Then-President Donald Trump was so weak during his bout with COVID-19 last fall that he couldn’t carry his briefcase on the walk from the White House to the helicopter that would airlift him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he spent three days being treated for a blood oxygen level that was “dangerously low.”
That’s according to “The Chief’s Chief,” a new memoir by Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, which was published on Tuesday.
Below are some of the key revelations from the book, which Trump wrote a cover blurb for but has since reportedly been fuming about.
Trump’s condition was far more grave than previously known
On Oct. 2, 2020 — the day Trump announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus — Meadows writes that the president’s blood oxygen level was about 86 percent, or roughly 10 points below what would be considered normal.
Trump was given supplemental oxygen as well as a monoclonal antibody therapy made by Regeneron, administered intravenously, that Meadows had arranged to be secretly delivered to the White House.
“We’d rigged the four-poster bed in the president’s room so that he could recline and take the drug while he was still alert and giving orders,” Meadows writes.
But Trump’s health had deteriorated so much that Dr. Sean Conley, the then White House doctor, felt the president needed to be hospitalized, and it was up to Meadows to convince him to go.
Meadows recalls that when he walked into Trump’s private residence, the president was sitting up in bed in a T-shirt with red streaks in his eyes.
“It was the first time I had seen him in anything other than a golf shirt or a suit jacket,” Meadows writes. “His hair was a mess from the hours he’d spent getting Regeneron in bed.”
Trump was initially resistant to the idea of going to the hospital, according to Meadows, but the chief of staff pleaded with him.
“It’s better that you walk out of here today under your own strength, your own power, than for me to have to carry you out on a gurney in two days,” Meadows recalls telling him.
Trump relented. But when he went to walk to the helicopter that would transport him to Walter Reed, he could not hold a briefcase, the weight of which was “too much for him,” according to Meadows.
"He looked at me, almost surprised he had to put it down. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I — I just can’t carry that out there,’” Meadows writes.
Trump tested positive for COVID-19 three days before first debate
Trump first tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 26, 2020, three days before his first debate with Joe Biden in Cleveland, and appeared to be symptomatic, according to Meadows. (Trump was tested again and received a negative result, according to Meadows.)
But Trump participated in the debate, and other events, despite allegedly knowing he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Nothing was going to stop him from going out there,” Meadows writes, adding: “We’ll probably never know whether President Trump was positive that evening.”
Last week, after the Guardian published an excerpt of Meadows’s book containing that revelation, Trump denied the claim.
“The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News,” Trump said in a statement. “In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate.” He issued another statement on Monday repeating his denial.
Meadows says he was informed of Trump’s first positive test by Conley while the president was en route to a rally in Pennsylvania.
Meadows then relayed the news to Trump, who had called him from Air Force One.
“Oh s***, you’ve got to be f***ing kidding me,” Trump replied, according to Meadows.
The test, the former chief of staff writes, was conducted with “an old model kit.”
A second test — using the “Binax system” — was performed and came back negative, which, according to Meadows, Trump took as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened.”
The next day, Sept. 27, Trump played golf in Virginia and appeared maskless alongside first lady Melania Trump at an event for Gold Star families. He would later suggest that he contracted the virus through his interactions with those families.
Trump was rushed to an underground bunker during George Floyd protests
In the book, Meadows confirms reports that Trump did, in fact, retreat to an underground bunker at the White House on May 29, 2020, as a nighttime protest outside the executive mansion over the death of George Floyd intensified.
“He didn’t have a choice,” Meadows writes. “When the Secret Service asked President Trump to head downstairs to the White House bunkers, he complied. He knew he could go to the bunker with a few agents by his side, or he could go on their shoulders kicking and screaming. For everyone’s sake, the first option was better.”
The New York Times later reported that Secret Service agents rushed Trump to the underground bunker. (“To this day, I do not know how this information got out,” Meadows writes. “I have no doubt it was leaked by someone intent on hurting the president.”)
Trump denied the report, claiming he “went down during the day” for “an inspection.”
“It was a false report. I wasn’t down," Trump said on Fox News Radio. “I was there for a tiny, little, short period of time.”
Meadows blames a ‘handful of fanatics’ for the Jan. 6 insurrection
Elsewhere in the book, Meadows seems to try to downplay the then president’s role in the events of Jan. 6, when hundreds of Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol, injuring more than 140 police officers and delaying the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win.
Though more than 700 people have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, according to Meadows, “no one would [focus] on the actions of ... those supporters of President Trump who came [to Washington on Jan. 6] without hate in their hearts or any bad intentions.” Instead, he writes, “they would laser in on the actions of a handful of fanatics across town.”
Meadows also disputes critics who have accused Trump of encouraging his supporters to engage in violence at a rally shortly before the riot unfolded. He writes that Trump’s speech on Jan. 6, when he told supporters to “fight like hell,” was “more subdued than usual,” and claims that the then president was “speaking metaphorically” when he said he would join the crowd in marching on the Capitol to “cheer on” Republicans objecting to the Electoral College results.
Trump “knew as well as anyone that we couldn’t organize a trip like that on such short notice,” Meadows says. Some of the rioters have said they decided to march on the Capitol in part because of Trump’s pledge to go with them.
The revelations about that day were of particular interest to members of the House Jan. 6 committee, which issued a subpoena to the former chief of staff in September seeking seeking documents and testimony regarding his role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and stop the certification of Biden’s win. Last week, the committee revealed that Meadows had agreed to cooperate with the panel and would soon appear for an initial deposition. But on Tuesday morning, a lawyer for Meadows told Fox News that he would no longer be engaging with the Jan. 6 probe, citing an inability to reach an understanding with lawmakers on whether certain pieces of information could be covered by executive privilege.