Trump holds rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma

By Melissa Macaya, Maegan Vazquez, Joe Ruiz and Kyle Blaine, CNN

Updated 12:00 a.m. ET, June 21, 2020
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9:42 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump criticizes removal of Confederate monuments 

From CNN's DJ Judd in Tulsa, Alisha Ebrahimji, Artemis Moshtaghian and Lauren M. Johnson,

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

During his remarks at tonight's Tulsa rally, President Trump slammed movements across the country looking to remove or replace monuments honoring Confederate generals, telling supporters:

“The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments, tear down our statutes, and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform their demands for absolute and total control. We’re not conforming.”

Trump went on to add, “This cruel campaign of censorship and exclusion violates everything we hold dear as Americans. They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose a new oppressive regime it its place.”

On Wednesday, an official pushed back against reports the Trump administration was considering renaming bases named for Confederate generals, telling CNN’s Jason Hoffman, “This is incorrect. The President reiterated today that we won’t be erasing our history and isn’t considering changing the names of bases.”

Some context: The death of George Floyd is leading to the removal — by protesters in some cases and city leaders in others — of contentious statues that have riled some residents for decades, if not longer.

Controversial monuments, especially Confederate monuments, have been the subject of nationwide debate, particularly since Dylann Roof killed nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015 in an effort to "start a race war."

And it flared up again after white nationalists marched in 2017 to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counter protester was killed amid violent clashes between demonstrators.

Some say they mark history and honor heritage. Others argue they are racist symbols of America's dark legacy of slavery. While some cities have already made efforts to remove them, others have passed laws to protect them.


11:25 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump says he told administration officials to "slow the testing down" due to rising number of Covid-19 cases 

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Sue Ogrocki/AP
Sue Ogrocki/AP

President Trump called Covid-19 testing a "double-edged sword" and said he told officials in his administration to “slow the testing down” because an increase in testing leads to an increase in coronavirus cases. 

“When you do testing to that extent, you are gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down please. They test and they test. We have tests that people don’t know what's going on,” Trump said in the rally.

His comments come as many states, including Oklahoma, are experiencing an increase in coronavirus cases and CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the increase in cases is outpacing the increase in coronavirus tests.

And as of Thursday, at least 21 states are seeing an increase in new cases from one week to the next, according to a CNN analysis of data from John Hopkins University. 

As of Saturday afternoon, Tulsa County reported the most cases — 2,206 total — of any county in the state, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The state recently reported its largest single day increase in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

Earlier in the week, Trump called testing “overrated” and said it makes the country look bad in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

After Trump made the comment in tonight's rally, an administration official told CNN that the President was “obviously kidding” when he said that he asked for a slowdown in coronavirus testing.

“He was obviously kidding. We are leading the world in testing and have conducted 25 million+ in testing,” the official told CNN.


11:34 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump fumes about protests and media at first campaign rally since coronavirus pandemic began

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Maeve Reston

Sue Ogrocki/AP
Sue Ogrocki/AP

President Trump derided the media and protesters demonstrating in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of police officers during Saturday's rally, his first since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The President criticized “thugs” outside of his campaign rally and mocked the media's coverage of protests.

"Americans have watched left wing radicals burn down buildings, loot businesses, destroy private property, injure hundreds of dedicated police officers … and injure thousands upon thousands of people only to hear the radical fake news say what a beautiful (protest) it was," Trump said.

Suggesting that protesters had kept away the crowds away from his rally, Trump called the attendees at the Tulsa arena "warriors" and said there were "some very bad people outside," although CNN reporters on the ground saw no evidence of that interference. 

The President also praised the federal government's effort to get the National Guard to Minneapolis, the city where Floyd's death took place.

"I got them to take 8,000 national guardsmen and in one hour it all ended and they went through the next three weeks with no problem," Trump remarked.

But the President said Washington state's handling of protesters' occupation of a section of Seattle, known as the "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone," was the result of "radical left" policy decisions.

"Now I may be wrong, but it’s probably better for us to just watch that disaster," Trump said, adding that Republican members of Congress traveling with him to Tulsa advised him to “let it simmer for a little while."

"Let people see what radical left Democrats will do to our country," Trump added.

11:19 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Fact check: Trump claims his administration is responsible for passing Veterans Choice

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

Sue Ogrocki/AP
Sue Ogrocki/AP

The President claimed his administration was responsible for passing VA choice, which provided the Department of Veterans Affairs more resources to improve access for veterans and allow them to seek care from non-VA providers. 

Trump later added to the falsehood, saying “for decades and decades they wanted to get it done.”

Facts First: The Veterans Choice bill, a bipartisan initiative led by senators Bernie Sanders and the late John McCain, was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014. In 2018, Trump signed the VA Mission Act, which expanded and changed the Choice program. 

8:58 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump uses racist term to refer to coronavirus

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

As President Trump spoke about the coronavirus and media coverage of it during his Saturday rally, he referred to the virus with a racist term "kung flu," while complaining about the amount of names for the virus.

"It's a disease, without question, has more names than any disease in history, " he said. "I can name 'kung flu,' I can name 19 different versions of name. Many call it a virus, which it is. Many call it a flu. What difference? I think we have 19, 20 different versions of the name."

This was the first time he used the racist term, opting to call it the "Chinese virus" early in the pandemic before changing to Covid or the coronavirus.


