Speed Reads

Cleanup in aisle Trump

Mark Meadows tries to walk back his claim Trump tested positive for COVID before Biden debate

Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump's fourth chief of staff, more or less confirmed Wednesday night that Trump tested positive for COVID-19 three days before his first presidential debate against President Biden on Sept. 29, 2020 — but in an interview with Newsmax, he focused on the subsequent negative test. Two former administration officials confirmed Trump's Sept. 26 positive COVID-19 test to The Washington Post and The New York Times on Wednesday.

The news that Trump knew he could have been infected with the coronavirus at his debate with Biden and other events that week — a rally in Pennsylvania, an intimate meeting with the families of slain military service members, a fundraiser, and a ceremony to celebrate Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett's swift confirmation — was revealed in an excerpt from Meadows' forthcoming book in The Guardian

Trump "was furious that Meadows revealed the anecdote" and "that it was published via the liberal-leaning Guardian," the Post reports, citing a person familiar with his reaction. In a statement Wednesday morning, Trump insisted "the story of me having COVID before, or during, the first debate is Fake News," adding, "a test revealed that I did not have COVID before the debate." Meadows followed that line in his Newsmax interview, even after the host noted that Trump actually was rushed to Walter Reed hospital with a serious case of COVID-19 on Oct. 2. 

"Experts say there is no way to know which of the tests might have been a false result," but after his first positive test, Trump should have had a second sample tested with a more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, the Post reports. Fox News host Chris Wallace, the debate moderator, said Oct. 2 that Trump probably had COVID-19 during the debate, and while Trump was supposed to get tested before taking the stage, he arrived too late and was on the "honor system."

In his book, Meadows reportedly writes that Trump's pallor and voice had improved before the debate, "but the dark circles under his eyes had deepened" and "as we walked into the venue around 5 o'clock in the evening, I could tell that he was moving more slowly than usual." When Biden was asked Wednesday if he thinks, given Meadows' revelations, that Trump put him at risk in the debate, he responded, "I don't think about the former president."