Trump was informed of the positive test on Air Force One on Sept. 26, en route to a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, the book says. But the White House concealed this from the public and from debate organizers, even though he was “tired” and had a “slight cold."
Instead, Trump took a second test that came back negative, and Meadows called Trump to inform him of it. The Guardian reports that the book then relays the following:
Meadows says Trump took that call as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened.” His chief of staff, however, “instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive” throughout the Pennsylvania trip.
In other words, everyone around Trump was apparently told he was potentially contagious, and he even appeared potentially symptomatic, even as Trump roared into the debate as if the opposite were true. If this is right, then what happened at the debate is even worse than you thought.
That’s because multiple people around Trump, including his wife, Melania Trump, and his kids Donald Jr. and Eric, all sat maskless at the Sept. 29 debate, according to contemporaneous reports, despite the fact that debate attendees were required to wear masks.
As numerous reporters personally witnessed at the time, Trump’s family members did this after rebuffing a direct request to mask up from a doctor with the Cleveland Clinic, which helped organize the debate. That doctor even offered them masks, and they declined:
Confirming this, debate moderator Chris Wallace reiterated at the time that the Cleveland Clinic had required everybody in the hall — except him and the two candidates — to wear masks. Yet Wallace, too, confirmed that the Trump family wasn’t wearing masks in the audience.
Physician Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a Post contributing columnist, points out that going maskless among other people — while knowing you might have been exposed — could put those people at risk.
“People who have close contact with individuals who test positive for covid should be in quarantine,” Wen told me. “If they had known that they were in close contact with someone who tested positive and were symptomatic, they shouldn’t have gone to the event at all."
Wen added that their refusal to wear masks may have meant “that they knowingly exposed others and flouted public health guidelines.”
Indeed, Melania Trump and numerous other people in Trump’s inner circle were both with Trump in the days after he tested positive and then subsequently tested positive themselves, according to a Post tally.
And on the same day Trump tested positive, he held a reception announcing Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett — with Melania Trump in attendance — after which numerous people present then tested positive.
It’s hard to know which of Trump’s family members and top aides might have been told at the time of Trump’s positive test. But it’s extremely likely that some or all of them knew about it, especially since Meadows apparently put out word that Trump should be treated as positive.
Also note that the Cleveland Clinic required all attendees to test negative before the debate, but the campaigns were responsible for testing their own candidates and their entourages. As Eric Boehlert notes, this neatly demonstrated how our institutions utterly failed to treat Trump as the malevolent force that he was — and remains.
The operating principle for the Trump family is impunity from rules, laws and accountability at all costs. Indeed, soon after it became known that Trump had covid, the Commission on Presidential Debates complained that his family had violated all protocols by attending the debate maskless.
Needless to say, nothing was done about this at the time, even as they brashly flouted those protocols before a national audience of millions.
In retrospect, now that we know Trump — and likely those around him as well — knew that he’d tested positive for covid, this stands as yet another example of our total underestimation of this clan’s depraved disregard for rules, norms, and any sense of basic decency and responsibility to those around them.
With Trump possibly gearing up to run for president again, perhaps we should avoid making the same mistake this time?