Donald Trump at Phoenix rally weighs in on Democratic debate, criticizes Michael Bloomberg

Michael Collins, Courtney Subramanian and David Jackson, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump was set to take the stage in Phoenix Wednesday for a rally that coincides with the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas.

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And that's a wrap

Trump finished his Phoenix speech at 10:52 pm EST, just as Democrats were wrapping up their presidential debate in Las Vegas.

Trump’s remarks, which ran for roughly an hour and a half, were a typical campaign stump speech, touching on some of his favorite topics ranging from immigration, the economy and what he calls the impeachment “hoax.”

Trump also got in a few licks at Democrats.

Mike Bloomberg? “Mini Mike,"' Trump said.

Bernie Sanders? “Crazy Bernie.”

Elizabeth Warren? “A phony.”

With Republicans in power, “we are going to keep on winning, winning, winning,” he said.

Trump's post-impeachment shakeup: Loyalists moved into top jobs, others pushed out

–Michael Collins

A long day for President Trump

Donald Trump told supporters in Phoenix he was having a long day – and he wasn't kidding.

Starting Wednesday morning in Las Vegas, Trump first flew to Rancho Mirage, Calif., where he hosted a fundraiser on a golf course.

Later it was on to Bakersfield, Calif., where he met with rural residents to talk about water policy.

Only then came the trip back south to Phoenix for the rally.

And that won't end the day – Trump then takes Air Force One back to Las Vegas for the overnight at his hotel there.

– David Jackson

Trump keeps up attacks on federal law enforcement  

Attorney General William Barr may be upset with Donald Trump's Twitter attacks on law enforcement, but the president didn't exactly tone down his rhetoric at the Phoenix rally.

Trump described some FBI officials as "scum" and "dirty cops" while denouncing a "double-sided" justice system that he claimed went easy on Hillary Clinton and tried to persecute him.

The president also made references to an ongoing investigation into the origins of the inquiry into Russian election interference in 2016, a probe that touched on Trump and some of his aides.

"Let's see how it all works out, folks," Trump told his followers. "I hope you're gonna be happy."

– David Jackson

Trump: Democrats trying 'take it away from Bernie'

It wouldn't be a Donald Trump rally if he didn't try to sow divisions among Democrats – and in Phoenix he did it using Bernie Sanders.

Trump again said the Democratic Party would work to block Sanders from winning the presidential nomination – an argument he also made in 2016 in an effort to keep Sanders voters away from the polls in support of Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic Party "is gonna take it away from Bernie again," Trump said at one point.

Trump and his aides have made no secret of the fact that they would like to face Sanders in the fall election.

Of course, during his rally in Phoenix, Trump said publicly it doesn't matter who the Democrats put up.

"We don't care who the hell it is," Trump said. "We're going to win."

– David Jackson

Trump suggests Arizona will be a fight in November  

One of the striking things about this rally is the fact it is taking place in Arizona – once a solidly Republican state that is now more competitive in presidential races.

Trump won Arizona by only 3.5 percentage points over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton four years ago, and members of the president's campaign team say the state could be just as close this November.

Republican presidential candidates have won Arizona in every election since 1952 with one exception (Bill Clinton took it in 1996).

Growth in the state's cities and among its Hispanic communities have tended to help the Democrats, and figure to do so again this year.

Trump himself signaled that he also thinks Arizona will be close, assuring supporters right at the start of his speech that this will not be his last visit to the state.

"We'll be back a lot," he said.

– David Jackson

Trump not a fan of Bloomberg debate performance

President Trump brought up the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, focusing in particular on former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was on the stage with his Democratic rivals for the first time. 

"I hear he's getting pounded tonight," Trump said of Bloomberg, deriding him as 'mini Mike."

– Caren Bohan

‘She thinks I’m a genius’

Trump repeated one of his often-told anecdotes about a man whose 401(k) has soared while he has been in office.

“My wife used to look at me like I'm a total loser,” Trump quoted the man as saying. “She loves me again. She thinks I'm a genius. She loves me again.”

Trump's stories: From the Chicago cop to the crying businessman, Trump’s anecdotes often change with each telling

Trump has told a similar tale many times, often changing the details. In some versions, Trump identifies the central character as a New York policeman. Other times the identity is less precise – a police officer (no city or state named) or a generic husband or wife. On Wednesday, he identified the man simply as “Henry.”

Other details of the story often change, including the growth rate in the character’s retirement savings. Depending on his audience, Trump has claimed the person’s 401(k) is up by 39, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 55, 60 and 72 percent.

– Michael Collins

Sound familiar?

Trump spend the first few minutes of his speech touching on some of his favorite topics on the campaign trail: Impeachment, jobs growth and the media, which claims just reports “negative, phony stuff. Russia, Russia, Russia.”

"We're winning like never before," he said. "We're winning, winning, winning."

--Michael Collins

The rally begins

Trump took the stage at 9:28 p.m. ET to the strains of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” He predicted he would defeat “the radical socialist Democrats” and win Arizona in a landslide in November. In 2016, he carried the state over Democrat Hillary Clinton by 3.5 percentage points.

