President Trump holds rally in Florida

By Veronica Rocha and Brian Ries, CNN
9:27 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018
9:27 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018

Our live coverage has ended. Scroll through the posts below to read more about Trump's Florida rally.

9:25 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018

4 key takeaways from Trump's Florida rally

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida, on July 31, 2018.

President Trump just wrapped up his rally in Tampa, Florida, where he campaigned for Rep. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis is running for governor.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • On voter IDs: Trump, telling his supporters why he wanted Americans to be required to show identification before casting their votes, claimed that they needed their IDs "to buy groceries."
  • On bringing back "Merry Christmas": Trump repeated a familiar refrain on Tuesday, saying that his campaign is responsible for department stores bringing back “Merry Christmas” signage.
  • On tariffs and American farmers: He responded to Chinese tariffs and other trade measures targeted at American farmers, calling the tactics “not good” and “not nice.” He said, “Our farmers are true patriots. And you know what our farmers are saying? It’s okay, we can take it — these are incredible people.”
  • On the US embassy in Jerusalem: Trump once again claimed that he had saved the US taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars by intervening to prevent a $1 billion project to build a new US embassy in Jerusalem. The current US embassy in Jerusalem was opened out of an existing US consular building in Jerusalem, and retrofitted for a cost the State Department has said would cost as much as $400,000. But that was just an initial cost. The US government is already planning to spend at least $21 million for a second phase of renovations.

9:01 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018

Meghan McCain: Trump's remarks on her father's healthcare vote are "gross and pathetic"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Donald Trump again obliquely referred to Sen. John McCain’s healthcare vote during his campaign rally in Tampa this evening, saying that one person changed their mind “at two o’clock in the morning” and voted no.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, took to Twitter to respond to Trump’s comments:

Meghan McCain quoted a tweet by CNN's Manu Raju, who noted that although Trump claimed the Senate was one vote away, in reality, the vote was only to go to conference with the House on the Senate’s “skinny repeal.”

After Trump made similar remarks without naming McCain at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Meghan McCain called the comments “particularly hurtful” and said that she had a phone call with Trump about her father’s cancer diagnosis and Trump assured her he wouldn’t disparage her father again.

At the time, she said:

"I had a really nice conversation with him and Melania and I really was under the impression this sort of fight between our families and between him and my father, especially at this particular moment would end. I understand the argument is he's talking about policy, and that's the attack, but it's still particularly hurtful, especially after I've had this conversation with him on the phone, to have this moment of booing at CPAC ... at this particular moment in time is incredibly hurtful and I feel, quite frankly, very naïve to have believed that this would be any different."

But Trump has since kept up his attacks on McCain’s healthcare vote, repeating this claim — without naming the Arizona Senator — at multiple campaign rallies over the past months.

8:31 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018

Trump continues to mislead about cost of new US embassy in Jerusalem

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

President Trump once again claimed that he had saved the US taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars by intervening to prevent a $1 billion project to build a new US embassy in Jerusalem.

"We saved almost a billion dollars," Trump said.

Instead, Trump has said he succeeded in opening a new US embassy for anywhere from $140,000 to $250,000 to $400,000 -- on Tuesday, he offered both the first and third figure.

The truth: The current US embassy in Jerusalem was opened out of an existing US consular building in Jerusalem, and retrofitted for a cost the State Department has said would cost as much as $400,000.

But that was just an initial cost for security upgrades and a US embassy plaque to convert the building ahead of its ceremonial inauguration in May.

The US government is already planning to spend at least $21 million for a second phase of renovations that includes building an addition to the old consular building to accommodate embassy staff.

It is still possible there could be additional modifications and additions to the embassy that will cost the US taxpayer even more money. And US officials have still not ruled out the possibility of ultimately moving the US embassy to an entirely different site where a new embassy would be built.

8:27 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018

Trump says MS-13 is "occupying our country." But the FBI says the gang isn't as prevalent.

President Trump repeated a claim tonight that gangs like MS-13 are "occupying our country" and added that Democrats want the gang to rule the US.

"Their new platform, what they want to do, the Democrat party, they want to abolish ICE," he said. "In other words, they want to let MS-13 rule our country. That's not going to happen. Every day the brave men and women of ICE are liberating communities and towns from savage gangs like MS-13 that are occupying our country like another nation would. We want maximum border security and respect for our heroes ice, border patrol, and law enforcement."

