WASHINGTON — “The Russian hoax is finally dead,” President Donald Trump proclaimed at his first rally since special counsel Robert Mueller handed in his report on the Russian probe Sunday.
Trump spoke to a full house of boisterous fans Thursday night in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He didn’t hesitate to address the 22-month probe.
“Robert Mueller was a God to the Democrats until he said there was no collusion. They don’t like him so much right now,” Trump said.
In remarks that lasted some 80 minutes, Trump returned to the city in which he gave his last stump speech in the 2016 election to roll out themes likely to be front and center during his 2020 re-election campaign. At the event three years ago, Trump pledged to “bring back your auto manufacturing business like you have never seen before.”
According to the Department of Labor, the number of auto jobs has increased by 51,000, or 5 percent, over the past two years.
Perhaps his greatest selling point concerned the bond between him and the voters who line up for hours for a chance to watch him take on his list of enemies, such favorite love-to-hate targets as “the swamp” and “the elite” and to toss out the occasional profanity.
“You were with me. I won’t forget it,” Trump told the room, as he pledged to never take them for granted. The arena erupted at times with chants of “Build the wall,” “Trump Trump Trump” and “USA USA USA.”
The Republican nominee won the state and its 16 electoral votes by 11,000 ballots.
Trump came bearing gifts. The president announced that he supported spending $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. His latest budget proposal cuts funding for that project to $30 million, but that budget is not expected to make it through Congress.
Trump doubled down on his administration’s move to support a federal judge’s ruling that President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. While GOP leaders tried to steer the White House away from that position, Trump maintained, “The Republican Party will become the party of great health care.”
After the rally, Trump boarded Air Force One, which landed in West Palm Beach, Florida.