In seven days, Trump showed Americans exactly what kind of human being he is

From the day he tested positive until his hospitalization, Trump came in contact with more than 500 people, either those in proximity to him or at crowded events, not including rallygoers, according to a Washington Post analysis of the president’s interactions during that period.

Trump received his first positive test result for COVID-19 on Sept. 26. For the next seven days, according to the Post’s analysis, “Trump and [chief of staff Mark] Meadows hid Trump’s positive test not just from the public, but also from his inner circle and from his top public health officials.” Compounding the fact that his positive test was hidden from his staff, Trump took no steps whatsoever to advise, inform, warn, or protect anyone else he crossed paths with for a full week, whereupon he himself was hospitalized at Walter Reed.

As the Post reports, Trump “not only concealed the result but also proceeded to put hundreds of people at risk by continuing his normal activities while refusing to wear a mask or practice social distancing.“ And when he finally, with great public fanfare, hospitalized himself, what he did next was even more revealing of his complete absence of human decency. As Paul Krugman notes, writing for The New York Times:

[W]hen he came down with a life-threatening case of Covid, he suggested that he might have caught it from Gold Star families he had met with after his positive test — that is, he blamed people he himself had callously endangered.

As the Post analysis points out, the official White House narrative of Trump’s bout with COVID-19 puts his first positive test rather implausibly as the day before he self-admitted to Walter Reed Hospital. A new book by Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows now confirms the earlier, Sept. 26 positive test, which Trump is now referring to as a “false positive” to try to distract from his own malign behavior in hiding the fact of his infectiousness from those he encountered that week.

As the Post notes, we’ll never really know whether that test was a “false positive,” as Trump now claims:

There is no way of knowing whether the initial Sept. 26 coronavirus test was a false positive or, rather, the first true indicator of the virus that would fell Trump days later. Both Meadows and Trump have previously misled the public on a host of issues, including Trump’s covid status. Meadows declined to comment further through a spokesman, and a Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

In his book, Meadows acknowledged that an antibody test during this same time frame had come back negative, but the Post observes that under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, Trump “should have taken a more accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm whether he had the coronavirus.” Meadows describes Trump as looking tired on the day that he received that result; Meadows assumed Trump had a cold. Other folks less cowardly and fearful of the consequences than Meadows have confirmed what should have been obvious under these circumstances:

“Had I been there, and Dr. Conley would have told me they would have received a positive test, I would have assumed it was accurate and frankly canceled everything right away,” said John F. Kelly, one of Trump’s previous chiefs of staff, adding that he also would have rushed Trump to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “To do anything else would be irresponsible.”

The fact that a president who tests positive for a deadly virus should have the common decency to avoid human contact for at least a limited time thereafter seems self-evident, but as the Post’s article confirms, there is little doubt that Trump knew (or should have known) he was potentially infected from the start of his activities that week, and not on the day before he self-admitted to Walter Reed.

“It would make more sense that you would test positive and then a lot of patients we see hospitalized end up hospitalized on Day 10 or that second week, when the inflammatory response of the immune system is taking over,” said Abraar Karan, an infectious-disease doctor and global health researcher at Stanford University. “Let’s say you’re exposed today. You may not test positive for three to five days because the virus is in its early stages incubating, so that first week, you’re testing positive, but it’s really in that second week — seven, 10, 14 days out — that you could have more severe symptoms from inflammatory response.”

Last Wednesday, Meadows tried to walk back the clear implication that Trump knew he was possibly COVID-19 positive during the time frame of these meetings and events. Facing agitated pushback last week from Trump on the issue, Meadows has now (belatedly) asserted that Trump had received multiple negative tests by the time he debated Joe Biden (three days after receiving a positive result). However, as the Post points out, Meadows’ book only mentions one negative test—not multiple ones.

But ultimately it doesn’t matter. Between the time Trump received that initial positive test result—which would have clued any decent human being, let alone a president, into his potential as a spreader of the virus—and his hospitalization at Walter Reed, Trump knowingly and deliberately interacted with some 500 people. Immediately after receiving the news of the positive test, Trump proceeded to attend a rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania. On the flight back, he spent 10 unmasked minutes talking to his press entourage aboard Air Force One. One of those reporters would test positive a week later. Also on that Saturday, after he had received his positive test result, Trump held the infamous Rose Garden appearance where he announced his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. During this event and throughout the remainder of the day, Trump came into contact with an estimated 150 people.

The following day, again, knowing full well he’d just tested positive for COVID-19, Trump held a 37-minute press conference in the White House briefing room, again unmasked, and then held a meeting with Gold Star military families, accompanied by then-Vice President Mike Pence and Pence’s wife, among others.  

Monday was another busy day for Trump as he touted the virtues of an electric pickup truck on the South Lawn. He came into contact with about 30 people on that day, according to the Post. As is now widely known, on Tuesday, Trump then engaged in the televised debate with Joe Biden, with neither he nor his staff divulging the positive test result. He had engaged for debate prep with aides earlier during the day, again telling no one about his prior test. All told, he came into close contact with 20 people that Tuesday. 

As the Post notes, Trump then attended a post-debate rally the following day, which is when Trump’s aide, Hope Hicks, began to feel sick. Disregarding Hicks’ condition, Trump elected instead to attend a rally in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Thursday, the following day. Trump tested positive again for COVID-19 later that day after coming into contact with roughly another 200 people. He tweeted about this (second) positive result at 1 a.m. Friday morning, the day he entered Walter Reed.

After he came out from his hospitalization, the first public thing Trump did—reflexively in fact—was to blame his infection with COVID-19 on the first thing that popped into his head. In this case, it was the Gold Star families of dead U.S. soldiers he’d met with earlier that week. As reported by the Military Times:

President Donald Trump suggested he may have contracted coronavirus from families of fallen troops during a White House event late last month because he couldn’t observe social distancing when “they want to hug me and they want to kiss me.”

‘I didn’t want to cancel that,’ Trump said of the Sept. 27 event, which included several dozen guests and several high-ranking military officials. ‘They all came in and they all talked about their son and daughter and father … They tell me these stories, and I can’t say ‘back up, stand 10 feet away,’ you know? I just can’t do it.’

If you’re looking for some acknowledgement in that statement that Trump himself had tested positive for COVID-19 on the very day before he purportedly “hugged and kissed” those families, you won’t find it, because it doesn’t exist.

What Trump did was search his mind for a quick and easy way out of his predicament. To acknowledge that he’d tested positive would reveal him as the malignant, uncaring narcissist that he truly is. So he had to come up with a scapegoat. Because that’s his character—it’s the way he thinks. Just like a cornered rat will do anything … anything to escape, Trump came up with anything to deflect from his own malign indifference. The fact that this falsely implicated the families of dead U.S. soldiers never troubled him; in fact, it probably never occurred to him. They were a convenient excuse, just beckoning him to use them as a foil. 

So he lied, hoping no one would ever find out that he knew he’d tested positive for COVID-19 the day before. Because that would be embarrassing. It would be inconvenient. Worst of all, it would show the country exactly what kind of human being he was.

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