--Michael Collins

Meanwhile in Las Vegas ...

As Trump's supporters waited for him to take the stage in Phoenix, Democrats in Las Vegas began their rally with fireworks. Several candidates went after billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is appearing on the Democratic debate stage for the first time.

Elizabeth Warren slammed Bloomberg, saying the country can't substitute one "arrogant billionaire" for another, while Bernie Sanders said the former New York mayor was not the candidate who could draw the turnout needed to defeat Trump. 

"I'm a New Yorker. I know how to take on an arrogant con man like Donald Trump," Bloomberg responded.

Live coverage: Democrats pile on Bloomberg at start of Democratic debate

– Caren Bohan

Trump arrives in Phoenix

Air Force One touched down at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport just as the sun was setting. He was greeted on the tarmac by a number of Arizona officials, including Gov. Doug Ducey.

Meanwhile, Phoenix police confirmed in a Twitter post that Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the site of the rally, has reached fully capacity. The venue holds 14,870 people. Countless people were still waiting in line outside the venue as the rally began.

Trump tweeted a video of what his campaign was the line to get inside the event.

"Wow!" he wrote.

–Michael Collins of USA Today and Bree Burkitt of The Arizona Republic

Trump announces new intel chief

Trump made a personnel announcement ahead of his rally, confirming media reports that he will name Richard Grenell as the acting director of national intelligence.

“Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Grenell, who currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Germany, will take over the intelligence position held by Joseph Maguire since the resignation last summer of Dan Coates, a former Republican senator from Indiana.

Grenell is a loyal and outspoken Trump supporter who lives in Palm Springs. He previously served as U.S. spokesman at the United Nations under President George W. Bush.

–Michael Collins

‘He needs to stay out of our wombs’

About two dozen protesters gathered in the "free speech area" roughly three hours before the start of Trump’s speech.

Phoenix resident Bonnie Oakes clutched a brightly-colored sign that read, “Now you’ve pissed off grandma! Hands off my Social Security.”

Oakes said she disagrees with practically everything Trump has done.

“I believe in climate warming, and we need to do something right away,” Oakes said. “He’s trying to take our social security and that’s not right. Women’s rights, too. He needs to stay out of our wombs and everything like that.”

The protesters were calm as rally attendees filed into the coliseum across the street.

One man clad in a red Trump T-shirt occasionally yelled to the protesters from across the street that served as the divider between the two groups. One protester asked the man to buy him a Trump hat. The man told the protester to buy it himself because he’s “tired of giving welfare out.”

–Chelsea Curtis, The Arizona Republic

Crowds descend on Coliseum before Trump rally

Hundreds of supporters President Donald Trump began lining up outside the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum ahead of the “Keep America Great” rally, with some seeking refuge from the sun under umbrellas. Residents from across the state traveled to Phoenix to catch a glimpse of the president.

Scottsdale resident Gregory Puckett told the Arizona Republic he viewed Trump as “the people’s president, not the government’s president.”

One supporter, 38-year-old Aleksandra Krzanowska, brandished a poster that read: “Yesterday I became a U.S. citizen and now I am proud to vote for Trump 2020.”

Wednesday’s rally marks Trump’s 10th visit to Arizona as a candidate or president. He's receiving a warmer welcome than in previous visits.

The president had repeatedly clashed with Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, who refused to embrace Trump and his rallies during the 2016 campaign. McCain and Flake both vocal critics of the president, with Flake delivering a broadside in a major Senate floor speech after announcing his retirement.

“An American president who cannot take criticism, who must constantly deflect and distort and distract, who must find someone else to blame, is charting a very dangerous path,” he said.

McCain died in 2018 and Flake’s criticism of Trump ended his political career.

– Katie Surma and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic

What to expect at tonight's rally

Trump carried Arizona by 3.5 percentage points in 2016 over Democrat Hillary Clinton, but political experts expect the presidential race to be tighter this year. His remarks in Phoenix are expected to focus on the economy, judicial nominees and his recent Senate acquittal on impeachment charges.

Supporters of President Donald Trump wait in line for the Keep America Great Rally at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on Feb. 19, 2020.

Trump tales: From the Chicago cop to the crying businessman, Trump’s anecdotes often change with each telling

Trump will be joined at the rally by Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who is expected to face a tough re-election battle against Democrat Mark Kelly. Kelly, a former astronaut, is the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who suffered a brain injury during an assassination attempt in 2011.

McSally and Kelly are competing to serve the remaining two years of the Senate seat held by the late John McCain, who died of a brain tumor in 2017. Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally to the seat pending a special election for the final two years of McCain’s term.

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H.

Trump’s rally in Phoenix comes amid a four-day swing through the West that will combine campaign stops with official White House events. Campaign rallies also are scheduled for Colorado Springs, Colo., on Thursday and Las Vegas on Friday.

Contributing: The Arizona Republic

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump rally: Phoenix campaign event coincides with Democratic debate