President Donald Trump and his campaign are defending decisions to rally indoors, despite the concerns in private by aides who fear that such gatherings could counter efforts to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m on a stage, and it’s very far away,” Trump told The Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday, after thousands of his supporters — the majority of them not wearing masks — packed inside a manufacturing plant in a Las Vegas suburb on Sunday night, ignoring a state directive that limits indoor gatherings to fewer than 50 people.
The president neither expressed concern for the health of his own supporters nor regard for his own safety, saying of his own risk, “I’m not at all concerned.”
Officials told The New York Times that the Trump campaign’s decision to hold a rally indoors on Sunday night, followed efforts to secure five different outdoor locations and was made as a sort of last resort move even as state officials had pressed them not to host the rally.
Per the Times, Xtreme Manufacturing, which agreed to host the rally was flooded with threats local city officials who said in a letter made public that the city could rightfully charge fines of $500 for every person over the state’s 50-person gathering limit while suspending or revoking the company’s license to do business.
Late Monday, Trump went on the attack in tweets suggesting that Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) had worked “very hard to cancel all of our venues” while accusing the governor of scheming to commit election fraud.
Upcoming Trump rallies in Wisconsin and Minnesota are planned for outdoor airport hangars, the likes of which were seen last week in Freeland, Michigan, where attendees continued to flout masks and even suggested that COVID-19 was a hoax made up to destroy the United States. The upcoming rallies are likely to violate state guidelines limiting attendance to fewer than 50 people.
A top Trump adviser told the Times that the President was playing a game of Russian roulette by holding rallies indoors. The adviser, said that the President’s lax approach could backfire politically.
But a spokesman for the Trump campaign, Tim Murtaugh compared supporters gathering for Trump rallies to “people gambling in casinos” or “protesting shoulder to shoulder,” suggesting that it was a fundamental freedom guaranteed by the Constitution to gather at a rally.
“The fact remains that no one bats an eye at people gambling in casinos or tens of thousands of people protesting shoulder to shoulder. People should be able to gather peacefully under the First Amendment to hear from the president of the United States,” Murtaugh told the Times in an interview.
While defending the decision to gather indoors amid the pandemic, Murtaugh said the campaign’s “first preference” for its venues were airport hangars.