US President Donald Trump on Sunday held his first fully indoor rally in months, outraging officials in the state of Nevada who warned the gathering violated coronavirus restrictions on crowd sizes.
Indoor rallies during the pandemic have proven problematic for Trump, who was heavily criticized after one in June that was later linked to a spike in virus cases.
Trump used Sunday’s event, held in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, to applaud his own handling of the pandemic, which has killed nearly 195,000 Americans, the world’s highest toll.
“We have done an incredible job, we get absolutely no credit for the job we have done,” the Republican told the crowd at the Xtreme Manufacturing facility, adding that his leadership had “saved millions of lives.”
Governor Steve Sisolak tweeted that “tonight, President Donald Trump is taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada.”
“The President appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic,” he said.
Trump called Sisolak, a Democrat, a “political hack” and urged the crowd to “tell your governor to open your state.”
Plans for the rally drew a rebuke from local authorities, who noted events with more than 50 people are not allowed due to the coronavirus.
“The City of Henderson has issued a compliance letter and verbal warning to the event organizer that the event as planned would be in direct violation of the governor’s COVID-19 emergency directives,” city spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said in a statement.
The pandemic has stripped the US presidential campaign of its usual flood of events, but with less than two months to voting Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden have been making more appearances.
The Trump campaign said temperature checks would be done at the door of the Nevada rally and attendees would be given face masks and encouraged to wear them.
“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,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told reporters.
Trump’s indoor rally in the Oklahoma city of Tulsa in June proved deeply controversial, with most attendees flouting Trump administration guidelines by refusing to wear masks or engage in social distancing despite being indoors.
Coronavirus cases jumped in Tulsa in the weeks after the June 20 rally, and local health officials said it was “more than likely” that major events were a contributing factor.