Published: 16:32 BST, 14 September 2020 | Updated: 17:43 BST, 14 September 2020
President Donald Trump defended his decision to hold an indoor rally in Las Vegas on Sunday night as Nevada’s governor called him ‘reckless and selfish’ for holding the event in violation of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
The president said the Democratic governor left him no choice but to hold the event, where there was no socially distancing and few people wore masks in the crowd of nearly 5,000 people.
Trump also brushed off concerns about the virus in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, saying he wasn’t worried about contracting it.
‘I’m on a stage and it’s very far away,’ Trump said. ‘And so I’m not at all concerned.’
‘I’m more concerned about how close you are, to be honest,’ Trump told the Review-Journal reporter, who was socially distanced.
President Donald Trump defended his decision to hold an indoor campaign rally and said he was not worried about contracting COVID at it
Trump called Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak of Nevada a ‘hack’ as the governor unloaded on the president for holding an indoor rally
Trump also blamed Nevada’s Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak for forcing him to hold the event indoors after canceling his planned outside rally at the Las Vegas airport.
‘They canceled six different sites because the governor wouldn’t let it happen, all external sites,’ he said, adding that Sisolak was ‘a political hack.’
Trump was in Nevada for a weekend of campaign events in the critical battleground state where Democratic rival Joe Biden is leading in the polls. But Trump’s team is hoping to turn the state to their column as a possible firewall against other loses in the Southwest, such as Nevada.
Sisolak, meanwhile, unloaded on Trump shortly before the rally began, charging the president with putting lives in danger.
‘Tonight, President Donald Trump is taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada,’ Sisolak said in a statement.
‘The President appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic,’ Sisolak added.
‘As Governor, I have worked with public health and infectious disease specialists to create emergency directives to protect public health and get our economy back on track. That means limiting gathering sizes, mandating face coverings and practicing social distancing. All of which the President recklessly disregarded for his own gain this weekend in Nevada,’ he said.
‘At a time when Nevada is focused on getting our economy back on track and protecting public health, the President’s actions this weekend are shameful, dangerous and irresponsible.’
Trump was criticized for his decision to hold the rally indoors, in a blatant violation of Nevada rules that limit gatherings to 50 people to try and contain the spread of the coronavirus.
There was no social distancing and few wore face masks – with a notable exception of those seated on the risers behind the president, the people who would appear on camera as he spoke.
‘If the governor comes after you, which he shouldn’t be doing, I’ll be with you all the way,’ Trump told his cheering supporters during his 68-minute speech.
He thanked Don Ahern, the owner of the Xtreme Manufacturing facility, who is facing state fines for allowing Trump to hold the event.
‘I want to thank him, Trump said, adding he was holding the rally because ‘this is the most important election in the history of the country.’
The rally resemebled those the president held before the country shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic – a hyped up crowd, a venue packed to the gills, cheering, shouting, laughing and all things celebrating Trump.
Even a protester couldn’t damage the mood. ‘All lives matter,’ the crowd yelled as the person was escorted out by security.
At Trump’s Sunday night rally, few supporters wore face masks and there was little social distancing in the crowded warehouse
Trump repeated his unproven claim that Democratic governors were keeping their states closed to rig the election in Democratic rival Joe Biden’s favor.
‘You have to get out and vote,’ he told the crowd and he warned them: ‘And you have to make sure your ballot is counted because they may not count it this time.’
Row after row of Trump supporters crowded together in the Xtreme Manufacturing warehouse with many attendees appearing to be in the elderly, more at risk population. Some were parents with young children.
It was so crowded some people have climbed onto the cranes while others are on an extended wall above the main floor.
But the atmosphere was festive and party-like with people waving signs, shouting ‘Trump, Trump, Trump,’ and, at one point, they did the wave.
Trump kept his remarks focused on attacking Biden, the Democratic nominee who is leading him in polls in the state and national polls. The Biden campaign announced shortly before Trump’s rally that his running mate Kamala Harris would be in Las Vegas on Tuesday to combat Trump’s appearance in the state.
The president brought back some of his favorite Biden attack lines, the ones that are crowd pleasers and had his supporting hollering and whopping, including Biden is hiding in is his basement, he’s shot, and that Biden gets the answers to media questions on a teleprompter to read.