11:34 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump touts accomplishments in first campaign rally since pandemic hit

From CNN's Maeve Reston

President Trump opened his rally vowing to defeat Joe Biden and touting his appointments of conservative judges, his efforts to rebuild the American military, the tax cuts that he championed and his vow to be the president of law and order.

"Republicans are the party of liberty, equality and justice for all," Trump said shortly after taking the stage. "We are the party of Abraham Lincoln and we are the party of law and order."

"Five months from now we're going to defeat Sleepy Joe Biden," he said, before mocking former Vice President Joe Biden by suggesting that he often doesn't know what state he's campaigning in. Trump criticized the media for failing to give him credit for the number of Americans who have now been tested for Covid-19 and played up

Trump argued that his administration's "incredible success in rebuilding America" stands in stark contrast to "the extremism, and destruction, and violence of the radical left." He argued that he sent in the National Guard after watching the protests in Minneapolis.

"You saw these thugs that came along -- these people call them protesters," he said, singling out the protesters in Seattle. "Americans have watched left wing radicals burn down buildings loot businesses, destroy private property, injure hundreds of dedicated police officers."

He charged that Democrats are trying to "demolish our heritage" — referring to the tearing down of Confederate monuments -- and replace it with their "oppressive regime." And he railed against the calls by some protesters to defund the police, claiming at one point that Americans will call 911 and the number will be out of service.

"These people are stone-cold crazy," Trump said.

Some context: On Saturday, Trump's campaign communications director asserted that the smaller-than-expected crowds were partially a result of interference by protesters — though none of the many CNN reporters and producers on the ground in Tulsa saw any incident with protesters trying to block supporters from attending.

The President had hoped that the Tulsa rally would mark a triumphant return to the campaign trail more than 100 days after the coronavirus shut down the country and halted all in-person campaigning.

Recent national polls have shown Trump falling far behind his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in head-to-head matchups. By trying to resume the massive gatherings that fueled his 2016 bid, Trump is hoping to reinvigorate his reelection bid in the midst of a pandemic, a recession and a national debate over racism.

11:31 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump takes stage at rally without wearing a mask


President Trump is not wearing a mask at his Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally. He has now entered the stage to deliver remarks.

In an interview with Axios Friday, President Trump said he would not wear a mask at the rally: “Not as a protest but I don't feel that I'm in danger."

Trump also told Axios that he wants rally attendees to “make their own decisions” about wearing a face mask. He didn’t encourage or discourage people to wear them, and called masks "a double-edged sword."

 "I recommend people do what they want," the President said. 

He told Axios, “there was a time when people thought it was worse wearing a mask,” adding, "I let people make up their own decision."

Rally attendees are not required to maintain social distance or wear masks, even as the administration's top public health officials continue to stress the importance of both measures important to prevent the spread of virus.

8:06 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Trump campaign blames "radical" protestors, media for lack of crowd size

From CNN's Brian Rokus and Kevin Bohn

A peaceful protester yells outside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa on Saturday.
A peaceful protester yells outside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa on Saturday. Charlie Riedel/AP

The Trump Campaign is trying to blame “radical” protesters, even saying some were allegedly blocking metal detectors, for frightening off some of the President’s supporters from attending the campaign events today in Tulsa.

Several CNN teams on the ground said they did not see any of that type of activity near the event site. There were protesters in the downtown area, although there was a large security perimeter preventing them from getting within blocks of the arena where the rally is being held.

“President Trump is rallying in Tulsa with thousands of energetic supporters, a stark contrast to the sleepy campaign being run by Joe Biden from his basement in Delaware. Sadly, protestors interfered with supporters, even blocking access to the metal detectors, which prevented people from entering the rally. Radical protestors, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media, attempted to frighten off the President’s supporters. We are proud of the thousands who stuck it out,” campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Ryan Nobles.

CNN teams on the ground – including one that has been at the main entrance nearly all day – said they have seen no evidence of protestors entering the security gates.

Gary Tuchman, who reported from various locations in downtown and spoke with multiple supporters, said nobody mentioned the problems referenced in the statement.

And Abby Phillip reported that when she went through security to the overflow area there were very few people coming in and that it was not possible for protestors to access the metal detectors.

MSNBC had reported earlier that protestors blocked one of the gates.

CNN has reached out to the Secret Service for comment.


7:56 p.m. ET, June 20, 2020

Smaller-than-expected crowd at Trump rally

From CNN's Maeve Reston and Ryan Nobles

An attendee sits in the upper section of the Bank of Oklahoma Center prior to Trump's campaign rally on Saturday.
An attendee sits in the upper section of the Bank of Oklahoma Center prior to Trump's campaign rally on Saturday. Win McNamee/Getty Images

In the days leading up to President Trump's Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he and his allies ginned up expectations for a massive crowd with campaign officials telling CNN that more than a million people had registered to attend, and one local official stating they expected 100,000 to show up near the arena.

But those crowds didn't appear as large as expected Saturday afternoon, leading to an abrupt change of plans by the campaign.

A campaign source told CNN that the team was abandoning plans for the President to speak to an "overflow" area outside the arena in Tulsa where only a couple dozen people were standing near the outdoor stage less than two hours before the rally.

Reporting from inside the arena, CNN's Ryan Nobles described the smaller-than-expected crowd: