In open defiance of state regulations and his own administrations pandemic health guidelines, President Donald Trump on Sunday hosted his first indoor rally since June, telling a packed, nearly mask-less Nevada crowd that the nation was making the last turn in defeating the virus.
Eager to project a sense of normalcy in imagery, Trump soaked up the raucous cheers inside the warehouse venue. Relatively few in the crowd wore masks, with one clear exception: those in the stands directly behind Trump, whose images would end up on TV, were mandated to wear face coverings.
Not since a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that was blamed for a surge of coronavirus infections has he gathered supporters indoors. There was no early mention from the president that the pandemic had killed nearly 200,000 Americans and was still claiming 1,000 lives a day.
“We are not shutting the country again. A shutdown would destroy the lives and dreams of millions Americans,” said Trump.
In a rambling, hour-long speech, Trump railed against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, suggesting he was taking drugs and was soft on crime: “Biden wants to appease domestic terrorists and my plan is to arrest domestic terrorists,” Trump said to an enthusiastic crowd. “If Biden wins, the mob wins.”
Biden has criticised Trump for holding campaign events that put people at risk of contracting the coronavirus, which has killed more than 194,000 people in the United States.
Also on Sunday night, author and journalist Bob Woodward, whose book Rage detailed Trump publicly playing down the virus while privately knowing it was more serious, told 60 Minutes that an hour and a half after he told Trump his book would be tough on him, the president Tweeted that Rage was going to be fake.
…The Bob Woodward book will be a FAKE, as always, just as many of the others have been. But, believe it or not, lately I’ve been getting lots of GREAT books!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2020
All entrants to the rally were given temperature checks and while masks were encouraged, few wore them.
Nevada’s governor, Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, has limited in-person gatherings indoors and outdoors to 50 people since May, a recommendation based on White House reopening guidelines. In a statement released just before the rally began, Sisolak said Trump was taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada.
“To put it bluntly: he didnt have the guts to make tough choices,” Sisolak said of Trump’s handling of the virus. “He left that to governors and the states. Now he’s decided he doesn’t have to respect our state’s laws. As usual, he doesn’t believe the rules apply to him.”
The city of Henderson informed Xtreme Manufacturing on Sunday that the event as planned was in direct violation of the governors Covid-19 emergency directives and that penalties would follow. The Trump campaign pushed back against the restrictions with the president saying he would support those in attendance if “the governor came after you.”
“If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the President of the United States,” campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said.
On Monday Trump will travel to California to receive a briefing on the devastating wildfires racing through the region. He has largely been silent on the blazes that have claimed dozens of lives in Oregon and California.