The start of President Trump’s rally was still hours away when it became clear that his campaign would not keep its promise.
In the days leading up to the Sept. 30 event in Duluth, Minn., local officials had privately pressed the campaign to abide by state public health guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, documents show. In response, the campaign signed an agreement pledging to follow those rules, limiting attendance to 250 people.
On the day of the rally, however, Trump supporters flooded onto the tarmac at Duluth International Airport. They stood shoulder to shoulder, many without masks.
“We have been notified that the 250 person limit has been exceeded,” an airport representative emailed a campaign official late that afternoon. “This email serves as our notice of a contract violation and we are requesting you remedy the situation.”
The warning went unheeded — and unanswered.
Held two days before Trump was diagnosed with covid-19, the rally was attended by more than 2,500 people, airport officials estimated.
The Duluth event shows the dilemma local officials face as Trump turns to his signature rallies in the closing weeks of the campaign: They can enforce local guidelines intended to protect the public, and risk antagonizing the campaign and its supporters, or they can look the other way as the campaign holds massive gatherings at a time when coronavirus cases are surging in many states.
Emails and other documents obtained by The Washington Post through open-records requests show that Duluth officials insisted on adherence to the rules, and that the campaign responded by making commitments it ultimately did not keep. The documents also show that local officials suspected the campaign would violate the agreement, but shied away from enforcing public health orders for fear of provoking a backlash. [Continue reading…]