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Trump tested positive for COVID-19 three days before his first debate against Biden, book says

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  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th president of the United States (2017–2021)
  • Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    46th and current president of the United States
  • Mark Meadows
    American politician
In this Sept. 29, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump holds up his face mask during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.
In this Sept. 29, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump holds up his face mask during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.AP Photo/Julio Cortez, AP
  • Trump tested positive for COVID-19 three days before debating Biden, a new book reveals.

  • Former chief of staff Mark Meadows discusses the September 26 positive test in his memoir.

  • The former president tested negative shortly after, but the positive test was not publicly disclosed.

Former President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 three days before his first presidential debate against then-candidate Joe Biden, Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows revealed in his forthcoming memoir.

In the book, obtained by The Guardian ahead of publication, Meadows disclosed for the first time that Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on September 26. While a second test came back negative, the initial positive result was not revealed to the public at the time. The New York Times also confirmed on Wednesday that the former president had tested positive on the day, citing two unnamed ex-Trump officials.

Even though both candidates were required to test negative 72 hours before the debate, "Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there," Meadows wrote, according to the Guardian.

Meadows said Trump looked "a little tired" and suspected he maybe had a "slight cold." But Meadows said he received the news as Trump was on his way to a rally in Pennsylvania.

"Stop the president from leaving," White House physician Sean Conley relayed to Meadows as Trump was on Marine One. "He just tested positive for Covid."

"Mr President," Meadows recalls saying, "I've got some bad news. You've tested positive for Covid-19."

Meadows, an Evangelical Christian who does not curse, sums up Trump's response as rhyming with "'Oh spit, you've gotta be trucking lidding me,'" according to the Guardian.

The chief of staff then told Trump that the first positive test came from an older model kit, saying they would do another test with "the Binax system, and that we were hoping the first test was a false positive."

As hoped, the second test came back negative a short while later. Meadows does not specify the duration between the two tests, per the Guardian.

While Trump felt like he could return to business as usual and move on like nothing had happened, Meadows said he "instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive." (The two former Trump officials told The Times that they didn't remember Meadows issuing that guidance).

"I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks," Meadows wrote, according to the Guardian, "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."

Others on the flight, however, were not so lucky, with New York Times reporter Michael Shear tweeting that he subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 himself after being on that plane with Trump.

By September 29, the day of the debate, Meadows said that Trump only looked "slightly" better. And Trump's team still hadn't disclosed that first positive test to the debate organizers or the public.

"His face, for the most part at least, had regained its usual light bronze hue, and the gravel in his voice was gone," Meadows wrote in the book, according to the Guardian. "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."

Trump denied having COVID-19 before the first debate and appeared to call his own former chief of staff "fake news" in a Wednesday morning statement.

"The story of me having COVID prior to, or during, the first debate is Fake News. In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate," Trump said.

Trump saying that "a test revealed" he did not have COVID-19 does not, however, disprove Meadows' recounting of him initially testing positive.

The Washington Post reported later on Wednesday that Trump was "furious" that Meadows had told the story in his book. Trump rebuffed Meadows' offer to issue a clarification, made through an intermediary, according to the Post. But the former chief of staff retweeted Trump's statement, posted by Trump's current spokeswoman Liz Harrington, decrying the account in Meadows' own book as "fake news."

Meadows expressed surprise that Trump had initially tested positive for COVID, describing him as a "germaphobe" who used "buckets" of hand sanitizer.

But Trump and those around him repeatedly flouted the administration's own guidance for mitigating the virus. White House and Trump staffers eschewed masks, did not observe social distancing guidelines, and held large gatherings and rallies throughout 2020.

And Trump, along with former first lady Melania Trump, tested positive for COVID-19 just a few days later on October 1. Their infections were part of a larger outbreak among White House staff and others stemming from a Rose Garden and White House celebration for then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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