Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is the latest Trump-era figure trying to cash in with a book deal, and the book apparently details how Trump initially tested positive for COVID last fall days ahead of his first debate in Cleveland with Joe Biden, but went ahead with his schedule anyway.
The Guardian first reported on the book excerpt detailing the timeline of Trump's COVID test in September 2020, and the New York Times has subsequently confirmed the details with other anonymous former White House officials. You may recall how the Trump camp was cagey about when, exactly, Trump started feeling ill or tested positive amid last fall's outbreak at the White House — driven largely by the superspreader event of Amy Coney Barrett's nomination reception on September 26.
Dozens of Republican figures, including Kellyanne Conway, Chris Christie, and Meadows himself, were infected that day and became ill, and Trump would later suggest that he was infected by aide Hope Hicks. In total, 48 people tested positive in connection with the White House outbreak.
According to Meadows, Trump received a positive test result that same day of the reception, September 26, 2020, just as he was about to leave the White House for Air Force One — he was headed to Pennsylvania for one of his superspreader rallies.
White House doctor Sean Conley reportedly called Trump to deliver the bad news, to which Meadows says Trump responded, "Oh shit, you've gotta be fucking kidding me." (Meadows, I guess trying to be polite for conservative readers, just writes that Trump's response "rhymed with 'Oh spit, you’ve gotta be trucking lidding me.'")
Here he is in C-SPAN footage below, hours after that positive test, maskless at the evening rally in Middletown, PA, greeting supporters and flanked by other unmasked politicos.
Meadows says that Trump subsequently got a negative result from a rapid test that he took as an excuse to plow forward with his schedule — and he even addressed reporters in the back of Air Force One, maskless, that day, at least one of whom who works for the Times got COVID.
The first test was done on an "older" testing kit, Meadows said, and Trump was hoping it was a false positive. The subsequent negative Binax test was all the excuse he needed to believe the first result was faulty.
Meadows suggests that Trump was visibly symptomatic in the ensuing days, with a gravelly voice and a slower demeanor, but it's not clear whether he ever took another COVID test, or got tested immediately ahead of facing Biden on stage on September 29 — the Times says he was "not independently tested" just prior to the debate.
Trump has of course issued a statement calling Meadows's story "FAKE NEWS," and he claims to have received a negative test result before the debate.
Of course that's true, it's just a rapid test that followed a positive result THREE DAYS EARLIER! And let's just assume he didn't take any tests after that, and he just went ahead and endangered the life of his opponent and anyone else he interacted with during that three-day span while rarely wearing a mask.
It would be three days later, on October 2, when the public would first learn of Trump's positive result, and obviously he had been infected and symptomatic for days at that point.
Per the Guardian's reporting, Meadows even describes touring the venue the night of the debate, saying, "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."
Meadows tries to skirt any of his own culpability in all this egregious, pre-vaccination, virus-spreading negligence. In the book, he claims to have told everyone in his own immediate circle to assume that he was COVID-positive. The Times says that "two former officials who confirmed [Trump's] positive test did not recall Mr. Meadows giving such a directive."
At the time, around 850 Americans were dying daily from the virus — the number remains well above 1,000 on any given day, 14 months later. A total of 780,000 Americans have died in the pandemic so far, and it is officially the deadliest pandemic to hit the country.
SF Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax went on TV on October 2, 2020, just after Trump's positive test was revealed, to say, "From Day One of this pandemic, the president has disregarded the science, data, and facts. This has created an unprecedented public health catastrophe that we know was preventable. Now it has caught up with the president and it has caught up with his administration."
Colfax added, after being basically apoplectic that White House figures were still walking around maskless despite the obvious outbreak occurring, "This virus isn't political, and wearing masks shouldn't be political."
Chris Christie later revealed to a focus group of anti-vaxx Republican voters that he became the sickest of anyone in the outbreak, but that President Trump became very ill as well, despite his public statements to the contrary. Christie said he spent a week in intensive care with the virus, and he discussed how Hope Hicks was also extremely ill, despite her younger age and physical health.
Also in attendance at that first debate in Cleveland, at the invitation of Biden, was San Francisco resident Kristin Urquiza, whose Trump-supporting father died of COVID after believing the president that the virus wasn't real or dangerous.
Top image: Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden look out to the audience at end of the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)