Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Pennsylvania on September 26, 2020, shortly after he reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus. Ron Adar/SOPA/ZUMA

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Evidence is mounting that Donald Trump received a positive COVID-19 test shortly before attending his first debate with Joe Biden.

According to a report in the Guardian, Trump’s fourth and final chief of staff, Mark Meadows, reveals in his forthcoming book that Trump tested positive for the virus on September 26, 2020, three days before the debate. Shortly after that test, Meadows writes, Trump also received a negative result from a different test and decided to press on with a rally in Pennsylvania, a maskless event for Gold Star families where he spoke about the “value of sacrifice,” an indoor press conference, and then the debate with the 77-year-old Democratic nominee. 

“Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there,” Meadows reportedly writes.

Two anonymous former Trump officials have confirmed to the New York Times that Meadows timeline is accurate.

In a statement Wednesday, Trump complained about “fake news” but didn’t really deny his former chief of staff’s claim about the September 26 positive test. Instead, Trump asserted that he did not have COVID-19 “prior to, or during, the first debate” and that he received a negative test at some point before the debate. Days after the debate, Trump disclosed that he had the disease and he was eventually hospitalized, but at the time the White House infamously refused to say when he had last received a negative test.

At one point, Trump appeared to blame the Gold Star families he met with for exposing him to the virus.

“They come within an inch of my face sometimes, they want to hug me and they want to kiss me. And they do. And frankly, I’m not telling them to back up. I’m not doing it, but obviously it’s a dangerous thing, I guess, if you go by the COVID thing,” he told Fox Business. 

That meeting, it now turns out, took place a day after Meadows says Trump first tested positive.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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