President Donald Trump on Tuesday turned his remarks to a decades-old military veterans group into a campaign rally, attacking political foes and longtime American allies — while essentially daring Democrats to continue calling for an immigration agency to be shut down.
Speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars conference in Missouri, the president described some Democratic incumbents and candidates who have called for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as constructing a political trap for themselves.
“When you hear some of the things they’re proposing, you can’t understand it,” Trump said, repeating his unsupported claims that “you would have millions of people pouring into our country” and that crime inevitably would rise. Immigration experts dispute both claims, as do Democratic lawmakers.
“I hope they keep it up because we’re going to have a lot of fun in four months,” Trump said with a wide smile before turning to his own expected re-election bid: “And we’re going to have a lot of fun in 2020 running against that.”
“ICE, oh ICE. Thank goodness for ICE,” Trump said, telling the friendly crowd the agency’s officers are going after MS-13 gang members and other undocumented migrants and “either throwing them the Hell in jail or throwing them out of our country.” For the federal officers, “it’s another day at the office,” he said.
Continuing his attack on Democrats, Trump went into full campaign mode even though his first stop in Kansas City was an official White House event — not one paid for by his campaign organization or the Republican National Committee.
“Democrats want to end ICE,” he said mocking Democrats and contending they believe the agency’s tactics are “too strong.”
“I think MS-13 is too strong, too,” he said. “They don’t understand anything but strength,” he added. (Notably, however, Trump once said and tweeted the same of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But they had a very friendly summit in June, with the U.S. president now often describing Kim warmly.)
The president also went after Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in her home state, calling her vote against the Republican tax law “unbelievable.”
“You figure that one out,” he said of her vote dismissively minutes after he called her Republican opponent to the stage and turned over the presidential podium to him.
Missouri state Attorney General Josh Hawley lavished the president with praise — as do many GOP candidates at such events — and told the audience Trump “needs reinforcements in Washington, D.C.,” apparently plugging his own candidacy.
“How about the leadership of President Donald Trump? What do you think?” Hawley said without bringing up his opponent. “When I think of President Trump, there’s one word that comes to mind: courage.” Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the McCaskill-Hawley race Toss-up.
But the president did not limit his attacks before the veterans group to just domestic foes. He also went after a foreign one: the European Union.
Trump claimed his threat to slap tariffs on European-made automobiles is what prompted senior European Commission officials to schedule meetings with him, which are slated for Wednesday at the White House.
“I said, ‘We’re going to tariff your cars.’ They said, ‘When can we show up? When can we be there? Would tomorrow be OK?”
He repeated his assessment of the EU, calling the group of countries among the “biggest abusers” of the United States on trade matters.
And in another example of how Trump’s official events increasingly resemble his campaign-style rallies, the Rolling Stones’ song “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” — a bedrock of his 2016 campaign — played after he wrapped his speech and made his way off the stage.
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