Trump addresses 2,000 supporters at White House rally in first public speech since Covid diagnosis

First public appearance of president since returning from treatment at Walter Reed Medical Centre

Donald Trump makes first public appearance since Covid hospital stay
Leer en Español

Donald Trump’s first public speech since his return from hospital after being diagnosed with the coronavirus saw no social distancing of attendees as the White House remains at the centre of a Covid-19 outbreak. 

While many watching him wore masks, it is unclear whether Mr Trump is still contagious, and questions remain about his health and the timeline of his infection. The White House has refused to declare that he is no longer capable of infecting others.

Mr Trump’s first in-person event since his positive test for the coronavirus just over a week ago was watched anxiously by health experts - more than two dozen staffers were also infected. 

Addressing the 2,000-strong crowd on Saturday from the Blue Room balcony of the White House, overlooking the South Lawn, Mr Trump appeared wearing a mask and removed it to speak.

Mr Trump delivered a wide-ranging speech that touched on scrapping former President Barack Obama's “Obamacare” healthcare reform law, criminal justice reform, and the state of the economy.

"I’m feeling great,” Mr Trump told the enthusiastic crowd, before repeating his claim that the virus is going away, despite more than 50,000 new cases a day and a projected 235,000 deaths by the end of this month.

Mr Trump spoke for 18 minutes at the rally, which was billed as a “peaceful protest for law and order” — aides had said his speech would be half an hour long.

Lafayette Square and surrounding streets were shut down by police and the secret service for the rally, the president’s first public appearance since being discharged from the Walter Reed Medical Centre on Monday.  

Many of those in attendance had come from an earlier event organised by conservative activist Candace Owens’s group Blexit, which aims to encourage black people and other minorities to abandon the Democratic Party and register as Republicans.

Despite fears that the virus could still spread within the presidential mansion and offices, Scott Atlas, Mr Trump’s advisor on Covid-19, was spotted off to the side of the crowd not wearing a mask.

As a radiologist and not a specialist in public health or infectious diseases, his appointment as an advisor to the president earlier in the summer drew criticism.

Dr Atlas advocated for the reopening of schools and the Washington Post reported that he favoured a herd immunity strategy, something he later denied, despite speaking about the subject in a Fox News interview in July.

When the president tested positive for Covid-19 at the beginning of the month, Dr Atlas again appeared on the network, saying that it is no surprise that people get the infection, even with precautions.

“I anticipate a complete and full and rapid recovery back to normal after his necessary confinement period. I anticipate he’ll be back on the road and in full swing," he said.

Despite the president encouraging those present to vote, as well as taking swipes at Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris, The White House insisted that Saturday’s rally was not a campaign event.

Judd Deere, White House deputy press secretary, told reporters that the event was not a campaign rally when asked about whether it violated the Hatch Act.

He said that any campaign signs seen would have been brought by the attendees: “We're not handing out anything but people can bring things onto the complex.”

The speech comes two weeks to the day since the Rose Garden event that was the celebration of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination as a potential Supreme Court justice.

More than 30 people linked to the White House have tested positive for the virus since then.

On Monday the president will be back on the campaign trail in Sanford, Florida, at what he has described as a "BIG RALLY".

With reporting from The Associated Press

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in