Trump tested positive for Covid pre-debate, ex-aide says in book

Former president received positive Covid-19 result three days before first debate with Biden

The revelation, if confirmed, would further show that the Trump White House did not take the virus seriously even as it spread among White House and campaign staff and eventually sent Mr Trump to the hospital. AP

Former US president Donald Trump tested positive for Covid-19 three days before his first presidential debate in September 2020 with Joe Biden, a new book by Mr Trump’s ex-chief of staff claims.

In The Chief’s Chief, obtained by The Guardian before its December 7 release, Mark Meadows writes that the former president received a negative test shortly after the positive test and resumed his usual activities, including attending the debate against his Democratic challenger.

Mr Trump on Wednesday called the story “fake news".

The revelation, if confirmed, would further show that the Trump White House did not take the virus seriously even as it spread among White House and campaign staff and eventually sent Mr Trump to the hospital.

The former president said Mr Meadows’s 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".

Mr Meadows retweeted Mr Trump’s statement and in an interview late on Wednesday with Newsmax, Mr Meadows said the story was being spun by the press.

The White House began a testing regimen for Mr Trump’s senior aides and those who would be in contact with him after earlier positive cases, but aides repeatedly refused to disclose when Mr Trump was tested the week of the debate, leading to speculation that he may have had Covid-19 while onstage with Joe Biden.

Mr Trump was 74 and Mr Biden was 78 at the time, putting them at higher risk of serious complications from the virus. Covid-19 vaccines were not then available.

The former president announced in a tweet early on October 2, 2020, that he and the first lady, Melania Trump, had tested positive. He was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre later that day.

But Mr Meadows writes that Mr Trump received a positive test on September 26, three days before the debate.

Mr Meadows, Mr Trump’s fourth and final chief of staff, writes that he received a call from the White House doctor as Mr Trump’s helicopter was lifting off from the White House for the rally. Mr Meadows says he was informed that Mr Trump had tested positive and was instructed to stop the president from departing.

But Mr Meadows said the test had been conducted with an old model kit and he told Mr Trump it would be repeated with a newer version. After “a brief but tense wait”, Mr Meadows reported that the second test had come back negative.

Mr Trump took that result as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened”, Mr Meadows wrote.

Mr Meadows noted that both candidates were required to test negative for the virus within 72 hours of the debate, but wrote that: “Nothing was going to stop [Mr Trump] from going out there.”

Updated: December 2nd 2021, 3:52 PM