President Trump sends strong message on mail-in ballots, protests during Latrobe rally

LATROBE, Pa. — President Donald Trump landed in Latrobe Thursday evening and spoke for about 90 minutes to a crowd of supporters at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

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Trump said that he’s being endorsed by the local Boilmakers union. He also addressed the coronavirus, saying we are rounding the curve of the pandemic and the country is “way ahead of schedule” in developing a vaccine.

Minutes after speaking to a packed crowd, Trump spoke exclusively with Channel 11′s Aaron Martin about how his supporters will be able to vote. In a tweet Thursday that was flagged by Twitter for violating its election integrity policy, the president encouraged voters to vote by mail and then try to vote again in person to make sure it’s counted.

Trump echoed these concerns with mail-in ballots to Channel 11.

“It’s a disaster because in Pa. they do it a certain way and that would lead to many weeks after Nov. 3 before they’re even accounted for -- if they’re even accounted,” he said. “This is a terrible thing happening to our country.”

Allegheny County election officials said without more time to process mail-in ballots, it could take days or even weeks for Pa. to declare a winner.

But Trump seemed confident he’ll win the state again in November.

“We’re going to hopefully accept the results. I think we’re going to win Pennsylvania by a lot. You saw the crowd, an incredible crowd with thousands standing outside. I think we’re going to win big,” Trump said.

The president spent part of his speech calling out cities like Portland for violence during protests. However, he acknowledged a distinction between what’s happening in Portland and what’s happening in Pittsburgh -- where protests have largely remained peaceful.

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There was a waiver for tickets that stated people understood the inherent risk of possible exposure to COVID-19 and the Trump administration and airport were not responsible if anyone becomes sick.

Westmoreland County played a key role during the last presidential election. Trump took the county by more than 30 percentage points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The 2020 presidential race between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who was in Pittsburgh for his first major campaign speech since the Democratic National Convention, is tightening in Pennsylvania, according to the latest Monmouth University Poll. The race now stands at 49% for Biden and 45% for Trump among all registered voters, according to the poll.

>>STORY: Presidential race between President Trump, Biden tightens in Pennsylvania, poll says

Thursday marked Trump’s first visit to western Pennsylvania since last year, when he was the keynote speaker at an oil and natural gas conference in Pittsburgh. Doors to Thursday’s event opened at 4 p.m., with hundreds of supporters lining up at the airport waiting for his arrival.

The crowd ended up totaling more than 1,000 at the rally, which exhausted capacity quickly. Some people were turned away after waiting hours in line.

First responders actually had to shut down Route 981 from Route 30 because so many cars continued to pour in prior to 7 p.m.

Both Trump and Biden will be in Shanksville next Friday to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.