Trump pushes into Nevada, questions integrity of election

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President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – Kicking off a Western swing, President Donald Trump barreled into Nevada on Saturday looking to expand his paths to victory while unleashing a torrent of unsubstantiated claims that Democrats were trying to steal the election.

Trump defied local authorities by holding a rally in tiny Minden after his initial plan to hold one in Reno was stopped out of concern it would have violated coronavirus health guidelines. Unleashing 90-plus minutes of grievances and attacks, Trump claimed the state’s Democratic governor tried to block him and repeated his false claim that mail-in ballots would taint the election result.

“This is the guy we are entrusting with millions of ballots, unsolicited ballots, and we’re supposed to win these states. Who the hell is going to trust him?” Trump said of Gov. Steve Sisolak. “The only way the Democrats can win the election is if they rig it.”

As part of his ongoing crusade against mail-in voting, lawyers for the president’s reelection campaign are urging a federal judge in Las Vegas to block a state law and prevent mail-in ballots from going to all active Nevada voters less than eight weeks before the election.

Addressing a mostly mask-less crowd tightly packed together, Trump spoke in front of mountains draped in haze, the scent of smoke in the air from wildfires raging a state away in California. The president expressed his condolences to the victims but, declaring that “I don’t have to be nice anymore,” focused on tearing into his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.

Trump claimed that the Democrat’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, would be president “in about a month” if Biden won, asserting that the former vice president would be but a figurehead and that Harris would hold power. He claimed that the media would treat Biden “like Winston Churchill” if he was able to merely stand on the debate stage in three weeks. And embarking on a swing that would also include stops in Las Vegas and Phoenix, Trump mocked Biden’s slower travel schedule. “You know where he is now? He is in his damn basement again!”

And, for good measure, Trump invoked his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, leading the crowd to launch into its traditional “Lock Her Up!” chant. The president claimed he usually tried to stop the chant but on Saturday declared, “I don’t care if you say it anymore” and, breaking yet another norm of the office, suggested that Clinton “should be in jail.”

Trump also offered a fierce defense of his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 190,000 Americans and still claims nearly 1,000 lives a day. And he blamed Democratic governors across the nation, including Sisolak, for deliberately slowing the pace of reopening their states to hurt his election chances.