The President frequently talks about the need to crackdown on the MS-13 gang. The topic often comes up when Trump speaks about undocumented migrants, and he sometimes cites the gang as a reason to strengthen US immigration laws.

Here's what we know about the gang: The MS-13 gang was founded in Los Angeles decades ago by Salvadoran immigrants fleeing their country’s civil war. It is one of the largest criminal organizations in the US, with more than 6,000 members in at least 46 states and the District of Columbia, the US Attorney’s Office said. In 2012, MS-13 became the first, and remains the only street gang designated by the United States government as a “transnational criminal organization.”

But, while brutal, their crimes aren’t especially prevalent throughout the US. MS-13 remains a small fraction of the overall gang problem in the US, according to FBI statistics. Victims tend to be members of the immigrant community, rival gang members or individuals who spurned the gang.

And some of the Trump administration’s immigration policies may actually be helping MS-13. In 2017, experts warned the administration that ending US protections for more than 300,000 Central Americans could strengthen gangs like MS-13, since the lack of legitimate employment options could push some migrants into gangs. (The administration went on to end the protections for citizens of El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua regardless.)

MS-13 members themselves say Trump’s immigration crackdown makes stronger, because witnesses are more reluctant to come forward for fear of being deported.

8:12 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018

Trump says he'd only been to Washington 17 times before becoming president

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Trump reflected on becoming president Tuesday evening, telling the Florida audience that he had only been to Washington about “17 times” before he took office.

“I don’t think I ever stayed overnight,” he said of his time in Washington, adding that “probably seven of those times” were to check out his Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave.

“And then I’m riding down in this beautiful car, picked up by the Secret Service, holding the hand of our great first lady,” he said to applause.

“And I look at her and I say, ‘Honey, guess what, I’m President of the United States, President of the United States.’”

He continued, “And I didn’t know anybody in Washington, but now I know everybody in Washington, I know the good ones I know the bad ones, I know the wonderful people and I know the scum. And America now is winning again like they haven’t won before.”

Trump also noted that his cabinet has been through a “couple of little changes” but now is “great,” name-checking Mike Pompeo and “so many great people.”

8:10 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018

Watch Trump walk around stage to demonstrate presidential behavior

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Donald Trump riffed on acting presidential and Abe Lincoln during a campaign rally in Tampa Tuesday evening.

He said he had liked to “be a little wild, have a little fun” during rallies, adding that it is “a lot easier to act presidential than do what I do.”

“Anybody can act presidential,” he said, appearing to mockingly demonstrate presidential behavior with a funny walk around the stage.

He deadpanned, “Ladies and gentlemen of the state of Florida, thank you very much for being here. You are tremendous people and I will leave now because I am boring you to death, thank you.” 

“Abe looked pretty presidential, right?” Trump said.

“I admit it, Abe Lincoln is tough, but we love Abe Lincoln.”

This isn't the first time Trump has mentioned Lincoln.

In an interview with The Sun earlier this month, he said he is the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party and that he was, "[b]eating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe."

He was referring to a poll that was out showing him as "the most popular Republican in history of the Party" with a 90% approval rating among Republicans, but in fact he only beats Gerald Ford in recent history. Not only is he not the most popular Republican in history, but there's no way to say that for certain -- especially regarding Lincoln -- since there is no polling to consult from 1860.

8:04 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018

Trump says Americans need ID to buy groceries while making case for voter ID

President Trump, telling his supporters why he wanted Americans to be required to show identification before casting their votes, claimed that they needed their I.Ds "to buy groceries."

He did not elaborate. Here's what he said:

We believe that only American citizens should vote in American elections. Which is why the time has come for voter I.D., like everything else. Voter I.D. If you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need I.D. You go out and you want to buy anything, you need I.D. And you need your picture.
9:06 p.m. ET, July 31, 2018

Trump: Merry Christmas is back "only because of our campaign"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Donald Trump, speaking nearly two years after he won the election and in the dead heat of summer, repeated a familiar refrain on Tuesday, saying that his campaign is responsible for department stores bringing back “Merry Christmas” signage.

“That was under siege,” he said, echoing his remarks throughout the 2016 campaign that department stores needed to stop political correctness at the holidays and say Merry Christmas again.

The use of “Merry Christmas” has come back, he said, and “only because of our campaign."