By Jeremy Binckes
On Sept. 26, 2020, just three days before the first Trump-Biden debate — and less than a week before then-President Donald Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19 — he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, leading to the plea above from White House doctor Sean Conley. This revelation comes from the latest insider tell-all book about the Trump presidency, written this time by Mark Meadows, the former president’s fourth and final chief of staff.
Conley’s test result came as the ten-president was heading to a campaign rally in Middletown, Pa., and had already departed Washington. Here was how Meadows carefully phrased Trump’s response, per the Guardian:
A second test was done after the first one, and when that one produced a negative result, the White House continued with the president’s campaign schedule — despite Trump’s reportedly displaying indications to those around him of being under the weather.
In the days between the positive test and his hospitalization, the president had a number of in-person events that led to a number of cases that were traced back to the White House. One such event, just a few hours prior, was a Rose Garden event celebrating the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. That outdoor ceremony, and the indoor events immediately after, led to infections in a number of guests and White House staffers, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who, like Trump, had to be hospitalized as he fought the virus.
Trump also held a Sept. 27 indoor event with Gold Star families — and later pointed to that as a source of his infection. “They come within an inch of my face sometimes. 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. But I did say it’s obviously dangerous. It’s a dangerous thing, if you go by the COVID thing,” he told Fox Business after he was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
From the archives (October 2020): White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Trump went through a ‘very concerning’ period
Also (October 2020): Trump discharged from hospital after three days — how that compares with the average COVID-19 hospitalization
But the then-incumbent also showed up as scheduled to the first presidential debate — and was not tested before sharing a stage with Joe Biden. Trump arrived late, and was allowed to proceed under an “honor system.” Biden was 77 at the time and Trump 74.
Trump responded to the Guardian report — drawn directly from his former chief of staff’s book — with apparent obfuscation. Trump wrote that “a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate,” likely pointing to the follow-up, negative test that Meadows wrote about.
On Wednesday, President Biden responded to the reports of being put in possible jeopardy, telling reporters, “I don’t think about the former president.”