Did Donald Trump risk endangering countless numbers of people by showing up for an in-person presidential debate with Joe Biden days after testing positive for COVID-19 last September? That's the extraordinary new claim from Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff.
The Guardian obtained a copy of Meadows' upcoming book, The Chief's Chief, which claims Trump tested positive three days before his first debate against Biden on Sept. 29 last year. Meadows recounts Trump taking off on a helicopter from the White House lawn on Sept. 26 to get to a Pennsylvania rally right after attending the Supreme Court confirmation event for Amy Coney Barrett-now known to have been a super-spreader event.
Meadows recounts the White House doctor calling him as Marine One lifted off with Trump on board. "Stop the president from leaving," Sean Conley purportedly told Meadows. "He just tested positive for COVID."
However, according to Meadows, it was too late to stop Trump from leaving. Meadows admits there were concerns about the president ahead of him getting onto the chopper, writing that Trump was showing mild symptoms described by his former chief of staff as a "slight cold."
Once Trump got off the helicopter and onto Air Force One, Meadows recounts that he called the president to tell him: "Mr President... I've got some bad news. You've tested positive for COVID-19." He writes Trump's reply "rhyme[d] with 'Oh spit, you've gotta be trucking lidding me.'"
Shortly afterward, according to book's account, Trump was re-tested with what Meadows claims was a more accurate system and returned a negative result. Meadows claims that Trump viewed that result as "full permission to press on as if nothing had happened," and he went ahead with the rally in Middletown and, three days later, the first Biden debate.
The host of that debate, Chris Wallace of Fox News, said Trump was not tested before the event as planned because he had arrived late at the site. Days later, on Oct. 2, Trump publicly announced that he had COVID-19, and was rushed to a hospital later that same day.
Meadows, clearly anticipating criticism for allowing the president to carry on with his busy schedule exposing himself to countless numbers of people despite the positive test, defends himself in the book, writing: "I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks... 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."
White House Quietly Told Vets Group It Might Have Exposed Them to COVID
Despite allegedly knowing that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 26, Trump would go on to suggest that he caught the virus from Gold Star family members, who he complained stood too close to him at a Sept. 27 event that honored families of fallen U.S. service members.
"They want to hug me, and they want to kiss me. And they do. And, frankly, I'm not telling them to back up. I'm not doing it," Trump said to Fox Business in an interview last October after his recovery. "Give me room. I want room. Give me 12 feet. Stay 12 feet away when you talk."
Following the Sept. 27 event, The Daily Beast reported that the White House quietly warned the veterans group about potential exposure. The public was never informed about Trump's initial positive test.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!
Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.