In 1-on-1 interview, Trump campaign defends president's claim Michigan blocked him from holding a "big rally"

President Donald Trump wanted to have a "big rally in Michigan" but wasn't allowed to because of COVID-19 restrictions in place. Making the statement during a contentious interview on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace, Trump laid the blame for not getting to campaign at the feet of states run by Democrats.

However, a spokeswoman for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office said nobody at the administration has received any communication from the president regarding a campaign rally.

Speaking one-on-one with FOX 2 Sunday night, the communications director for Trump's reelection campaign told Hilary Golston that what the president referenced Sunday has happened elsewhere.

"We've seen it over and over again from Democrats and from the media, they don't want President Trump out on the campaign trail," said Tim Murtaugh. "We routinely run into problems when a state that is run by Democrats or a city that has a Democrat mayor, routinely run into resistance and problems with permitting and that sort of thing."

However, Murtaugh stopped short of saying Democratic governors were obstructing the president's pursuit of reelection. 

"I'm saying they're behaving as partisan Democrats," he added.

It was during a wide-ranging interview broadcasted Sunday when the president criticized leaders in Michigan for not allowing him to host a rally in the state.

"I called Michigan. I want to have a big rally in Michigan. Do you know we’re not allowed to have a rally in Michigan?" Trump said. "Do you know we’re not allowed to have a rally in Minnesota? Do you know we’re not allowed to have a rally in Nevada? We’re not allowed to have rallies in these Democrat-run states."

Chris Wallace responded, "some would say that's a health risk, sir." 

"Some people would say fine, but I guarantee you if everything was gone 100%, they still wouldn't allow it. They're not allowing me to do it."

When reaching out for comment from the state about rejecting a request from the president to hold a rally, Whitmer's spokeswoman Tiffany Brown replied "This is inaccurate. Nobody in the administration has heard from President Trump's team about this. It would appear the president is totally misinformed."

Currently, gatherings of 100 people or less are permitted in Michigan in outdoor settings and only 10 people or less in indoor settings. However, the state is nearing another setback in its reopening process as cases continued climbing at higher rates. Last week, Michigan reported average daily coronavirus cases climbed to their highest rates since May. 

While it is true that health officials say they are testing more than ever before in Michigan, the state's increase in new cases can't only be attributed to better testing capacity, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joneigh Khaldun has said. 

While cases gradually climb in Michigan, they are skyrocketing in southern states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona, leading to daily highs in newly reported cases.

Trump doesn't agree that more cases are a result of further spread - contending instead to point to increased testing as the reason for higher positive rates.

"I think you have to look at the amount of testing we're doing as a nation. We're far and away the world's leader in testing, approaching 50 million tests conducted," Murtaugh said. "And we're also conducting about 800,000 tests a day in this country. And when you do that level of testing, of course, you're going to discover new cases. The fact those numbers are climbing should not be a surprise to anybody."

"Then there's also the news that some of the reporting of the test results is actually conflating positive current coronavirus cases with the antibody test which means people who have already had it," added Murtaugh.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have acknowledged in the past they had combined results from viral tests and antibody tests, along with several other states in late May. However, the federal agency also said it would start separating those results in the weeks following the acknowledgment.

Presumptive Democratic Nominee Joe Biden released a statement following Trump's interview on Sunday:

"Yet again this morning, President Trump attacked the CDC and the public health experts who should be guiding our response to COVID-19, saying that they “don't know” what they're talking about. The past six months have proven again and again that it's Donald Trump who doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to COVID-19. He said the virus would disappear. He said anyone who wants a test could get a test. He said the virus was under control. When it comes to the coronavirus, you can't believe a word he says."

There have also been reports of tension between the president and his top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci who says he hasn't briefed the president on the pandemic's response in weeks. Murtaugh pushed back on the claims of friction, despite the president calling Fauci an alarmist.

"The president is an optimistic guy. He's always optimistic, he's optimistic about the coronavirus and the way that our country is going to come through this, he's optimistic about getting a vaccine before the end of the year, he's optimistic about the rebounding of the economy and so that's the way he likes to look at the world," said Murtaugh.