Duluth airport barred Pence after Trump broke virus rules

Published 3:35 pm Thursday, November 19, 2020

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MINNEAPOLIS  — Duluth airport officials prohibited Donald Trump’s campaign from holding a rally there with Vice President Mike Pence last month after the president flouted state coronavirus guidelines at the airport three weeks earlier.

The Duluth Airport Authority’s executive director, Tom Werner, told his board in an email Oct. 22, that he had rejected a Pence rally application for Oct. 26, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported Thursday.

“The Trump Campaign is in breach of their previous agreement with the DAA on a couple of significant items,” Werner wrote. “Therefore, I will not allow the event to take place at our airports.”

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Pence instead rallied at Hibbing’s airport, where about 650 people heard him speak eight days before Election Day despite Minnesota’s 250-person cap on events.

Trump tested positive for COVID-19 two days after his Sept. 30 rally in Duluth, which officials estimated 2,500 to 3,000 people attended. The campaign had agreed in its contract to obey the capacity rules.

Emails and other documents obtained by the newspaper through a public records request show that local officials worried Trump’s rally would violate the rules but felt they could do little to hold the campaign to its word.

The state traced four coronavirus cases to Trump’s rally in Duluth and 16 cases to a Sept. 18 Trump event in Bemidji. Another four cases were traced to counterprotests in Bemidji.