Donald Trump told a rally in Iowa on Wednesday night that Joe Biden was ‘a corrupt politician who should not be allowed to run for the presidency’, accusing him of running a ‘massive pay for play scandal at the heart’ of government.
With less than three weeks to go until the U.S. presidential election, the president is trying to make up for time lost on the campaign trail during his recent bout with the coronavirus.
With many in the crowd, unusually, appearing to wear face masks, Trump whipped his supporters into a frenzy, telling them they had ‘not come this far only to send our country back to the depraved Washington swamp.’
He said, to huge cheers, that in 2016 they decided to ‘fire the tired and dejected political class’ and put America first.
His initial remarks were focused on Biden, and his son Hunter.
‘We’ve just learnt that Joe Biden has been lying about his involvement in his son’s business dealings,’ said Trump, in his opening salvo.
‘This is a smoking gun.’
Donald Trump addresses the crowd in Iowa on Wednesday night
Trump arrives to greet the crowds in Des Moines on Wednesday
Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One, heading for Iowa, on Wednesday
Supporters of the president are pictured gathering at the airport in Des Moines
A trove of emails obtained from Hunter’s laptop showed an adviser at his Ukrainian gas firm trying to obtain a meeting with Biden, before the then-vice president lobbied for the firing of a prosecutor who had investigated the company.
Burisma adviser Vadym Pozharskyi thanked Hunter Biden for ‘an opportunity to meet your father’ in an email sent in 2015, according to the stash of data given to the New York Post by Giuliani.
Trump said the Ukrainian company paid Hunter up to $183,000 a month.
He joked: ‘He made it because of his great intellect. Hunter, congratulations on making a lot of money last year.’
Trump said that Biden was running ‘a massive pay-to-play scandal at the heart of his presidency. There has never been an administration more corrupt than the Biden-Obama presidency.’
He said Biden was ‘a corrupt politician who should not be allowed to run for the presidency.’
Trump supporters lined the roads around Des Moines airport on Wednesday
A nonprofit farm policy advocacy group, Rural America 2020, took out a digital billboard across from the Des Moines airport warning that the Trump rally would be a ‘COVID superspreader event’
Hours after the story of Hunter’s emails landed, the Biden camp blasted the report, and said a records search indicated no such meeting occurred.
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said the paper ‘never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story…moreover, we have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.’
The story was marked as disinformation by Facebook and Twitter, enraging Trump’s supporters.
Trump repeated his mantra that no administration has done more to help the United States.
He said he was fighting to ‘save America from the radical left’.
‘In exchange for his nomination he has handed control to the lunatics and Marxists.
‘Let’s face it, Joe is shot.
‘President Xi is 100 per cent. Putin is 100 per cent. Kim Jong-un is 100 per cent. These people are sharp. But Joe has lost it. In his day, he wasn’t the sharpest.’
The large-scale rallies have been described as worrying by Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert.
Fauci appeared on CNN on Monday and was asked by Jake Tapper, the CNN host, what he thought about the president’s return to the campaign trail that evening.
Fans of the president await his arrival in Iowa
Temperature checks were made on all those attending
Trump on Monday night was in Sanford, Florida, for an event which attracted several thousand, mainly maskless, supporters.
Fauci said he thought it was ‘asking for trouble’.
‘Put aside all of the issues of what political implications a rally has, and just put that aside and look at it purely in the context of public health,’ he said.
‘We know that that is asking for trouble when you do that. We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregate settings, where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves. It happens.
‘And now is even more so a worse time to do that because when you look at what’s going on in the United States, it’s really very troublesome.’
Asked in a second interview on Monday night, on CNBC, what he thought the outlook for the nation was, unless face mask mandates were universal, he replied: ‘I think we’re facing a whole lot of trouble.’
He added: ‘We have a baseline of infections that vary between 40,000 and 50,000 a day.
‘That’s a bad place to be, when you are going into the colder weather of the fall.’
He said he was worried about midwest states such as Iowa that were seeing spikes in cases.
‘So you combine an increase in test positivity, which is always a predictor of more cases, and ultimately more hospitalizations, and ultimately more deaths, and you combine that with a baseline of 40, 45, 50,000 new cases a day, as you go into a weather system where you’re going to be spending more time indoors rather than outdoors which is a perfect setup for an acceleration of respiratory-borne diseases: that is unquestionably a problem.
‘We are in a bad place now, and we have got to turn this around.’
And as Trump races against the clock, Americans are casting ballots early at a record pace.
Close to 12 million people have already voted, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.
Long lines in Texas and Georgia snaked out of polling places and down sidewalks on Tuesday as people rushed to vote. Early voting starts in three more states on Wednesday – Kansas, Rhode Island and Tennessee.
Biden has no public campaign events scheduled after stumping in Florida on Tuesday.
Trump returned to the campaign trail on Monday night in Florida for the first time since disclosing he had the coronavirus.
The rally came hours after the White House said Trump had tested negative for COVID-19 on consecutive days and was not infectious to others.
That Trump is traveling to Iowa so close to Election Day is a worrisome sign for his re-election hopes.
He beat Democrat Hillary Clinton there by almost 10 percentage points in 2016, but recent polls have shown the state to be competitive.
Trump looks to be spending much of the week trying to galvanize his white, conservative base rather than trying to appeal directly to undecided voters, many of whom live in the nation’s suburbs.
On Thursday, he heads to Greenville in rural North Carolina, a closely fought state where early voting will begin that day, then on to rural Georgia and central Florida the day after.
Reuters/Ipsos polling released this week showed Biden widening his lead in the key states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – states Trump won in 2016.
Iowa is also seeing a major spike in COVID-19 cases, with hospitalizations at an all-time high in the state.
Republican Governor Kim Reynolds has resisted implementing statewide containment measures such as a mandate to wear masks. This week, she urged Trump supporters on social media to come out en masse to see the president.
But Trump’s illness has put the focus of the campaign’s closing stretch squarely on his response to the coronavirus, with Biden repeatedly criticizing Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has infected more than 7.8 million people in the United States, killed more than 214,000 and put millions out of work.
On Tuesday in Florida, Biden told a group of seniors at a community center that Trump had recklessly dismissed the threat that the virus had posed to their at-risk population.
‘To Donald Trump, you’re expendable. You’re forgettable,’ Biden said.
Trump has touted his handling of the crisis.
The Trump campaign said it would conduct temperature checks and hand out masks at his rallies, but not require attendees to wear them.
At his airport rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, some of Trump’s supporters in the front rows wore red-and-blue masks sporting the president’s ‘MAGA’ slogan, but many other attendees wore no masks at all.
A nonprofit farm policy advocacy group, Rural America 2020, took out a digital billboard across from the Des Moines airport warning that the Trump rally would be a ‘COVID superspreader event.’