An energized President Trump appeared in public Saturday for the first time since being diagnosed with COVID-19, assuring a throng of supporters at the White House that he was “feeling great.”
To raucous cheers, Trump emerged wearing a mask from the second floor of the Executive Residences, stepped onto the Truman Balcony, and pumped his fist in the air a half-dozen times as a band played “Hail to the Chief.
He then pulled off his mask with a flourish, tucking it into his pocket.
“Keep that enthusiasm going!” Trump implored the group of mostly black and Latino supporters to chants of “USA! USA!”
The event — billed as billed as a non-campaign related, “peaceful protest for law and order,” was a prelude to his busy week ahead, as Trump’s re-election campaign restarts in earnest Monday in Florida, with stops added Saturday in Pennsylvania and Iowa, respectively.
“First of all I’m feeling great, I don’t know about you,” said Trump, who appeared in public for the first time since he was released Monday from Walter Reed Medical Center.
The event drew hundreds of MAGA hatted, blue-clad members of “Blexit,” a campaign — spearheaded by conservative pundit Candace Owens — which urges black and Latino voters to leave the Democratic Party. The group was in Washington for a previously organized Back the Blue rally to support law enforcement.
“You’ve just marched to the White House because you understand that to protect the lives of black Americans, and all Americans, you have to have your police support you,” Trump said during his 18 minute address.
“But if the left gains power they’ll launch a nationwide crusade against law enforcement … taking their funds away, their firearms, and their fundamental authorities,” added Trump, whose bandages, likely from intraveneous treatment for COVID-19, were visible on his hands.
Trump spoke only briefly about the health crisis that threw his campaign and the nation into turmoil 10 days before.
“I want to thank all of you for your prayers,” he said. “I know you’ve been praying when I was in that hospital.”
He expressed gratitude for the “incredible outpouring” of support from those who crammed the sidewalks outside Walter Reed last weekend while he was being treated.
“I was watching down over so many people, and I went out to say hello to those people, and I took a little heat for it,” he said. “But I’d do it again, let me tell you, I’d do it again,” he said.
He continued: “We’re producing powerful therapies and drugs and we’re healing the sick … through the power of the American spirit, I think more than anything else.”
He praised signs of economic revival in recent weeks.
“Our opponents will crush the comeback with unscientific lockdowns,” Trump said. “They want to lock everything down — here we go again.
“We’re not going to let it happen,” he vowed.
And he made a direct appeal for the crowd’s help on Election Day.
“I just want to thank you, and get out and vote,” he said in closing. “We’ve got to make this bigger than even four years ago.”
Saturday’s address was not tied to Tump’s re-election effort, the White House insisted.
“This is an official event,” deputy press secretary Judd Deere said. “The campaign is not involved in this.”
Trump will make his official return to the campaign trail on Monday, with a rally in Sanford, Fla., as his reelection campaign resumes in earnest less than two weeks after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
“We’re starting very, very big with our rallies and with our everything,” he said Saturday.
He added a pair of critical battleground states to his itinerary Saturday, as his campaign announced plans to headline a “Make America Great Again” rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, and another the next day in Des Moines, Iowa.
Meanwhile, Minnesota health officials said late last week that nine people who attended a Trump campaign rally there have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
All three appearances next week will be held outdoors at regional airports to comply with state rules restricting large gatherings during the coronavirus outbreak.
Tom McCullagh, a Republican running for Illinois state senate, hopped on a plane to attend Saturday’s White House event.
“If the president felt it was safe enough for him to hold a rally, I trust his judgment,” said McCullagh.
With Post Wires