There has been one gnawing question that the White House has refused to answer ever since President Donald Trump publicly announced he tested positive for coronavirus last Friday, was hospitalized for three days due to his worsening condition, and returned home this week despite his doctors acknowledging he is “not entirely out of the woods yet”: When was the last time the president tested negative for COVID-19?
That question, of course, would inform the public on whether the president was potentially already infected when he participated in last Tuesday’s presidential debate and if he caught the virus during what appears to be a “super-spreader” event days before that at the White House Rose Garden.
That same question, of course, could also reveal how often the president had been tested for the virus, considering the White House had previously excused his lack of mask-wearing and social distancing by claiming he was tested on a daily basis. It also would provide answers as to whether the president knew he was sick when he traveled to fundraisers on both Wednesday and Thursday after the debate.
Following the president’s hospitalization at Walter Reed Medical Center over the weekend, the White House press team and physician Dr. Sean Conley suddenly became cagey when pressed on the simple question of when Trump’s last negative test occurred.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany—who has since tested positive for the disease—was grilled by reporters about the issue during a Sunday gaggle on the White House driveway. She punted on the question.
“Yeah, I’m not going to give you a detailed readout with timestamps every time the president is tested,” McEnany said. “He's tested regularly, and the first positive test he's received was Thursday after he returned from [a fundraiser at] Bedminster.”
Conley, meanwhile, followed suit when announcing on Monday that the president would be returning to the White House that evening. While willingly sharing rosier details of the president’s health to make the case for discharging Trump, Conley cited HIPAA restrictions when asked about the president’s lung scans and when Trump last received a negative result.
“I don’t want to go backwards,” the doctor declared. Asked later why he hadn’t disclosed that information, the physician merely smiled and replied: “Everyone wants that.” He then proceeded to ignore the question.
While White House spokesman Judd Deere insisted on Friday that everyone who traveled aboard Air Force One en route to last week’s debate was tested for coronavirus, the Cleveland Clinic—which serves as the health adviser for this cycle’s debates and co-hosted Tuesday’s event—noted on Tuesday that the Trump campaign merely assured them that the president had tested negative within 72 hours of the debate.
This revelation, meanwhile, suggests that the president’s last negative result could have been as far back as Sept. 26, which was the date of the Rose Garden celebration for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination. More than a dozen attendees of that event have since tested positive for the virus. The president also attended a White House event honoring Gold Star families the following day.
The New York Times also reported this week that White House officials conceded that the president has not been tested every day, despite the impression created by the administration that he was tested regularly.
Appearing Tuesday evening on CNN, White House Deputy Press Secretary Brian Morgenstern wouldn’t directly answer when anchor Erin Burnett asked if he could say whether or not the president tested negative on the day of the debate.
“I don’t have that,” Morgenstern responded, adding that the president got his “confirmatory test” after White House aide Hope Hicks tested positive on Thursday.
Burnett pointed out that the president had reportedly begun feeling symptoms early Thursday, which Morgenstern did not deny. At the same time, while Morgenstern noted that Trump announced his “confirmatory” positive test result early Friday morning, he didn’t acknowledge that Trump also failed to disclose a positive result he received from a rapid test earlier that day. Those results arrived prior to Trump’s appearance on Fox News that evening discussing his top aide Hope Hicks’ positive COVID test.
“I’ll get my test back either tonight or tomorrow morning,” the president told host Sean Hannity during the interview.
Pressed again during a White House driveway briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Morgenstern insisted this time that a request for the date of Trump’s last negative test result is just too much trouble.
“I don’t know when he last tested negative,” he huffed. “We're not asking to go back through a bunch of records and look backwards.”
Hours later, meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the White House doesn't “normally get into testing protocol for the president” when Fox News anchor Bret Baier pointed out that the public still doesn't know when Trump last tested negative.
“Obviously, the doctor has already spoken about that and it was a positive test on last Thursday evening when he was confirmed to have the coronavirus,” Meadows added, kicking it back to Conley.