Of all the insane moments from 2020, this one still stands out: The former president of the United States knowingly and intentionally exposed his opponent to a deadly virus and covered it up to protect his re-election campaign.
Oh, you’d forgotten about that?
In October 2020 I wrote a story laying out the inconsistencies and evasions coming from the White House concerning the timeline of Trump’s COVID infection, especially as it related to his September 29, 2020 debate with Joe Biden. You can revisit it here, if you want the gory details.
A forthcoming book by Trump’s own chief of staff now reportedly indicates that Trump did, in fact, know that he had COVID when he showed up to the September 29 debate. From the Guardian:
Donald Trump tested positive for Covid-19 three days before his first debate against Joe Biden, the former president’s fourth and last chief of staff has revealed in a new book.
Mark Meadows also writes that though he knew each candidate was required “to test negative for the virus within seventy two hours of the start time … Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there.”
The timeline as laid out by Meadows indicates that Trump tested positive for COVID three days before that debate, then followed up with a second negative test, then quit taking tests altogether so that he wouldn’t be prevented from debating.
Trump has kinda sorta disputed this version of events via fax, though it’s unclear why his own former chief of staff, a toadying supplicant, would be peddling fake news. It seems much more likely that Trump is using weasel words and Meadows is such a moron that he thought relaying this story made his old boss look like a Strong Fighting Man for all the poorly endowed super fans in need of a big daddy. Trump is so alpha that he beat Sleepy Joe in a debate while he had COVID!
The Meadows claim that Trump had tested positive for COVID pre-debate is further supported by the following facts:
- Two days after the test, Trump and Pence held a joint event during which they were unusually distant from one another
- Trump refused to take the required COVID test at the debate site, claiming that he had arrived too late to take a test.
- The White House refused to answer whether it had submitted negative tests to the Cleveland Clinic as required by debate organizers.
- During an onanistic post-election interview with the Trump fluffer-in-chief Mollie Hemingway, the former president only refused to answer one of her questions: Whether he had COVID during the first debate.
These are all the actions of someone who knew he had COVID and wanted to debate anyway. Just as Meadows wrote.
Or, to reframe the episode just slightly: One sick old man decided to risk getting his old man opponent sick, too, and lied in order to do it.
Biden at age 77 was in the prime risk category for COVID-19, Trump spent an entire evening screaming and spittling in his general direction—remember, this was that debate—indoors, from a few feet away, without a mask.
Trump risked other people’s lives because he needed to get off on the applause that he expected after schlonging Biden (whoops). But also in order to wriggle out of the consequences of his months long refusal to take reasonable precautions regarding COVID, because he was intent on downplaying the virus. And then he lied about it and tried to coverup his lies in the aftermath.
Trump was lucky that he didn’t become “one of the diers.” As a country we were similarly lucky that this sitting president did not infect and kill his political rival with his carelessness. Donald Trump’s pathological megalomania put us in the position where that was possible and the only reason the country didn’t have to face the unrest that would result from such a horror was luck.
Trump was the chaos candidate. Some people hoped that the weight of the presidency would make him more responsible. It did not. Others hoped that, despite his erratic nature, the country might escape calamity during his watch. We did not. If private citizen Donald Trump wanted to risk his own life playing COVID roulette, that’s his call, though I’d be pretty damn pissed if he had put my grandmother at risk the way he did Biden and others.
As president he risked the lives of everyone in America. And it turned out that he was perfectly willing to risk Joe Biden’s life, too.