Trump claims media ignoring his remarks against “hatred” — and then devotes speech to rousing crowd against his supposed enemies
Developments on Day 215 of the Trump Administration:
Trump’s Attack in Arizona Rally
On the defensive on multiple fronts, Donald Trump uses a rally of supporters in Arizona to lash out at the media, immigrants, Hillary Clinton, Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, and other supposed foes.
Speaking for more than an hour, Trump began with a scripted nod to the need for “respect” among all Americans, and then — to the raucous applause of the those in the partially-filled hall — spent almost the rest of the time attacking and insulting individuals and groups.
The few moments of Trump acclaim were reserved for supporters like Fox polemicist Sean Hannity and former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio — the latter was convicted in July for contempt of court over his aggressive anti-immigrant operations but Trump, without yet going through a review process, indicated that a Presidential pardon is on the way: “Sheriff Joe should feel good.”
Trump also again tried to excuse the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia more than a week ago. After reading carefully-abridged versions of his remarks on the subject since August 12 — Trump tried to portray a condemnation of bigotry and neo-Nazis, but ignored his repeated declamation of “many sides” — he repeated his depiction of the white supremacy marches as a preservation of Southern heritage as he blamed “weak, weak people” for removing Confederate statues: “They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history.”
Trump’s longest rants were about the “fake media” who had supposedly misrepresented him over the white supremacy issue. He castigated the “failing New York Times”, bashed the “Amazon Washington Post” — a reference to the Post’s owner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — and poured scoured on CNN.
But, as he repeated his unlikely-to-ever-be-fulfilled promise to build The Wall, he also fed hatred of immigrants who were “trying to take over America”. And, coyly saying that he would not name names, he encouraged the crowd to boo both Arizona’s GOP Senators: John McCain, who returned from a fight with brain cancer to cast a decisive vote against the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and the “toxic” Jeff Flake, who has said that it is now time for Republicans to detach themselves from the President.
Trump’s White House is preparing a challenge to Flake in next year’s Republican primary, interviewing possible opponents. Last night Trump piled on the rejection, “Nobody knows who the hell he is.”
The speech was peppered with lies. Trump dismissed only a “few” protesters outside the convention center — there were thousands, who remained for hours after he finished speaking. He said twice that CNN, stung by his remarks, had cut their broadcast — the cameras never stopped rolling. He even falsely claimed to have a home in Charlottesville — the building is a winery and it is owned by Eric Trump’s company, not his father.
The speech was short on any policy besides the general invocation of anti-immigrant measures, including The Wall. Trump gave no alternative to this summer’s Congressional rejection of healthcare bills, and he said nothing about the imminent challenge of passing a Federal Government budget by October 1.
However, he did throw in one explosive possibility, the shredding of the North American Free Trade Agreement: “I think we’ll probably end up terminating NAFTA at some point.”
An Unstable President
Trump’s performance added to questions about his stability and aptitude for office.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was blunt in his response:
I found this scary and downright disturbing….I really question his ability to be, his fitness to be in this office and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out.
Last week Bob Corker, the GOP chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in the wake of Charlottesville, “The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”
In a further sign of the erosion of high-level tolerance of Trump, The New York Times reported on Monday about the President’s disintegrating relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is now privately expressing his uncertainty that the Trump Administration can be salvaged.
The two men have not spoken in weeks. Trump is blaming McConnell not only for the failure of the GOP healthcare bills but also for the expanding Trump-Russia investigations and Congress’s passage of a bill imposing further sanctions on Moscow.
McConnell has signaled to business leaders that he is deeply uncomfortable with Trump’s remarks over white supremacy and Charlottesville. Several CEOs who resigned from White House advisory boards on manufacturing and on business and finance contacted McConnell’s office afterwards, and were told that the Majority Leader’s office fully understood their decisions.
McConnell will host a $1,000-per-person dinner on Friday in Kentucky for Jeff Flake, whom Trump insulted last night, and also for Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, whom the White House is also trying to force from office after he initially opposed the GOP healthcare legislation.
Figure Behind Trump-Russia Dossier Speaks with Senate Committee
Glenn Simpson, the founder of the private intelligence firm behind a Trump-Russia dossier of alleged personal and financial links, speaks with investigators from the Senate Judiciary Committee
Simpson’s firm Fusion GPS, through former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, compiled the 17 memoranda setting out contacts between Trump, his campaign advisors, and Russian businessmen and officials. Fusion GPS was initially paid about a million dollars by wealthy Republicans and then later worked for Democrats to gather information between June and December 2016.
Information in the dossier complements revelations about subjects of the FBI investigation and now that of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including Trump’s campaign team, Russian banks, and figures connected to the Kremlin.
How to Convince Trump on Afghanistan? Show Him Women in Mini-Skirts
A detail from how Trump’s retired generals persuaded him to announce a troop increase and general reassertion of an American presence in Afghanistan….
Locking down the acquiescence of Trump, who called for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan before he took office, National Security H.R. McMaster showed the President a photograph of women in mini-skirts in 1972 and said this was the country that the US is fighting to restore.
The episode is reminiscent of the tactics used by McMaster and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in early April, when they persuaded Trump to endorse US missile strikes in Syria by showing him pictures of children killed by the Assad regime’s nerve agent attack on a town in the northwest of the country.