Jun 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Trump plots virus-era, made-for-TV mass festival

Illustration of a VIP festival ticket with the words "MAGA" on it.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's campaign plans to turn this weekend's Tulsa rally into a massive pro-Trump festival complete with musical acts, and it's flying in high-profile backers and camera crews to show the world the fervency of his supporters.

Details: Organizers are leasing a jet to fly in surrogates the night before and multiple film crews are being brought in to record the event, people familiar with the plans tell Axios. Watch for these scenes to be quickly converted into TV ads.

Why it matters: The June 20 "Great American Comeback" event is partly a kickoff for a comeback tour amid the coronavirus pandemic. It's also a giant commercial for Trump's re-election campaign, an answer to protests outside the White House and a trial run for Republican National Convention events in Jacksonville this August.

  • Temperature checks are being planned on site and masks and hand sanitizer were to be handed out, according to people familiar with the planning.
  • The Trump campaign says 1 million people have signed up — a data grab for the campaign — and of those, tens of thousands are expected to attend.
  • The Bank of Oklahoma (BOK) Center, where the indoor event will be held, holds 19,000 people, and the area next to it where the second stage will be set up can hold tens of thousands more.

The big picture: While Trump is scheduled to speak inside the BOK Center, additional staging is to be set up outside for other speakers and performers.

  • These speakers, performers and surrogates will appear both inside and outside the arena, and Trump plans to speak at both the indoor and outdoor stages, according to a source with direct knowledge of the plans.
  • The Trump campaign announced that more than 50 campaign surrogates plan to attend the Oklahoma rally, including at least a dozen Republican House members and Sens. Jim Inhofe, James Lankford and Tom Cotton.
  • The event will be expensive. But the campaign says it raised $14 million on Sunday by promoting the Tulsa rally as well as the president's birthday.

Don't forget: Trump originally planned the rally for June 19, but pushed it back a day after facing a wave of criticism for scheduling it on Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.

  • The director of the Tulsa City-County Health Department earlier told Tulsa World he wished Trump would postpone the rally, citing a "significant increase" in coronavirus case trends.
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