Trump rallies in Phoenix, claims Democrats trying keep country 'shut down'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE on Tuesday rallied a crowd of largely maskless student supporters in Phoenix, claiming Democrats were trying to keep the country “shut down” during the coronavirus pandemic in order to hurt the economy before the election.

“They are trying to do their best to keep the country shut down and closed because they’d love those numbers not to be good,” Trump told the crowd after insisting the U.S. would see good economic growth during the third quarter, before the 2020 election. “There’s not a lot they can do about it.”

Trump referenced the coronavirus throughout his remarks, repeatedly calling it “the plague” and at one point claiming it was “going away.” Trump also twice referred to the virus as the “kung flu,” a term that was widely condemned as racist when he used it at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., over the weekend. The term prompted cheers from the crowd Tuesday.

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“We are going to be stronger than ever before, and it’s going to be soon,” Trump said of the coronavirus, touting his “swift and early action” to ban travel from China at the beginning of February in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

Roughly 3,000 young attendees were expected to attend Tuesday’s event in Arizona, a state that has experienced significant spikes in coronavirus cases as it has relaxed restrictions to allow businesses to reopen. Arizona reported nearly 3,600 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, a record for daily cases.

Few of those in the crowd at Dream City Church in Phoenix were seen wearing masks, which are recommended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The venue was filled with a sea of young Trump supporters sitting close together, though some empty seats were visible in parts of the church. The event was described as an address to young Americans but was sponsored by Turning Point Action, a young conservative group run by Trump supporter Charlie Kirk.

Trump used his remarks to tout the strength of the economy before the coronavirus and offer a rosy picture of the path to recovery following a surprising May jobs report that showed employment gains.

“The stock market in the last 50 days is the best stock market in history, and it went up again today, by the way,” Trump said. “This is during, hopefully, the end of the pandemic.”

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He also complained about news coverage describing the United States as having the most coronavirus cases globally.

“When you have all those tests, you have more cases,” Trump said. “We want to do testing. We want to do everything, but they use it to make us look bad.”

Trump’s campaign-style remarks came hours after Anthony FauciAnthony FauciPublic health expert: 50 percent effective coronavirus vaccine would be 'better than what we have now' Overnight Health Care: Trump to take executive action after coronavirus talks collapse | Vaccine official says he'd resign if pressured politically Fauci's DC neighbors put up 'thank you' signs in their yards MORE, the Trump administration’s top infectious disease expert, told a House panel that rising coronavirus cases in the U.S. marked a “disturbing” trend.

“In some respects, we’ve done very well,” Fauci said, noting New York’s work to contain the virus. “However, in other areas of the country, we are now seeing a disturbing surge of infections that looks like it’s a combination, but one of the things is an increase in community spread. And that’s something I’m really quite concerned about.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said the outbreak would continue and overlap with flu season in the fall, which “could place a tremendous burden on the health care system.”

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White House officials have sought to minimize concerns about the spikes over the past week. Trump has withstood scrutiny for his comments on testing in recent days as he has called testing a “double-edged sword” and suggested expanded testing makes the U.S. look bad. At his Tulsa rally over the weekend, Trump said that he told officials to “slow down the testing.”

The White House has offered shifting explanations for the remarks, with some officials saying the remarks were made in jest. Trump told reporters earlier Tuesday that he doesn’t “kid” about testing. Fauci and other health officials during their testimony said they had not been instructed to slow down testing and underscored efforts to continue to expand testing capacity.

Trump’s speech marked his second campaign-style address in four days following his Tulsa rally, his first in more than three months due to the pandemic. The campaign withstood scrutiny for the decision to stage the rally in Tulsa, which has also seen a spike in coronavirus cases.

--This report was updated on June 24 at 6:13 a.m.