He repeated his charge Biden is under the control of the ‘radical left’ in the party.
‘Biden is too lazy to stand up to the crazy socialists and never will, will never have the strength,’ he said.
‘This man is totally unfit to be your president up here,’ he said, pointing to his head.
He mentioned he’s had dealings with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
‘I deal with all these people and they don’t have the mental problem Sleepy Joe has. They’re very sharp,’ he said.
Trump repeatedly attacked Joe Biden, who is seen above on Sunday morning with grandchildren Natalie Biden (L) and Hunter Biden II (C) as they depart St. Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church after Natalie’s confirmation Mass
Supporters try to catch a hat thrown into the crowd as President Donald Trump speaks at his rally
Trump’s indoor event on Sunday night came after the campaign saw its last indoor rally in Tulsa result in several staffers and a few Secret Service agents test positive for COVID.
‘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 in a statement.
Trump held his rally in Henderson, Nevada, after state officials squashed his plans to hold an outdoor event at the Las Vegas airport because of restrictions on gatherings due to the coronavirus.
Henderson officials have warned Xtreme Manufacturing that it will be violating state regulations if the rally proceeds.
‘The City of Henderson has issued a compliance letter and verbal warning to the event organizer that the event as planned would be in direct violation of the governor’s COVID-19 emergency directives. Specifically, gatherings of more than 50 people in a private or public setting is prohibited,’ City of Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards told CNN.
‘Large live events must be approved by the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, Division of Industrial Relations and at this time, the City has not been notified that this event has been approved. The City may assess a fine of up to $500 per violation of the governor’s directives as well as suspend or revoke the business license,’ she said.
Trump’s rally in Minden, Nevada, on Saturday night also violated the limitations on gatherings with thousands in attendance, no social distancing and few wearing face masks.
The Trump campaign noted every attendee at Sunday night’s event will get a temperature check prior to admission, be provided a mask they’re encouraged to wear, and have access to plenty of hand sanitizer.
But those same precautions were put in place in Tulsa three months ago, where eight campaign staffers and two Secret Service agents tested positive for coronavirus after Trump held a rally there in June.
The Trump campaign will have the same safety precautions in place as it did at the president’s June rally in Tulsa (above) where eight staffers and two Secret Service agents tested positive for COVID
The rally was an embarrassment for Trump both politically and personally as the expected crowds failed to show – leaving rows of empty blue seats in the arena
Herman Cain attended President Trump’s June 20th rally in Tulsa, where he tweeted the above photo; he died of COVID in July although his staff said it was unclear where he contracted the disease
All of the campaign staff that tended that June 20th rally in Tulsa ended up quarantining as a safety precaution as did several Secret Service agents who had contact with the two that tested positive.
Trump had pushed for a big campaign rally as part of his push to get Americans back to their normal routine after months of staying indoors due to the COVID pandemic, which has killed almost 200,000 Americans.
But the fallout from the Tulsa rally – which led to heavy criticism of the president for holding it and had state officials in Oklahoma complaining the event led to a spike of COVID cases in the state – eventually led to the replacement of Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the decision at the time, saying it’s ‘people’s individual choice as to whether to go’ and noted that the campaign handed out masks.
The location was chosen as Oklahoma was far along in the reopening process after the COVID lock down. Plus it’s a deep red state that was expected to show Trump plenty of support and enthusiasm.
The president and Parscale had both bragged that one million tickets had been requested for the event, only for the 19,000-seat BOK Center to have 6,200 people in it, according to Tulsa officials.
Scenes from the event showed row after row of empty blue seats staring back at Trump in what was supposed to be his campaign comeback.
The high number of ticket requests led the campaign to plan for an outdoor event to handle the expected overflow crowd – only have to cancel it at the last minute when people did not show up.
Additionally Herman Cain attended the rally. He died of the coronavirus a month later. The White House said he did not contract it at the Tulsa event and Cain’s staff said it was not clear where he had gotten the disease.
He tested positive on June 29 and was hospitalized on July 1. He died on July 30 at the age of 74.
Trump’s rallies in the aftermath were outdoors, usually at airport hangers, until Sunday when he will hold his indoor event.
The campaign has attendees sign a health waiver in case they get sick at any Trump gathering.
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News – Trump dismisses fears his indoor Nevada rally could spread COVID