Donald Trump plans to host his first campaign event since testing positive for Covid-19, appearing at a hastily organised White House gathering on Saturday that will focus on law and order.
The event is expected to include hundreds of attendees and the US president will appear from the White House balcony, according to a person briefed on the plans, which were first reported by ABC News.
The appearance comes as Mr Trump tries to prove he has recovered from the virus and is healthy enough to return to the campaign trail.
On Friday evening, the president appeared in his first televised appearance since his hospitalisation, taking questions about his health from Fox News television personality Marc Siegel, who is also a medical doctor.
Mr Trump initially told Dr Siegel he was “medication free”, before backtracking and saying he was on “pretty much nothing”. He said he expected to next be tested for Covid-19 on Saturday, and would “love” to donate his plasma, if asked.
As of 9pm in Washington, the White House physician had still not released his daily update on Mr Trump’s health — something he has done at least once a day, every day since the president tested positive last week.
In addition to the Saturday event, Mr Trump plans to restart his large-scale rallies in swing states on Monday, flying from Washington DC to Florida for an event near Orlando, according to his campaign.
The independent commission that organises presidential debates formally cancelled next week’s scheduled duel between Mr Trump and Joe Biden, his Democratic rival, on Friday, announcing that only one more joint appearance would be held, in Nashville on October 22.
Saturday’s planned White House rally comes two weeks after a Rose Garden ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that some officials believe resulted in several high-ranking Republicans contracting the virus.
Anthony Fauci, the US’s leading infectious disease expert, told CBS News Radio on Friday their infections were the product of a “superspreader event at the White House”, where many of the attendees did not wear masks.
With less than a month to go until election day, the president has repeatedly said on Twitter and during call-in television interviews on Fox News Media networks that he has made a full recovery, but coronavirus experts warn that an infected patient could still spread the virus for 10 days or more, depending on the severity of the case.
On Friday afternoon the president told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh via telephone — during what his campaign called a virtual “rally” — that he was “not in great shape” last week, but had been “healed” and “fixed” by Regeneron’s antibody treatment.
Mr Trump added he felt “perfect” and was “not taking anything”, saying: “I am off any regimen that they gave me.”
On Thursday a White House doctor suggested Mr Trump would be able to make a “safe return to public duties” by Saturday if he remains symptom-free. Still, the White House event is likely to provoke criticism from medical experts, who have criticised the president for not taking the virus seriously.
Mr Trump, who is 74, trails the 77-year-old Mr Biden in most national opinion polls and many battleground states that are key to winning the Electoral College.
In a release announcing Friday night’s broadcast, Fox News said Dr Siegel, a medical professor at New York University who has served as a regular analyst on the network, would “conduct a medical evaluation and interview” on the Tucker Carlson Tonight show.
Dr Siegel is the author of a 2008 book entitled False Alarm: The Truth about the Epidemic of Fear, which argued that the news media spreads undue panic about pandemics.
Mr Carlson, who has come under attack from critics who accuse him of propagating nativist tropes, has been one of Fox News’s leading proponents of easing pandemic restrictions.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, has suggested Mr Trump may be suffering psychological side-effects from some of his coronavirus treatments. They include a steroid known to trigger erratic behaviour.
On Friday Ms Pelosi announced legislation that would create a commission to evaluate presidential health and intervene under the 25th amendment to the US constitution, which allows for the removal of a president who is unfit to serve.
She acknowledged, however, that the commission — which would include former government officials and medical experts chosen by a bipartisan group in Congress — would not be in place in time to evaluate Mr Trump’s current health.
“This is not about President Trump. He will face the judgment of the voters,” she said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “But he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents.”
In the countdown to the 2020 election, stay on top of the big campaign issues with our newsletter on US power and politics with columnists Rana Foroohar and Edward Luce. Sign up here