Appearing at White House, Trump holds first public event since COVID-19 diagnosis

By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump made his first public appearance since returning to the White House on Monday from a three-day hospital stay for COVID-19, despite his aides remaining silent about whether he is still contagious.
Trump stood alone and without a mask, speaking from the balcony of the White House at an event called "A Peaceful Protest for Law and Order" attended by several hundred people standing on the lawn below. His appearance is seen as the first step towards resuming the campaign next week.
Without hesitation to speak, Trump appeared to be returning to his usual rallying form, boasting his record and making baseless accusations against his opponents as a crowd of supporters sang, "We love you."
It was the first public event Trump has held since he was released from hospital on Monday, when some observers watching his return to the White House said he was sometimes out of breath.
The White House posted videos and Trump has since been on television shows, but this was the first opportunity for the public to see the President live.
The White House has not released the results of Trump's most recent COVID-19 test and has refused to say when he last tested negative. A White House spokeswoman said Friday that Trump would be tested for COVID-19 and not go public if it was found he could still spread the virus.
Scott Atlas, the doctor who advises Trump, declined to comment on Trump's latest test when approached outside the chain of events by Reuters. He wasn't wearing a mask.
Trump, who has campaigned for an issue of law and order with sometimes violent protests for racial justice over the past few months, told the gathering on Saturday that the Republican Party had the support of the American police force.
"We keep an eye on law enforcement," he said. "We are on the right."
Trump's efforts to portray himself as a criminal have had little impact on his standing in national opinion polls, which show he is two-digit behind his Democratic challenger Joe Biden. However, in the battlefield states that can determine who wins the White House, the gap between the two candidates is smaller.

(Reporting by James Oliphant and Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; writing by James Oliphant and Raphael Satter; editing by Ross Colvin and Rosalba O'Brien)

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