President Donald Trump delighted a cheering throng of enthusiastic supporters Saturday night in Washington Township, Michigan, snubbing for the second straight year the glitzy White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner back in the nation’s capital.
In a typically free-wheeling, long-running campaign trail-style speech that frequently appeared to veer from teleprompter to impromptu observations, Trump warned Congress that if additional funding for construction of the new wall along the U.S. border with Mexico isn’t approved, “We will shut the country down.”
That sounded like a blunt warning that if Congress doesn’t ante up a substantial portion of the estimated $25 billion required to build the wall in the new fiscal year, which starts October 1, Trump will move to shut down the federal government.
Trump also blasted Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for publicizing allegations, which remain unproven, that Adm. Ronny Jackson created “a toxic working environment,” drank excessively on the job, and wrecked a government car.
“I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said ’em, he’d never be elected again,” Trump noted, without providing any details.
The president said before the rally that Tester should resign for spreading the unproven allegations about his nominee as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs and predicted to rally-goers that “Montanans won’t stand for that.” Jackson withdrew his nomination Friday.
Regarding November’s midterm election, Trump acknowledged that Republicans face a rough road in seeking to maintain control of the Senate and House, but still expressed confidence in the ultimate outcome.
“We will win. We gotta fight like hell. We gotta get more Republicans. They say we have a majority. Well, it’s one in the Senate, a few more than that in the House,” he said. “We need to elect more Republicans so we can protect our cities, so we can make America great again.”
Trump repeatedly returned to his 2016 campaign theme of standing up for the U.S. against foreign economic competitors that, in his view, have benefited far more than America has from trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The president cited Chrysler’s decision earlier this year to invest $1.5 billion in a new facility in Michigan that will create 2,500 new jobs in the state. “Michigan knows something about our cars, and we’re bringing the industry back here.”
On both the trade issues and his efforts to rebuild the U.S. military, Trump assured his listeners that “We’re not the patsies anymore, we’re not the pushovers, any more.”
Trump mocked critics who he said were predicting that his policies of increasing trade sanctions and other pressures on Kim to draw him to the negotiating table would instead lead to disaster.
And the president repeated his recent statements that he will walk away from the forthcoming meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un if he thinks concrete steps aren’t being taken to result in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
“Remember three or four months ago, they said, ‘He’s going to get us in a nuclear war.’ No, strength is going to keep us out of a nuclear war,” Trump said.
The mainstream media came in for multiple fusillades of Trump criticism throughout his remarks to the rally. At one point during his comments on the unprecedented talks earlier this week between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump laughed and noted that “I had one of the fake news groups this [week] saying, ‘What do you think Trump has to do with it?’ I’ll tell you — everything.”
Near the end of his lengthy remarks, Trump told his listeners that “You know, I am constantly told, ‘Thank you, sir,’ and I say, ‘For what?’ and they say, ‘for taking our country back.’ We’re taking our country back.”
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski estimated during a post-rally interview with Fox News that the crowd included about 10,000 attendees inside the arena, with another 25,000 outside.
He also claimed that “We’re higher now than we were on election day because people are seeing the results” and attributed the result to the fact that, in his view, “I accomplished more than I promised and I am doing it for you.”
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski estimated during a post-rally interview with Fox News that the crowd included about 10,000 attendees inside the arena, with another 25,000 outside. No independent estimates of the crowd size were available at press time.
Washington Township is in Michigan’s Macomb County, known for an electorate that includes many “Reagan Democrats” — blue-collar workers who supported President Reagan in 1980 and 1984. They also voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but provided a big part of Trump’s win in the state in 2016 by a little more than 10,000 votes.
At one point during Trump’s remarks, an individual in the audience required medical assistance. The president stopped speaking for about three minutes while aid was provided. The individual’s name was not known.