President Donald Trump criticized Democrats and the media and touted what he described as his accomplishments in office during a campaign-style rally in Michigan on Saturday.
The President kicked off the event, which took place as journalists gathered in Washington, DC, for the White House correspondents’ dinner, by taking a shot at the annual event, which he skipped for the second year in a row.
“You may have heard I was invited to another event tonight – the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” Trump said, “but I’d much rather be in Washington, Michigan, than in Washington, DC right now. That I can tell you.”
Over the course of the more than hour-long rally, the President attacked Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who are running for re-election this year. He talked up his domestic agenda and laid out a potential timeline for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying, “we’ll have a meeting over the next three or four weeks.”
Trump goes after Democrats, the media and James Comey
Trump called on the crowd to “elect more Republicans so we can protect our cities, defend our borders, grow our economy, and continue to make America great again.”
And he made a plea to his supporters to vote Democrats out of office, saying “the Democrats don’t care about our military. They don’t, and they don’t care about our borders, and I don’t think they care much about crime. … Nancy Pelosi and her gang, they’ve got to be voted out of office.”
Trump went on to say Stabenow “wants people to flow into the country. And you people just keep putting her back again, and again, and again. It’s your fault. So you gotta get to the poll.”
Trump took on Tester for raising concerns about the President’s former nominee for secretary of veterans affairs, White House physician Ronny Jackson, who faced a series of allegations, including that he was “abusive” to his colleagues, loosely handled prescription drugs and was periodically intoxicated. Jackson, who took his name out of the running for the position on Thursday, has denied the allegations.
“Well, I know things about Tester that I could say, too,” Trump told the crowd, “and if I said them, he’d never be elected again.”
Earlier on Saturday, Trump called for Tester to resign for raising concerns about the allegations, saying the accusations “are proving false” and referring to them as “phony Democrat charges.”
Later, Trump also launched into a diatribe against allegations that his campaign might have colluded with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 election, insisting that he is tough on Russia and that “the only collusion is the Democrats colluded with the Russians.” He went on to attack former FBI Director James Comey, telling the crowd to “watch the way he lies, it’s the most incredible thing,” and also the media, suggesting that many journalists are “very, very dishonest people.”
Trump makes promises, talks up time in office
Trump made promises to the Michigan crowd too that echoed his 2016 presidential campaign.
He said that he is in the process of “straightening out” what he referred to as “disastrous trade deals.”
While Trump warned that in the pursuit of better trade deals, there might be some “problems” in the “short term,” he vowed that in the “long term you’re going to be so happy, we’re going to get it opened up, or we’re not doing business with these other countries.”
Trump also told the crowd that he was working to revive the auto industry in the state.
“The cars are coming back to Michigan, the plants are coming back, they’re being expanded,” he said to cheers and applause.
The President floated the possibility of a government shutdown in the fall over funding for border security.
“We need security. We need the wall,” he said, adding, “We come up again on September 28th, and if we don’t get border security, we’ll have no choice. We’ll close down the country because we need border security.”
Last month, Trump signed a $1.3 trillion spending package that will keep the government funded through the end of September.
In his speech, the President touched on counterterrorism efforts, saying the US has “really wiped out ISIS,” and praised the armed forces, saying, “there’s no military like we have.”
Trump also used the rally as an opportunity to reflect on his time in the White House so far.
“Nobody in the first year of office has done what we’ve done,” he said. “Regulations, tax cuts, judges, you look at what we’ve done, nobody has done what we’ve done. … After years of rebuilding other countries, we’re finally going to rebuild our country. It’s about time.”
Skipping correspondents’ dinner
At the rally in Washington Township, which served as counter-programming to the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner taking place in Washington, DC, trump took a page out of a playbook he followed last year. In April 2017, Trump held a rally in Pennsylvania instead of attending the dinner.
But while skipping the dinner may be something of a tradition for the current President, that wasn’t always the case for past administrations. The last president to miss the dinner was Ronald Reagan. Reagan did not attend in 1981 because he was recovering from an assassination attempt, but he still delivered remarks via phone.
Trump, however, has had a notably contentious relationship with the media. The President routinely argues that he receives unfair media coverage and denounces “fake news.” He has even labeled the media the “enemy of the American people.”
Earlier this month, the White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the White House press corps, put out a statement saying that the White House had informed the association that the President would not be attending the dinner in 2018.
The statement said, however, that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will attend the event to represent the administration and that the President “will actively encourage members of the executive branch to attend and join us as we celebrate the First Amendment.
During Trump’s rally last year, the President mocked the correspondents’ dinner taking place back in Washington.
“A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now,” he said at the time. “They are gathered together for the White House Correspondents’ dinner – without the President. And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp, spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people.”
Trump won both Michigan and Pennsylvania in the 2016 presidential election.