ANALYSIS — President Donald Trump went to Ohio to deliver an economic message. Instead, as always, a political rally broke out — this time, in front of military tanks.
He already was in quite a mood Wednesday afternoon as he approached reporters awaiting his departure on the White House’s South Lawn, declaring that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report is being written “out of the blue.”
“I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country — and even you will admit that — and now I have somebody writing a report that never got a vote,” Trump said before boarding Marine One in Washington. “So explain that, because my voters don’t get it and I don’t get it. … But it’s sort of interesting that a man, out of the blue, just writes a report.” (The notion that Mueller’s report is a surprise is yet another false statement by Trump.)
After a quick flight and motorcade ride to Lima Army Tank Plant, the president had plenty more to say, attacking the late Republican Sen. John McCain from Arizona and again declaring that the Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate will be gone by Wednesday night. (He has previously said it was already eliminated)
Watch — Trump: McCain got the funeral he wanted, and I ‘didn't get a thank you’
Here are a collection of the most eyebrow-raising quotes from the president as he addressed plant workers in front of several tanks:
“Well, you better love me. I kept this place open.”
Trump was referring to the Army’s response to shrinking defense budgets under the Obama administration. The service slowed the production level at the Lima plant to one tank per month, according to defense analyst and consultant Loren Thompson.
“McCain didn’t get the job done for our great vets and the VA — and they knew it. … A lot of people like him, and I think that’s great.”
Though Trump said in Lima he hopes this is the end of his feud with a man who died seven months ago, he brought up the late Senate Armed Services chairman unprompted. His conservative base was often frustrated by McCain’s efforts to cross the aisle. Trump knows that. The feud likely will continue.
“I gave him (McCain) the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve. And I didn’t get a thank you. But that’s OK.”
“It’s going to be easy on the debate stage this time when they hit me with nonsense.”
The president suggested his eventual 2020 Democratic opponent will lose every debate. But the emerging Democratic field of candidates doesn’t think so. One of them, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke thinks he can win his home state. Winning the Lone Star State, which has long been a GOP stronghold, likely would mean the Democratic nominee at least battled Trump to a draw in most of the coming debates.
“A man I will never wrestle. … I said were you better than Dan Gable. He said no. See, if it was me, I’d say I was much better.”
The president was referring to House Freedom Caucus chairman and Oversight and Reform ranking member Jim Jordan, who was in attendance. The Ohio Republican is one of Trump’s closest allies on the Hill, and always gets a shoutout when he’s at a Trump rally or official event.
“I want to get in them. But then I remembered a man named Dukakis got into a tank. … He tanked when he got into the tank. ... The helmet was bigger than he was — that was not good.”
Trump used the tanks around the stage to take a jab at former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the Democratic Party’s 1988 presidential nominee. Dukakis, of course, once rode in a tank to bolster his lacking national security credentials. His Republican opponent, Vice President George H.W. Bush pounced on that gaffe — and many others — to become the 41st commander in chief.
Also watch — Trump: ‘I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be’