President Trump opened a new phase of his election year crisis leadership on Tuesday, traveling to the battleground state of Arizona and vowing to rebuild an economy devastated by the coronavirus in the six months left before he faces voters’ judgment.
“We’re going to build the greatest economy in the world again,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “I did it once. We’re going to do it again, and that’s what we’re starting. I view these last couple of days as the beginning.”
On his first trip outside the Washington region in more than a month, Mr. Trump visited a Honeywell International plant in Phoenix, where repurposed employees were manufacturing N95 masks for health care workers and others on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic. He thanked Honeywell employees for being part of “an incredible industrial mobilization” to fight the disease.
“You make America proud. That’s why I’m here,” Mr. Trump told them.
The president also met with leaders of American Indian tribes, whom candidates often overlook. He signed a proclamation calling attention to the problem of tribal women who were missing or killed, and he announced the release of $700 million in coronavirus relief funds for local tribal governments.
Mr. Trump made the trip while more states were easing restrictions and allowing some businesses to reopen. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, has extended his stay-at-home order until May 15, but some companies reopened on a limited basis Monday.
The state ranks among the least affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, with 395 deaths, including 33 Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, the White House said it is looking to wind down its coronavirus task force around Memorial Day so federal agencies can manage the response in a more traditional manner.
“We’re looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form is safety and opening,” the president said. “We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years. The task force has done a phenomenal job.”
Vice President Mike Pence said the task force is in discussions about tranferring many responsibilities to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Democrats blasted the move. Sen. Brian Schatz, Hawaii Democrat, tweeted, “70 thousand Americans have died, and the President is calling the American people ‘warriors,’ and ‘winding down’ the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Please vote.”
The White House is preventing one of the top medical advisers on the task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, from testifying before a House committee investigating the administration’s response to the crisis. The president said he will allow Dr. Fauci to testify before a Republican-led Senate panel next week, but he said the House Democrats’ request is a “setup.”
“They don’t want us to succeed,” Mr. Trump said. “They want us to fail so they can win an election which they’re not going to win. They, frankly, want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death. And our situation is going to be very successful.”
As the national death toll from COVID-19 passed 70,000 Tuesday, Mr. Trump was increasingly adamant that states need to reopen for business.
“Our country wants to open. The governors — it’s in their hands, but our country wants to open,” he said. “The people of our country should think of themselves as warriors. Our country has to open.”
Mr. Trump carried Arizona in 2016, but presumptive Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden leads the president in the state by 4.4 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Mr. Biden criticized the president for “grandstanding” on the trip.
The former vice president said Mr. Trump rejected the governor’s request in March to reopen enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to expand access to “affordable health care” during the pandemic.
“Instead of listening to a governor from his own party, President Trump refused,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “He put politics over the well-being of Arizonans. He refused to expand access to health care during a public health crisis. That isn’t leadership.”
Mr. Biden also pointed out that unemployment claims in Arizona have exceeded 250,000. More than 30 million Americans lost their jobs in six weeks as governors ordered nonessential businesses to close.
The president, confronting an unemployment rate that is likely to climb to nearly 20%, said the nation must take necessary risks to allow more Americans to go back to work.
“I’m not saying anything is perfect,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.”
The president hasn’t held a campaign rally since the one in South Carolina in late February, but his speech to Honeywell workers bore some touches of his rallies. As the president was introduced at the factory, his campaign rally song, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood, played on loudspeakers.
He departed to the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” also a staple of his campaign rallies.
As he toured the Honeywell plant, Mr. Trump wore safety goggles but no mask. He had said he would consider wearing a mask if it was appropriate for the facility. In one section of the tour area, a posted sign said “face mask required in this area.”
During his speech, the president called several Honeywell employees to the stage to tell their stories. They stood at a microphone about 10 feet away from Mr. Trump. The president joked with one man, “Next time I’m here, we’ll shake hands and hug each other.”
Ursula Warner, an operations supervisor and Air Force veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, said she had just retired from the military when she learned that the Honeywell plant was standing up to make the respirators.
“I decided I wanted to be a part of something bigger, to continue to serve this country,” she said.
In his remarks, Mr. Trump portrayed a nation that is moving on from the worst of the pandemic.
“This terrible plague has inflicted great hardships on our people,” he said. “We mourn for every life lost. We pray for every victim. And we shoulder this burden together, as one people, one family and one great American nation. Thanks to the profound commitment of our citizens, we’ve flattened the curve, and countless American lives have been saved.”
He said the nation “is now in the next stage of the battle, a very safe phase and gradual reopening.”
⦁ Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.