President Trump veered wildly from his prepared remarks to deliver an extended riff on the “fake news and crooked media” — accusing reporters of giving a platform to hate groups — in a freewheeling campaign-style rally in Arizona last night.
“These are really, really dishonest people and they’re bad people and I really think they don’t like our country,” Trump told a roaring crowd in Phoenix. “I really believe that. And I don’t think they’re going to change and that’s why I do this.”
— Nick Short (@PoliticalShort) August 23, 2017
Trump re-read the various statements he issued after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last week, accusing reporters of glossing over them as they focused on his controversial comments placing blame on “both sides.”
“The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news,” Trump said.
The president blasted The Washington Post as a “lobbying tool for Amazon,” third-rated CNN as “so bad and so pathetic,” the New York Times as “failing” and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News as “little George.”
Trump also hinted strongly that he will pardon Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been found guilty of contempt of court after defying a judge’s order to stop targeting Latinos on suspicion of being illegal immigrants.
“Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked, drawing cheers. “So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? He should have had a jury. But you know what? I’ll make a prediction — I think he’s going to be just fine, OK? But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. Is that OK? All right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”
Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters there would be “no discussion of that today at any point and no action will be taken on that front at any point today.”
Hundreds (not thousands) turned out to protest Trump, but despite fears of violence and chaos, the demonstrations failed to halt the event.
Trump aimed to turn around his dismal approval ratings and jump-start his stalled agenda by jetting out of Washington and holding the campaign-style rally in Arizona.
“I’m here tonight to send a message that we are fully and totally committed to fighting for our agenda and we will not stop until the job is done,” Trump said.
The president tried to strike a note of unity, saying, “We all share the same dreams and the same hopes for a better future. A wound inflicted upon one member of our community is a wound inflicted up on us all.”
He also addressed the deadly violence in Charlottesville.
“What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America and tonight this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs who perpetrate hatred and violence,” he said.
“Wow, what a crowd. What a crowd,” Trump opened as supporters chanted his name. “And just so you know from the Secret Service, there aren’t too many people outside protesting, OK? That I can tell you.”
Trump was joined on stage by Vice President Mike Pence, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Christian evangelist Franklin Graham and Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King.
The event came a day after he delivered a speech outlining dramatic changes to the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, during which he stuck closely to prepared remarks on a teleprompter.
Trump’s Arizona trip came amid tension with the state’s two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake. McCain voted against the proposed “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, while Flake is a vulnerable Republican facing reelection next year who blasted Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville.
Trump slammed both of them from the podium last night.
“One vote away — I won’t mention any names,” Trump said in an obvious swipe at McCain. “And no one wants me to talk about your other senator who was weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won’t talk about him. … Nobody knows who the hell he is. And now, see, I haven’t mentioned any names, so everybody’s happy.”
Puerto Rican Trump supporter blasts CNN ahead of Phoenix rally: 'You’re the real racists and fascists!' pic.twitter.com/nqday5Aa7j
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) August 22, 2017
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 23, 2017
— Kari Lake (@KariLakeFox10) August 23, 2017
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) August 23, 2017
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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