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Donald Trump, Nevada governor Steve Sisolak clash over indoor rally

David Jackson USA TODAY

Published 11:28 PM EDT Sep 13, 2020

President Donald Trump hosted a crowded indoor political rally Sunday in Nevada, ignoring objections by the governor and others that he might have spread COVID-19 to unknown numbers of people.

“Tonight, President Donald Trump is taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada,” said Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat. “The president appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic.”

Trump, who has held outdoor rallies in recent months, said the owner of the building near Las Vegas thought it was “unfair” for the president to be denied permission for indoor events.

“Tell your governor to open up your state,” Trump told hundreds of supporters – most of them packed together on a factory floor, many of them not wearing masks given out by the Trump campaign.

More: Donald Trump may need Nevada to win. So what’s motivating his supporters? We asked them

More: Trump rallies 2.0: Behind the curtain at the president’s campaign events in the COVID-19 era

Otherwise, the president delivered his standard stump speech, filled with full-throated attacks on opponent Joe Biden and the Democrats over violence in cities, energy development, running mate Kamala Harris, foreign policy, trade, immigration, and the party’s “left-wing” agenda.

It was Trump’s first indoor rally since a June 20 event in Tulsa, Okla., that preceded a spike in coronavirus cases in that city. Campaign staff members and Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus right before that Tulsa rally.

The Nevada rally – at a manufacturing business in Henderson, near Las Vegas – likely violated state restrictions on large gatherings in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

Henderson officials issued a compliance letter and verbal warning to the event organizers. Kathleen Richards, a spokeswoman for the city of Henderson, said that “gatherings of more than 50 people in a private or public setting is prohibited.”

“If the governor’s directives are not followed,” she said, “the city may assess a fine of up to $500 per violation as well as suspend or revoke the business license.”

Biden aides criticized the rally as a threat to public health.

Holding a mass event indoors reflects “the same toxic attitude that has crippled Trump’s incoherent pandemic response, cost over 193,000 Americans their lives, killed millions of jobs, and needlessly torn the nation apart when we need to come together in this moment of crisis,” said Biden spokesman Andrew Bates.

In a statement, the Trump campaign said that everyone attending the event received a temperature check, was provided a mask (and encouraged to wear it), and had access to hand sanitizers.

“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,” said campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Since the problems in Tulsa, Trump has conducted a series of smaller rallies outdoors at airports.

The indoor rally capped a day that continued a western campaign swing by raising money, attacking Democrats, and soliciting Latino voters in Nevada.

“I have achieved more for Hispanic Americans in 47 months than Joe Biden in 47 years,” Trump said while criticizing his Democratic challenger during Latino “roundtable” meeting at a Vegas hotel.

Trump also hosted a pair of fundraisers in the Las Vegas area Sunday expected to raise about $18 million.

In remarks at the roundtable, Trump stressed the impact of policies on Latino residents, a key constituency in battleground states, which include Arizona, Florida and Nevada.

Arizona is on Trump’s itinerary Monday as he hosts a similar roundtable in Phoenix. Trump is also scheduled to visit California to review the damage from the deadly wildfires.

More: Trump claims during Nevada campaign rally that Democrats are trying to ‘rig’ upcoming election

More: Trump will visit California on Monday for briefing on devastating wildfires

Biden, Harris, and their aides have said that Trump’s actions to curb immigration are aimed at people of color, particularly Latinos. The president has said that Mexico and other countries are only interested in sending “rapists” and criminals across the U.S. border.

That said, Democrats said the votes of many Latinos in key states are up for grabs ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

“We know that we have work to do,” said Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders, speaking on ABC’s This Week. “We have said from the beginning – and Vice President Biden has been very clear about this as has Sen. Harris – that we are really working to earn every single vote in this country, and we want to earn the votes of the Latino Hispanic community.”

Nationwide polls give Biden an overall edge over Trump little more than seven weeks ahead of Election Day.

During his meeting with Latino supporters, Trump again made unfounded accusations regarding Democrats and their push to expand mail-in voting, claiming that “the only way they’re going to win is with rigged ballots.”

At the rally, Trump attacked Sisolak  over mail-in voting, and told supporters that “they might not count your ballot in this state.”

Democrats said Republicans also use mail-in voting, and that Trump is lying about the system in order to lay the groundwork for a protest of the election he is likely to lose.

Four years ago, Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly defeated Trump in Nevada by a margin of 47.9%-45.5%, a little less than 2.5 percentage points.

A recent New York Times/Siena College gave Biden a narrow lead over Trump in Nevada, 46%-42%.

During his day in Las Vegas, Trump said he signed a new executive order that he claimed will lead to lower drug prices, though those are subject to market forces.

Trump again touted his COVID-19 response – “we are rounding the corner” – even though coronavirus cases in the U.S. are still rising and the number of deaths is approaching 200,000.

At the roundtable and the rally, Trump attacked the violence in “Democrat-run cities,” including the Saturday shootings of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.

Hoping that authorities will track down the gunman, Trump told the rally crowd: “He’s not a human being – he’s an animal.”

Biden also condemned the shootings of the deputies.

“This cold-blooded shooting is unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice,” the Democratic nominee tweeted.

Published 11:28 PM EDT Sep 13, 2020

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