Concerns about the potential spread of coronavirus and ongoing demonstrations against racial injustices do not appear to be stopping President Trump from visiting Tulsa on Saturday for his first rally since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As Trump has used the last month to tout the nation’s “transition to greatness” amid a pandemic affecting the Americans’ health and wealth, the Oklahoma campaign event will serve as a political opportunity to signal to supporters that they’re getting back to normal.
Trump is eager to resume the boisterous rallies that he believes were key to his 2016 victory at a time when his reelection prospects have dimmed, in large part because many Americans disapprove of his handling of both the coronavirus and his response to calls for racial justice that are gripping this country.
Trump is also seeking to shift public attention from his especially difficult week, which included a series of unflattering bombshells revealed in a new book by his former national security adviser John Bolton, who described Trump as unfit for the White House, and two setbacks for his administration on LGBTQ rights and immigration at the Supreme Court.
Late on Friday night, Trump’s attorney general tried to oust a powerful US attorney who has investigated a number of associates of the President, but the Manhattan prosecutor refused to step down.
But health experts have cautioned that the rally could lead to increased coronavirus transmissions. And the Trump campaign, seeming to acknowledge the risk, has required prospective attendees to sign liability waivers in order to sign up for the event.
The event in Tulsa — the site of a 1921 massacre on African Americans — originally scheduled to take place on Juneteenth — the oldest regular celebration of the end of slavery in the United States — was announced two and a half weeks after the death of a Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Trump later pushed the rally forward a day, saying it was “out of respect” for his African American friends and supporters.
Though Trump has said he didn’t originally schedule the event to take place on Juneteenth “on purpose,” the campaign also seems to be utilizing the event for its Black surrogates to share the spotlight. The campaign is flying several Trump supporters, including more than two dozen Black Trump surrogates, to the event.
Asked Friday whether anyone in the White House had any reservations about proceeding with the rally despite a recent spike in coronavirus cases in Oklahoma, McEnany said no one was concerned.
“We are all on board for going to Oklahoma,” she said.