President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus three days before his first debate with Joe Biden in 2020, two former administration officials said Wednesday.
The White House did not announce the positive test at the time, and the president received a negative result shortly afterward and carried on with a campaign rally and the debate, the officials said. The account was first reported by the Guardian, which cited a forthcoming book by Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
The two former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, confirmed the timeline on Trump’s test results contained in “The Chief’s Chief,” by Meadows, Trump’s fourth and final White House chief of staff.
The revelation came nearly a year after widespread speculation that Trump was sick when he first shared a stage with Biden for their first presidential debate Sept 29, months into the pandemic.
The White House declined repeatedly at the time to give a precise chronology of when Trump first received a positive coronavirus test result. The administration first told the public in the early hours of Oct 2 that Trump had tested positive. Trump was hospitalized later that same day.
Trump’s positive result was revealed only after a top adviser, Hope Hicks, was reported to be sick with COVID-19. At the time, Trump intimated in an interview with Fox News that Hicks might have given him the virus.
But Meadows wrote in his book that three days earlier, on Sept. 26, Trump received a positive test shortly before departing the White House for Air Force One to travel to Pennsylvania for a rally.
According to the Guardian, Meadows wrote that the positive test was taken with an older testing kit, and that the new one was the “Binax system, and that we were hoping the first test was a false positive.” Trump took the second result as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened,” Meadows wrote, according to the Guardian.
The day after the positive result, Trump attended an event for military families.
In a statement released by his office, Trump replied, “The 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.”
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