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Trump Supporters Gather At Airport, With Eyes On Supreme Court Edge

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An-Li Herring
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90.5 WESA
Supporters of Donald Trump line up outside the Atlantic Aviation hangar hours before a Trump rally in Moon Township on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.

Hours before the doors even opened for President Donald Trump's rally at a Pittsburgh International Airport hangar, hundreds of supporters were gathered to welcome their champion on yet another stop in western Pennsylvania.

The visit comes just days after the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with a brewing fight over her replacement now dominating the campaign. And some supporters said that while the tempest wouldn't affect their vote – they were firmly behind Trump already – a conservative replacement could serve as an insurance policy.

"He's still president. ... He should definitely pick a justice," said Karen Maguire, of Mingo Junction, Ohio. Without a replacement for Ginsburg, she noted, there would be only eight justices. "If it comes down to this election, and there's only eight ... you're going to have half and half. And I heard on TV, it could be drawn out until January."

The “Great American Comeback” rally was set to begin at 7 p.m. in the Atlantic Aviation hangar at the Pittsburgh International Airport, a frequent stop for Republican politicians. It’s the most recent in a string of visits Trump has made to the area, a reflection of western Pennsylvania’s status as a critical front in a top battleground state.  

Trump has made repeated campaign stops in Pennsylvania this month, with a campaign visit to the Pittsburgh region – a stop in Latrobe – taking place earlier this month. Trump also appeared (as did Demcoratic nominee Joe Biden) at the Flight 93 Memorial to commemorate the 9/11 terror attacks.  

Trump family members and Vice President Mike Pence have also been in the area recently.  

Democrats decried the event on Tuesday morning, saying the president represented both an immediate local health threat, and a long-term national crisis.  

“We’re going to have thousands and thousands of people who are going to show up tonight without masks,” warned Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in a press call hosted by the state Democratic Party. 

Fitzgerald said the rally could deal a setback to months’ worth of efforts by local health officials to contain the coronavirus, whose severity Trump has frequently minimized. Asked whether the county could have taken steps to prohibit the rally, Fitzgerald said, “We can try to deny a permit … but let’s be realistic: Thousands of people are coming. The president has done this in state after state.” 

Last week, a county spokesperson said the event will take place within a business that is obliged to limit outdoor gatherings to 100 people, and indoor ones to 25. “If there are complaints made to the county Health Department, the enforcement team will review and determine any appropriate actions," the spokesperson said.

Fitzgerald and state Democratic Party Chair Nancy Patton Mills also noted that the administration has been waging a legal battle against the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, with no plan to replace the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. A new Supreme Court justice could deliver a fatal blow to the law this fall.

“Just one week after the election, the Supreme Court will hear Trump’s attempt to tear down the Affordable Care Act,” Patton Mills said.

Trump supporters were sanguine about such concerns. Jeff Rishel made the nearly two-hour drive from Dempseytown, Pa., to attend the event. He said the coronavirus held little fear for him.

 

"The virus is real, we know that," he said. "But we can’t live in fear. We have to live our lives as … free Americans. We know the chances we’re taking when we come to these events.”