Chris Christie: It's now "undeniable" that Trump gave me COVID

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

It’s not “undeniable.” Even if what Christie says in the clip is true, that six of the seven people involved in Trump’s debate prep were getting daily tests and the only unknown was you-know-who, it wouldn’t conclusively prove who started the outbreak. Rapid tests aren’t as accurate as lab tests; it’s possible someone got a false negative and infected everyone else.

But there’s no doubt who the prime suspect is.

Especially now that Mark Meadows has spilled the beans about Trump testing positive on September 26. Watch, then read on.

Trump has reportedly been complaining to aides that Meadows was “f***ing stupid” to include details about his bout with COVID in his new book. When he’s right, he’s right: I still can’t figure out how Meadows, a member of Trump’s inner circle, didn’t anticipate what the public reaction would be to him claiming that Trump had reason to believe he had the virus three days before the debate with Biden.

And really, no matter what he and Trump say, there’s no doubt at this point that he was infected at the debate on September 29. The timeline here isn’t complicated. Meadows says Trump tested positive on Saturday the 26th and then tested negative later that evening when *the same sample* was re-run through a second rapid test. Meadows then describes in his book how Trump didn’t look great in the days thereafter, including in the hours before the debate. Late in the day on Thursday, October 1, another test confirmed that Trump was positive after all. Whether he bothered getting tested even once between September 26 and October 1 despite his haggard appearance remains unclear. The important part, though, is that on Friday, October 2, he was already sick enough that he had to leave the White House for Walter Reed to receive treatment.

Meadows and Trump want us to believe that the negative test on September 26 was accurate and the positive test was false rather than vice versa, and they further want us to believe that Trump still didn’t have COVID on September 29, the day of the debate. If that were true, it would mean Trump got infected no earlier than Wednesday, September 30, and in less than 72 hours was in such dire straits that he had to be admitted to the hospital for care.

In almost two years of reading and writing daily about COVID, I’ve never heard of someone going from infection all the way to severe illness in less than three days. Typically it takes four to five days for an infection to cause even mild symptoms and then several days (or longer) before the illness turns severe enough to require an ER visit. If Trump was in bad enough shape to need to go to Walter Reed on October 2 then he obviously had COVID at the debate on the 29th. Which means he also almost certainly had it in the days before the debate, when he and Christie were spending long hours around a table with each other preparing for the event. Which also makes it highly likely that the positive test on the 26th was the accurate one and the second test was a false negative. More from William Saletan:

At the time, scientific articles had warned that antigen tests were prone to false negatives. (Subsequent studies confirmed that among asymptomatic people, BinaxNOW yielded false negative rates of 30 percent, 31 percent, 47 percent, and 64 percent.) For this reason, the September 2020 CDC guidelines warned doctors and the public not to rely on negative antigen tests. But that’s what the White House did. There’s no record of Trump taking the recommended PCR test until the night of Oct. 1.

It would have been easy to confirm which test was accurate by having Trump take a lab PCR test on September 27 but there’s no indication from Meadows that he did. Why not? The obvious answer is that Trump and Meadows suspected that he was positive all along but didn’t want confirmation of that to upend the debate. So they held off on confirming it — and they further held off on telling Christie and the rest of the debate prep team for fear that someone would leak it. Result: Christie ends up in the ICU and almost dies.

It wasn’t the only time Meadows covered up a positive test to prevent leaks and exposed innocent people to danger, Saletan reminds us:

On Oct. 1, he learned that Hope Hicks, a senior Trump aide, had tested positive. But Meadows didn’t tell staffers who then accompanied Trump on a trip that afternoon. Nor, apparently, did he tell White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who, despite having traveled with Hicks for the previous two days, was sent out to brief reporters. And when Trump tested positive on Oct. 1, Meadows didn’t disclose it. Not until the morning of Oct. 2, after Trump had tested positive for a third time, did Meadows acknowledge that the third test was “confirmatory.”

Meadows has also lied about the Sept. 26 test. In the book, as quoted by the Guardian, he claims that after getting the positive result, he “instructed everyone in [Trump’s] immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive.” But aides who were around Trump at the time say they got no such instruction and were never told about the positive test. According to the Washington Post, the list of people kept in the dark included then–Vice President Mike Pence.

“This sorry episode illustrates their whole approach to the virus: wishing away unwelcome information, deceiving the public, and covering up bad news,” he concludes. Avoiding blame for anything COVID-related was always the White House’s top priority. In fact, after Christie landed in the hospital with COVID — which he now strongly suspects he got from Trump — he says the then-president phoned him not so much to wish him well but to ask him a question: “Are you gonna say you got it from me?”

Christie didn’t say that before but he’s saying it now. Exit question: Is he still prepared to support Trump for president in 2024 now that he knows Trump’s recklessness nearly killed him?