MINNEAPOLIS — At his first campaign rally since House Democrats initiated an impeachment inquiry targeting him, a defiant President Trump blasted the opposition party’s investigations at a campaign rally before an arena of boisterous supporters who, like Trump, likened the congressional oversight efforts to a “coup.”
“From day one, the wretched Washington swamp has been trying to nullify the results of a truly great and democratic election, the election of 2016,” Trump said. “They want to erase your vote like it never existed. They want to erase your voice and they want to erase your future, but they will fail.”
The event at the Target Center drew large crowds of protesters who clashed with police and some of the Trump supporters.
The impeachment inquiry is based on a July 25 phone call the president had with Ukraine’s newly elected leader during which he asked the government in Kiev to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the inquiry in September following news of a whistleblower complaint about the call and evidence that Trump had withheld a $400 million aid package to Ukraine. Biden is currently a frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary.
Trump repeatedly mocked the former vice president and his son during his speech, while insisting that his call to have the Bidens investigated stems from his desire to root out corruption. He argued the media is dismissing legitimate concerns about the fact that Hunter Biden had a highly paid position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father played a leading role guiding U.S. policy in that country. Hunter Biden also holds a stake in a Chinese-American investment fund, and Trump said he hoped the media would find him and ask him about his foreign business ties.
“By the way, whatever happened to Hunter. Where the hell is he? Where’s Hunter?” Trump asked, adding, “Hunter, he’s not too smart. ... Where is Hunter? ... Hunter, you’re a loser!”
Trump also mocked the man who could well be his opponent in the 2020 presidential race.
“Your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass,” Trump said of Biden.
Trump was joined at the event by his son Eric, who offered introductory remarks that also included harsh words for the Bidens.
“How do you think Joe Biden and his ... how do you think his son’s feeling right now?” Eric asked. “Right after ... getting a lot of money, the crookedness, he’s not looking too good.”
He then encouraged the crowd to do a “Lock him up!” chant aimed at Biden. Eric is currently helping to run his father’s real estate company, which has its own foreign business dealings.
Along with bashing Biden, Trump repeatedly argued that his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect.” He referred to two of the Democrats playing leading roles in the impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as “sick.”
“The do-nothing Democrat extremists have gone so far left that they believe it should not be a crime to cross our border illegally and it should be a crime to have a totally appropriate, casual, beautiful, accurate phone call with a foreign leader,” Trump said.
Trump also brought up special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He suggested the fact that some elements of that investigation, which examined whether the Trump campaign cooperated with the Russian efforts, began prior to his taking office showed there are forces in Washington that are set on seeing him out of power.
“They know they can’t win the 2020 election, so they’re pursuing the insane impeachment witch hunt,” Trump said. “I’ve been going through it now for more time than I’ve been in office.”
Mueller’s probe did not find evidence the Trump campaign cooperated with Russia’s election meddling. However, Mueller’s investigation led to charges against multiple officials in Trump’s campaign for lying about their contacts with people linked to Russia and financial misconduct. At his rally, Trump said Mueller had persecuted his associates.
“They target your friends, your family, your staff for harassment, for abuse, for destruction,” Trump said. “They took people that were full of life, and energy, and vigor ... and they destroyed their lives.”
At one point in his speech, which lasted over an hour and a half, Trump turned his ire on local Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., calling her “an America-hating socialist.”
“She minimized the Sept. 11 attack on our homeland where far more than 3,000 people died,” Trump said of Omar.
Just under 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Omar has faced criticism for comments she made about the profiling of Muslims in America following the attacks because “some people did something.”
Omar is an immigrant from Somalia, and Trump suggested Minnesota’s Somali refugee population had a negative impact on the state.
“For many years leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers,” Trump said. “I promise you that, as president, I will give local communities a greater say in refugee policy and put in place enhanced vetting and responsible immigration controls.”
Trump said he’d made good on this pledge and “reduced refugee resettlement by 85 percent” since taking office.
Along with the demonstrations outside the event, multiple protesters made it inside the arena and attempted to disrupt the proceedings. They were escorted out by security. The vast majority of the crowd was supportive of Trump and shared the president’s view that the impeachment inquiry is unjust and undemocratic.
Andy Johnson, a tea party activist who was wearing a necklace with a large shark tooth, said he saw “nothing problematic at all” in Trump’s interactions with Ukraine. Johnson also predicted it would ultimately benefit Trump by keeping his “name in the news” during next year’s election.
“In my mind, he trapped the Democrat Party to focus on impeachment while the election goes by,” Johnson said.
Another Trump supporter named Deron described the impeachment inquiry as part of a plot.
“It is a complete coup, and it’s at the highest levels of intelligence agencies, and also their machine over there at Communist News Network ... and also the Democratic Party,” Deron said.
The crowd also included some fringe elements. One man had a visible neo-Nazi tattoo. He declined to speak to Yahoo News. Trump supporters named Travis and Jessica wore hats that said WWG1WGA, short for “Where we go one we go all,” a slogan popular among followers of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory. They also had Q-themed shirts.
The QAnon movement is based on the anonymous internet postings on the 4chan message board that followers believe come from a high-level government informant. The posts claim Trump is secretly working to fight elements of the political establishment that have been involved in pedophile rings and attempts to subjugate the American people. Travis suggested Trump is facing impeachment because “he got close to the target.” Both Travis and Jessica said they were confident Trump will survive the fight.
“Because God wins,” Travis said.
“God wins, and he’s following God’s plan,” Jessica said of Trump.
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