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Trump denies he had COVID during debate

Former President Donald Trump is denying that he had COVID-19 when he faced Joe Biden in a presidential debate in September 2020.

The denial comes after Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, writes in his forthcoming memoir that Trump tested positive on Sept. 26, three days before the debate and six days before he announced in a tweet that he had been infected by the coronavirus, according to excerpts of “The Chief’s Chief” published by The Guardian


What You Need To Know

  • Former President Donald Trump is denying that he had COVID-19 when he faced Joe Biden in a presidential debate in September 2020
  • Trump’s last chief of staff, Mark Meadows, writes in his forthcoming memoir that Trump tested positive on Sept. 26, three days before the debate, The Guardian reported
  • Meadows writes that a second test shortly later came back negative, which Trump took as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened”
  • But the initial test, combined with Trump’s later diagnosis, raise questions about whether the then-president was infected when he debated Biden in Cleveland

Meadows writes that a second test shortly later came back negative, which Trump took as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened.” But the initial test, combined with Trump’s later diagnosis, raise questions about whether the then-president was infected when he debated Biden, 77 years old at the time, in Cleveland.

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

He made no mention of the earlier positive test Meadows describes.

The White House never publicly disclosed Trump’s positive test. Fox News’ Chris Wallace, the debate’s moderator, said Trump was not tested on-site before the debate and that both candidates were on the honor system to test negative within 72 hours of the start time.

Meadows writes, “Nothing was going to stop” Trump from participating in the debate.

The former White House chief of staff writes, according to The Guardian, that word of the positive test came shortly after Trump hosted a Rose Garden ceremony announcing Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination. Trump, first lady Melania Trump and several lawmakers and administration officials who attended the event tested positive for COVID-19 in the days that followed.

Later that day, Trump was on Marine One headed to Air Force One for a rally in Pennsylvania. According to Meadows, he received a call from White House doctor Sean Conley, who said: “Stop the president from leaving. He just tested positive for COVID.”

When Meadows relayed the news to Trump, the president’s response rhymed with “‘Oh spit, you’ve gotta be trucking lidding me,” the former White House chief of staff writes.

Meadows says the initial test was conducted “with an old model kit” while the follow-up test, the one that came back negative, was done with “the Binax system, and that we were hoping the first test was a false positive.”

While it’s not clear which method was used for the first test, BinaxNOW tests are antigen tests, popular for their rapid results but less accurate than molecular (PCR) tests.

In between debate day and Trump’s announcement in the early-morning hours of Oct. 2 that he tested positive for COVID-19, the president hosted an event for military Gold Star families at the White House — which he later suggested might have been where he contracted the virus — held a Rose Garden news conference about his administration’s coronavirus testing strategy, campaigned at a rally in Minnesota, and attended fundraisers in Minneapolis and Bedminster, New Jersey.

Meadows wrote that on Sept. 26 — the day of the positive test — Trump looked “a little tired” and he suspected the president had a “slight cold.” The chief of staff claims he “instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive” during the Pennsylvania trip even after the second test.

By Sept. 29, the day of the debate, Meadows wrote, Trump looked slightly better — “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 wrote, 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.”

Three days later, Trump announced on Twitter that he and Melania had tested positive. Later that day, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was treated for three days before being released. Meadows acknowledged at the time that Trump’s vital signs were “very concerning” at one point.

“The Chief’s Chief” is slated for release next week. On Tuesday, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol announced Meadows is “engaging” with members. He has provided records and will soon appear for a deposition, said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.

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