President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE on Thursday unleashed on his critics and celebrated his “vindication” from the investigation into Russia’s election interference in his first campaign rally since special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN’s Toobin warns McCabe is in ‘perilous condition’ with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill’s 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE concluded his work.
The president used the investigation’s end to cast himself as the victim of efforts by establishment politicians and law enforcement officers to take him and his supporters down, characterizing their efforts as “fraud,” “hoax” and “scam.” His freewheeling condemnation of the special counsel’s probe, paired with attacks on Democrats and reliable applause lines for his base, provided a glimpse of what’s to come leading up to Election Day in 2020.
“This has been an incredible couple of weeks for America,” Trump told the crowd early in more than 90 minute speech in Grand Rapids, Mich. “The economy is roaring. The [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] caliphate is defeated 100 percent, and after three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead.”
“The collusion delusion is over,” he declared.
Thursday was Trump’s first campaign event since Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMilley discussed resigning from post after Trump photo-op: report OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ MORE told Congress that Mueller did not find that Trump conspired with the Russian government. The special counsel neither exonerated the president nor implicated him in obstruction of justice, according to Barr.
While lawmakers and the White House await the more than 300 page report from Mueller, Trump declared that the special counsel’s core findings represented a “total exoneration” and “complete vindication.”
He did not allude to pardons or specifically suggest he would recommend counterinvestigations, but repeatedly hammered Democrats over their support of the Russia investigation and their recently launched oversight inquiries.
He singled out House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats introduce resolution condemning acts of violence against the press Schiff asks if defense resources provided intelligence during protests Schiff uses Tiananmen anniversary to condemn Trump’s response to protests MORE (D-Calif.), who has maintained there is clear evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, mocking him as a “pencil neck.”
He also called out House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPhilonise Floyd asks Congress to deliver justice for his brother Floyd’s brother to testify in front of House Judiciary Committee hearing on police brutality House Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on police brutality next week MORE (D-N.Y.) over his request for documents from 81 individuals or entities as part of a sprawling probe into the president’s administration and business dealings.
“The Democrats now have to decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bullshit, partisan investigations, or whether they will apologize to the American people and join us” to focus on infrastructure, trade and lowering health care costs, he said.
Thursday’s rally was Trump’s first since he held an event in El Paso, Texas, in early February to whip up support for a wall along the southern border. Since then, the field of potential Democratic challengers in the 2020 election has taken clearer shape, with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) jumping in the race.
But Trump largely avoided going after his prospective challengers. Instead, he attacked Democratic policy proposals as “socialist” and previewed the record of accomplishments he intends to use in his campaign for reelection.
He shredded the Green New Deal, an ambitious proposal seeking to combat the effects of climate change that was blocked in the Senate a day earlier.
“But I’d rather not talk about it tonight because I don’t want to talk them out of it too soon,” Trump said. “Because I love campaigning against the Green New Deal. I want them to make that a big part of their platform.”
He hit Democrats over its health care ideas, where several presidential candidates have embraced “Medicare for all” and similar proposals.
Trump reiterated his pledge that the GOP would become the “party of heath care.”
While he offered no additional details on his ideal health care plan, he rattled off a series of legislative achievements thus far, including tax cuts, the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and the passage of Veterans Affairs reform.
In addition to warnings about the threat of illegal immigration and the need for border security, the president returned on multiple occasions to a favorite topic: the economy, and the manufacturing sector in particular.
Fiat Chrysler and Ford have announced investments in Michigan properties in recent weeks, and Trump assured attendees that jobs were returning under his administration.
Michigan will be critical to Trump’s reelection chances in 2020. He won the state in 2016 by roughly 11,000 votes, but will need to maintain similar success in the Rust Belt next year to stay in office.
Trump was supremely confident about his odds of reelection on his current trajectory, portraying his presidency thus far as one of fulfilled promises.
“Now I’ve done more than I ever promised I was going to do, so the debates should be very easy.
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“It should be easy, don’t you agree?” he added. “It should be easy.”