Editor’s Note: Michael D’Antonio is the author of the book “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” and co-author, with Peter Eisner, of the book “High Crimes: The Corruption, Impunity, and Impeachment of Donald Trump.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
Just when you think you know the depth of former President Donald Trump’s recklessness and arrogance, something new comes along to prove you don’t. According to The Guardian, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reveals in a new book that Trump tested positive for the Covid-19 virus three day before his first debate with then-presidential candidate Joe Biden. The book says another test in that period came back negative.
Meadows’ revelation could mean the then-president entered the venue even though he might have been endangering the lives of everyone there. For Trump, all’s fair in politics, it seems, including possibly exposing one’s opponent to a deadly pathogen. On Wednesday, Trump issued a statement denying that he had Covid prior to the debate.
The Guardian’s source is an advance copy of “The Chief’s Chief,” a tell-all book by Meadows. While the report of a negative test is worth noting, the uncertainty over which test was correct should have led to caution. What reasonable person would hide all this and proceed as normal? Indeed, four days after the debate, Trump was rushed to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for Covid care.
As with so many things involving Trump, the truth of his illness was obscured. He was, in fact, much sicker than announced and required aggressive treatment.
Meadows’ book, which will go on sale next week, may be viewed as a stab-in-the-back by his former boss and his most fervent allies. These folks will find more reason to curse Meadows as he cooperates with Congress’s investigation of the violent January 6 attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump’s followers who, revved up by their man’s speech at a rally, fought with police until they gained access to the building and forcibly delayed the formal acceptance of Biden’s election victory.
CNN broke the news that Meadows would cooperate with the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on Tuesday. Meadows’ lawyer has said he may feel constrained to respect the former president’s executive privilege claim that he can keep certain things secret, a legal question which is winding its way through the courts now.
Nevertheless, he has already turned over some documents, and when he appears to testify, he will bring with him a true insider’s knowledge of Trump’s post-election drive to overturn his defeat, helping the committee piece together what happened before, during and after January 6.
For those critics of Meadows who read the October 4, 2020, article about him published in Politico Magazine, passages citing his detractors, who regarded him as deceptive, may seem borne-out by his recent moves. Others, however, might say that Meadows has let his basic decency – another trait noted in Politico – finally rule his choices.
Before Meadows was White House chief of staff, he spent seven years in Congress representing the 11th district of North Carolina. As Peter Eisner and I discovered when we researched a book on Trump’s first impeachment, Meadows was well-liked in the House, even by some Democrats. He did not practice the politics of rage and contempt that characterized Trumpism.
This signaled to some, including me, that Meadows might one day join Michael Cohen on the short list of Trump intimates who turned on him.
Longtime lawyer to the billionaire businessman, Cohen spent years trying to intimidate people (including me) on Trump’s behalf. Rewarded with good pay and lots of responsibilities, Cohen remained loyal as Trump became president. But as he came under investigation for the way he helped Trump deal with looming sex scandals, Cohen experienced a change of heart.
After plea bargains on charges related to his work for Trump sent him to federal prison, he testified before Congress. He declared, “I’m not protecting Mr. Trump anymore.” Cohen then spoke of Trump’s behavior as that of a “con man” and a “cheat” who directs unsavory schemes using code words. “I understand the code,” said Cohen, “because I’ve been around him for a decade.”
Cohen testified to show that he was more than just Trump’s flunky and to begin a new chapter in life where he might claim to occupy higher ground. Having dealt with him a little, and discerned some positive qualities, I wasn’t surprised that he did it. The book he published later, “Disloyal,” continued this process as it revealed that the hold Trump had on him was truly broken and showed, in greater detail, his former employer’s slippery and abusive behavior.
Meadows’ time for redemption is now, and he has taken a first step toward doing the right thing, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise for those who served with him in Congress.
His critics will cry “traitor” and declare him self-serving. Faced with being held in contempt for not responding to a congressional subpoena, Meadows is, of course, serving his own interests. But if he sheds more light on the dark months after last year’s election, then he will have served the country, too.