Trump Fires Up Base At Rally After Backing Down On Immigrant Family Separation
President Donald Trump defended his decision to backtrack on the practice of separating undocumented immigrant families on the US-Mexico border at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday.
The President, however, devoted only a small portion of his speech to the issue of immigration and his border policy, even though it has dominated the conversation in Washington for a week and roiled the Republican Party. During the hour-long event, Trump also praised North Korean leader Kim Jung Un and lashed out against Democrats and Republican Sen. John McCain.
Trump told a fired-up audience that the executive order he signed hours earlier would not weaken his border strategy and again pledged, as he did during the 2016 election, to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
“Today, I signed an executive order,” he said. “We’re going to keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough as it’s been.”
He added: “The Democrats want open borders — let everybody pour in, we don’t care. Let them pour in from the Middle East, we don’t care, we’re not going.”
Though his speech in Duluth is 1,500 miles from the facilities where much of the family separations have been happening, Trump had been expected to use the issue of immigration to rally his loyal base, with top aides seeing it as a way to fire up the voters who backed him two years ago.
The President also used hyperbolic language in claiming that his administration had “liberated towns” in Long Island, New York that were plagued by members of the MS-13 gang.
The event also brought out vintage Trump, with the President giving a free-wheeling speech that at times veered into a venting session about people who have slighted him.
“The elite, the elite. Why are they elite,” he said incredulously to cheers. “I have a much better apartment than they do. I am smarter than they are. I am richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t.”
During a riff on health care, Trump returned to an oft-attacked enemy: McCain.
“We had a gentlemen way into the morning hours, go thumbs down,” Trump said, describing how McCain voted against the health care repeal effort although not naming him. “He went thumbs down.”
The comment was not well received by some in the audience, with one woman audibly yelling, “He’s a war hero! He’s a war hero!”
Trump also used the event to rekindle focus on his historic summit with Kim earlier this month, a subject that has been knocked out of the news by a constant focus on immigration.
Trump praised Kim at the rally, telling supporters that the leader will “turn that country into a great, successful country.”
“It was a great meeting,” Trump said of his historic meeting with Kim in Singapore earlier this month. “Chairman Kim… will turn that country into a great, successful country. Let me tell you this, a year and a half ago no one thought that was possible.”
Trump also said North Korea had sent back the remains of 200 US soldiers killed in the Korean War. It’s unclear if the remains have actually been returned or will be returned. CNN, citing four administration officials, reported Tuesday that the administration was expecting North Korea to return the remains, which are believed to be those of US servicemembers, in the coming days.
Trump has sought to cast his meeting with Kim as a turning point in North Korean relations, hoping that the boost on the international stage will help Republicans running in the midterms elections this year.