Trump criticizes COVID-19 crowd size limits, promises vaccine at Rochester rally

The president targeted Gov. Tim Walz and Keith Ellison at his Minnesota rally.
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Minnesota's limit on COVID-19 crowd sizes became a centerpiece of President Donald Trump's speech to supporters in Rochester on Friday.

Speaking shortly after his Democratic rival Joe Biden, Trump addressed a socially distanced crowd of 250 at Rochester International Airport, having originally planned a much larger event only to be confronted by Minnesota's COVID-19 laws that limit gatherings.

Trump made the limits on crowd size a core message in his speech, criticizing Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison throughout, despite both their offices saying they were not involved in the process that saw the president's rally reduced in size.

Referring to a large crowd that had gathered outside the event, Trump said: "There are thousands of people all because the governor wants to play games."

"He’s a weak governor, he’s done a terrible job, he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing," he added, describing the limit on crowd sizes "a small thing but a horrible thing to thousands of people."

Trump spoke to larger crowds earlier this year in Bemidji and Duluth, but officials have been stepping up their response to large gatherings in recent weeks as the COVID-19 case rate in Minnesota has surged, with Saturday marking the second consecutive day with at least 3,000 new cases reported.

Trump's rally isn't the only event that has been subject to crowd limits – a women's march planned for St. Paul earlier in October was also canceled because AG Ellison issued a reminder about crowd sizes – but Trump contrasted the limits on his event to the organic protests and civil unrest that sprang up in the wake of George Floyd's death.

"Keith Ellison ... treats you like second-class citizens," he said. "He believes that pro-American voters have fewer rights than Anti-American demonstrators."

He continued to stoke fears about "the radical left" under a Biden presidency, saying they are "hell-bent on destroying the Middle Class," and claiming – without evidence – that they are going to "ban you from going to church."

"There will be no schools, no graduations, no weddings, no Thanksgiving, no Fourth of July, no nothing. There will be no future for America's youth," he added.

Regarding COVID-19, the president said that a vaccine will be available "in just a few short weeks," though there has been no official timeline set or federal approval of a vaccine.

He also repeated the conspiracy theory by suggesting doctors are deliberately classifying non-COVID deaths as COVID deaths in order to receive higher reimbursement payments.

Another regular talking point he returned to was the claim that a Biden presidency will lead to 700% rise of refugees, though this has previously been dubbed misleading by fact checkers because this would see refugee admission levels return to the rate seen in the country before Trump became president.

Of his policy plans, he pledged to "make America into the manufacturing superpower of the world" and "end our reliance on China once and for all."

He cited the record 33% GDP growth reported this week – though this was only made possible by the economic crash in March caused by the pandemic.

He also promises to restore "patriotic education" into schools, claiming students are currently being "indoctrinated."

"With your support, we will continue to bring back your jobs, cut your taxes, cut regulations, support our police, support our military, defend our borders, protect the 2nd amendment, protect religious liberty, and ensure more products are proudly stamped with the phrase MADE IN THE USA!" he said.

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