result came back the same day the White House held a ceremony marking the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, which many critics decried as a COVID “superspreader event.”
According to the report, Meadows recalled Trump looked “a little tired” and suspected the then-president had a “slight cold.” However, Meadows said he was “content” for Trump to travel to an evening rally in Pennsylvania — until the chief of staff got a call from White House doctor Sean Conley.
Former President Donald Trump slammed Mark Meadows’ report that he had contracted COVID-19 before the first presidential debate, calling it “fake news.” SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
Donald Trump issued a statement mere hours after the news broke.
“Stop the president from leaving,” Meadows recalls Conley telling him. “He just tested positive for COVID.”
By that point, however, Trump was already on board Air Force One.
When Meadows delivered the news of the positive test to Trump, the former North Carolina congressman recalled the then-chief executive’s response as one that “rhyme[d] with ‘Oh spit, you’ve gotta be trucking lidding me.’”
According to Meadows, the sample that returned a positive test with an old-model kit was retested using “the Binax system” and came back negative.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows (left) and President Donald Trump arriving at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. SplashNews.com
While Trump took the negative result as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened,” Meadows says he ordered everyone in his immediate circle to treat the president as if he was infected.
“I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks,” Meadows reportedly 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.”
The public was never made aware of the positive test.
Both Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump were required to test negative for COVID-19 in order to participate in the debate. Scott Olson/Getty Images
To participate in the debate, Trump and Biden were required to test negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours, and according to Meadows, “nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there.”
On the day of the debate in Cleveland, Meadows says, Trump’s health looked slightly better, with “emphasis on the word slightly.”
“His face, for the most part at least, had regained its usual light bronze hue, and the gravel in his voice was gone,” Meadows reportedly writes. “But the dark circles under his eyes had deepened. As we walked into the venue around five o’clock in the evening, I could tell that he was moving more slowly than usual. He walked like he was carrying a little extra weight on his back.”
Mark Meadows’ claims are a part of his new book “The Chief’s Chief,” which recounts his time in the Trump administration.AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File
Three days later, on Oct. 2, Trump announced he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19. The former president has since speculated he contracted the virus during an event on Sept. 27 where he met with several military families.
On Sept. 28, one day before the debate, Trump held an event with business leaders and later a press conference “on the work we had all been doing to combat COVID-19.”
Meadows recalled that “somewhat ironically,” the president spoke about new testing that was “supposed to give quicker, more accurate readings about whether someone was positive or not.”
President Donald Trump (left) and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (right) take part in the first presidential election debate on September 29, 2020.EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
After announcing his diagnosis, Trump spent three days at Walter Reed Medical Center. The president and his wife were vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to leaving the White House.
On Wednesday, Biden was asked about Meadows’ revelation and whether the current president thought his predecessor had put him at risk.
“I don’t think about the former president,” Biden responded before walking away.