Biden declines comment on report Trump tested positive for COVID days before debate

ABC News
ABC News

President Joe Biden on Wednesday declined to comment on the claim former President Donald Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows makes in an upcoming book, according to the Guardian , that Trump had a positive COVID-19 test three days before their first presidential debate.

ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce asked Biden, who was 78 and, like Trump, unvaccinated when they shared the stage in the September debate, if he believes Trump put him at risk of contracting the potentially fatal virus.

Biden paused, and then responded with a smirk, "I don't think about the former president."
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images - PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks on supply chain issues in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2021.

Later, White House press secretary Jen Psaki took a different tone -- slamming Republicans and Trump allies she said had appeared to withhold the positive test result.

"What is not lost on us is that no one should be surprised that currently in Congress, as we're looking at the government staying open, you have supporters of the former president, supporters of the former president who withheld information, reportedly, about testing positive and appeared apparently at a debate, also held events at the White House, reportedly, with military veterans and military families," she said.

MORE: Trump fixated on his own political fate as virus kills record number of Americans
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images - PHOTO: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki listens as Chief Medical Advisor to the president Anthony Fauci speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Dec. 1, 2021.

She said the White House did not know about Meadows' claim prior to the story breaking in The Guardian.

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who notably was the target of Trump's ire for his messaging surrounding the virus, also said he "certainly was not aware of his test positivity or negativity" when ABC News Correspondent Karen Travers asked him about the revelation at the afternoon White House briefing.

"I'm not going to specifically talk about who put who at risk, but I would say, as I've said, not only from an individual but for everybody, that if you test positive, you should be quarantining yourself," he said.

MORE: Trump dismisses pandemic, rips Fauci as 'disaster' in campaign all-staff call
Susan Walsh/AP - PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, Dec. 1, 2021.

The Guardian , which says it obtained a copy of Meadows' upcoming book, reported that Trump test positive on Sept. 26, sending shockwaves through the White House, before a second COVID-19 test came back negative, according to the Meadows account.

ABC News has not independently confirmed the book's contents.

According to the debate rules, each candidate was required "to test negative for the virus within seventy-two hours of the start time" of the Sept. 29 debate in Cleveland, Meadows recalls understanding in the book, according to The Guardian.

MORE: President Trump taken to Walter Reed Medical Center

But Trump, then 74, was determined to go to the debate and face Biden, regardless, according to the account.
Pool/AFP via Getty Images - PHOTO: Democratic Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden (R) and President Donald Trump take part in the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Sept. 29, 2020.

"Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there," Meadows writes, according to the excerpt in The Guardian.

Trump's reportedly positive, then negative, in tests were taken on the same day of the now-infamous packed Rose Garden ceremony , described as a "superspreader event," in which Trump announced he would nominate now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

At least 11 guests, including press secretary Kellyanne Conway, former New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie, Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins, tested positive afterward.

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Meadows called Trump, who was on Air Force One at the time, with news of the positive test before calling back that he tested negative after another screening.

Trump went on to headline a rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania, that evening, and held public events at the White House in the coming days.

MORE: 11 attendees at SCOTUS nomination Rose Garden event test positive for COVID-19

Meadows has dodged questions surrounding Trump and COVID-19 since the president tweeted in the early hours of Oct. 2 that he tested positive, at the time, repeatedly refused to tell reporters when he had last tested negative.
Bloomberg via Getty Images - PHOTO: President Donald Trump and Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff, walk to the Oval Office following wreath laying ceremony, May 8, 2020.
MORE: 1st presidential debate between Trump and Biden spirals into chaotic clash

Two senior Trump officials later told ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jon Karl they had heard Trump tested positive before the debate but Meadows told Karl several months ago that was not true.

"Some people say you first got -- you got an initial positive test even before the debate. Is that true or is that not true?" Karl asked Trump in a March 18 interview at Mar-a-Lago for his new book, "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show."

"No," Trump responded. "No, that's not true."
Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE - PHOTO: President Donald Trump wears a protective mask while giving a thumbs up as he is driven in a motorcade past supporters outside of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 4, 2020.

In a new statement on Wednesday, the former president called the reporting "fake news" -- but did not flat out deny that he had tested positive before the debate.

"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," he said.

Notably, Meadows did not write explicitly, according to The Guardian excerpts, that Trump had COVID-19 before the debate but that he had an initial positive test that was followed by a more reliable negative test.

Comments / 92

Lawrence Vian

Stop with the hate stories. This story served nothing but red meat for the socialist Dems. can you not just leave the past alone.

Val Maria

He didn’t know, so why ask him. It was covered up by trump and his aides. That was very poor judgement on trump. This is how desperate he is, he has no problem spreading it as long as it doesn’t delay his mission.

Patricia Orwig

I liked his quote and it kicked ass Joe Biden said " I don't think about the former 😔 president "


Comments / 0