Reporting by The Associated Press:
WASHINGTON, DC — President Donald Trump on Saturday made his first public appearance since returning to the White House after being treated for the coronavirus. The White House has refused to declare that he is no longer contagious, and the gathering of hundreds of people on the South Lawn went ahead despite the guidance of public health officials.
Trump delivered an address on his support for law enforcement from the Blue Room balcony to a friendly crowd. The president wore a mask as he walked out for the speech but took it off to make his remarks. He received an enthusiastic response from his supporters.
“I’m feeling great,” said Trump, who said he was thankful for their good wishes and prayers as he recovered.
Trump is also priming for a Florida rally on Monday and campaign events in Iowa and Pennsylvania later in the week.
The president addressed the large crowd even as the White House refuses to declare that he is no longer contagious and against the guidance of public health officials.
The White House insisted the event on the South Lawn was an official event and not a campaign rally. But Trump used the address to make broadsides against the Democratic ticket of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris.
“I think we’re gonna swamp them by so much,” he said.
Trump appeared healthy, though perhaps a little hoarse, during the 18-minute speech that was intended to send the message that he’s back and ready to resume his battle for reelection.
Before the speech, White House officials said they had no information to release on whether the president was tested for COVID-19, meaning he made his first public appearance without the White House verifying that he’s no longer contagious.
Security was stepped up around the White House before the event, which was called a “peaceful protest for law & order.” Police and the Secret Service closed surrounding streets to vehicles and shut down Lafayette Square, the park near the White House that has long been a gathering place for public protest.
As questions linger about his health — and Democratic opponent Joe Biden steps up his own campaigning — Trump also planned to leave the Washington area on Monday for the first time since he was hospitalized for a campaign rally in Sanford, Florida. He is also scheduled to hold campaign events in Iowa and Pennsylvania next week and is increasing his radio and TV appearances with conservative interviewers, hoping to make up for lost time with just over three weeks until Election Day and millions already voting.
Biden’s campaign said he again tested negative on Saturday for COVID-19. Biden was potentially exposed to the coronavirus during his Sept. 29 debate with Trump, who announced his positive diagnosis barely 48 hours after the debate.
The president has not been seen in public — other than in White House-produced videos — since his return five days ago from the military