Trump still visiting Nevada despite virus limits on rallies

Politics

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in Winston-Salem, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — President Donald Trump is planning to travel to Nevada this weekend, though large airport rallies initially set for Las Vegas and Reno appear to have been scuttled after local officials warned they would violate Nevada’s coronavirus-related ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

Adam Laxalt, the co-chair of Trump’s campaign in Nevada, said in a Twitter post Wednesday that both events to be held at airport hangars Saturday in Reno and Sunday in Las Vegas had been canceled.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement that the president would still be traveling to Nevada on the dates planned and the campaign would release additional details soon.

“Democrats are trying to keep President Trump from speaking to voters because they know the enthusiasm behind his re-election campaign cannot be matched by Joe Biden – a historically weak candidate controlled by the radical left who could hold a campaign event in a broom closet,” Murtaugh said.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, has limited in-person gatherings indoors and outdoors to 50 people since May, a recommendation based off White House reopening guidelines.

“The fact that Donald Trump was even considering holding these unsafe events in the midst of a global pandemic is just the latest example of his poor judgment and complete disregard for Nevadans’ public health and safety. The state is currently reeling from a pandemic exacerbated by Trump’s disastrous coronavirus response,” said Madison Mundy, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Democratic Party.

Earlier Wednesday, the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority warned a company that planned to host the campaign rally for 5,000 people at a private hangar that it would be in violation of the governor’s restrictions and the terms of the company’s lease for the hangar.

“You are hereby advised that you may not proceed with the proposed gathering,” the letter states.

Daren Griffin, the airport authority’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the letter “has nothing to do with politics.”

The Nevada Independent first reported the letter from the Reno airport.

Joe Rajchel, a spokesman for McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, said the airport never received a request to hold an event at the hangar and therefore did not issue any warnings or deny any event requests. Officials with Clark County, which includes the Las Vegas airport, did not send any warnings to the Trump campaign or events hosts, according to county spokesman Erik Pappa.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she was not aware of the issue with the venues, but said: “We believe that if people want to show up and express their political views, that’s their choice to do so. We hand out masks, we encourage individuals to wear those masks… At the end of the day, if you want to join a peaceful protest you can do so. And there’s no reason, just like the protests we’ve seen in the streets, you can’t show up and express your political view at a rally.”

Laxalt, the former Nevada attorney general, said in his Wednesday tweet that both of the president’s campaign rally venues in Nevada were canceled. He called it “Outrageous” and “political retribution” from Sisolak.

Laxalt added “This isn’t over!” He did not respond to email and phone messages seeking additional details.

“The Governor’s Office had no involvement or communication with the event organizers or potential hosts regarding the proposed campaign events advertised by the Trump campaign,” Sisolak’s spokeswoman, Meghin Delaney, said in an email. “Current statewide emergency directives include mandatory face coverings, limitations on public and private gatherings to no more than 50 people, and other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Nevada-specific White House recommendations have consistently included recommendations to limit the size of gatherings for weeks now.”

Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said district officials expressed concerns about the Trump campaign’s plans during a statewide call Tuesday with the Nevada Division of Emergency Management. Reno is in Washoe County.

“I think it is important we maintain that limitation on the gatherings at this point,” Dick said. “We still have elevated levels of disease transmission occurring. By not allowing those large gatherings, we’re really protecting our citizens, we’re protecting our economy and our ability to keep businesses open.

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Associated Press reporters Zeke Miller in Washington and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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