Not only did Donald Trump test positive for Covid-19 days before his first general election debate against Joe Biden in 2020, but his blood oxygen level dipped to dangerously low levels soon after he eventually tweeted that he had contracted the virus.
Both revelations come via a memoir from former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – and make crystal clear how deeply dishonest the then-president and those close to him were about the real state of his condition as he battled the Covid-19 virus in the fall of 2020.
Just to jog your memory, Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump had contracted Covid-19 just before one in the morning on Friday, October 2.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19,” wrote Trump. “We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”
Within 18 hours, he was on the way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center – a move his aides were quick to suggest was mostly a precautionary measure.
“This evening I’m happy to report that the President is doing very well,” wrote White House physician Sean Conley in a memo that was distributed to reporters. “He is not requiring any supplemental oxygen, but in consultation with specialists we have elected to initiate Remdesivir therapy. He has completed his first dose and is resting comfortably.”
Trump did everything he could to downplay the situation as well. In a Twitter video released after he arrived at Walter Reed, Trump said, “I think I’m doing very well,” adding “we’re going to make sure that things work out.”
But, according to Meadows, those reassurances were WAY off base.
In fact, earlier on that same day – Friday – Conley had talked to Meadows about Trump’s declining health.
“That morning, Dr. Conley pulled me aside and delivered some bad news,” Meadows writes in his memoir. “Although the president’s condition had improved slightly overnight, his oxygen levels had now dipped down to about 86 percent and could be trending lower, a dangerously low level for someone his age.”
Trump was so weak, recounts Meadows, that he was unable to carry his briefcase to the helicopter that took him to Walter Reed. “He looked at me, almost surprised he had to put it down,” writes Meadows. “‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I-I just can’t carry that out there.’”
The next 48 hours were dominated by the White House’s obfuscation over whether Trump required supplemental oxygen to help him breathe.
“He is not on oxygen right now,” Conley said in response to questioning from reporters on Saturday October 3. “He has not needed any today at all.” Conley added, “This morning the President is doing very well. The President is fever-free for over 24 hours.”
But, roughly half an hour after that rosy assessment, came this from a “source familiar with the President’s health” speaking to the print and TV pool reporters, “The President’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We are still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”
It seems clear now – and, to be honest, it was pretty clear then too – that the White House wasn’t telling the truth about the severity of Trump’s condition as he battled Covid-19. Which, given the track record of falsehoods and misinformation that came out of the Trump White House, should surprise exactly no one.
But, you may ask, who cares? Trump recovered from Covid. It’s all in the past! Why are we still talking about it?
The answer? Because Donald Trump is not only the single most powerful person (still) within the Republican party but is also the clear frontrunner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. He is actively taking steps to prepare to run for president again – including warning potential challengers to cease and desist.
Given those twin realities, it is decidedly important to understand just how untruthful Trump and those around him were when he was seriously ill with Covid-19 last year. Because, if they lied about that, what else will they lie about if Trump winds up as the Republican nominee or as president again?
And, the answer is, it seems to me, just about everything.