Politics

Trump Defends Holding Rally During Hurricane Michael

President appears to make 2020 re-election announcement on ‘Fox & Friends’

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, his second rally of the week after one in Iowa on Tuesday. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump pledged a speedy federal response to Hurricane Michael, which left a wake of devastation it tore through northern Florida on Wednesday.

“We’re going to make it go fast,” he told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning.

Trump defended his decision to go ahead with a campaign rally in Pennsylvania Wednesday evening as the storm was tearing through the Southeast.

He said only the “natural haters” criticized him for stumping for GOP candidates — and his own 2020 re-election — as Americans were in Michael’s path.

Watch: Midterm Races Tightening After Trump Defends Kavanaugh and Unleashes on Campaign Trail

“It’s a great thing that’s happening, it’s a great movement [in] our country,” he said of his presidency and supporters. “We’re talking about thousands of people.”

Trump contended that Republican Senate candidates in several races experts have predicted would go to Democrats are shifting toward the GOP, saying his party will do better in the election than forecasters believe.

The president also appeared to announce his re-election bid in the interview.

“Yes, I am,” he said when asked if he intends to make a second White House bid.

Trump claimed there were “20,000 to 25,000 people watching outside” the site of Wednesday’s rally in Erie and 12,000 inside. Pool reporters who were in Trump’s motorcade did not report seeing a crowd that large outside the venue, however.

Ahead of a meeting Thursday with rapper Kanye West and former NFL star Jim Brown on criminal justice reform, Trump expressed a desire to install tougher penalty for things like “drug dealing.” He did not get specific.

“He’s not asking for anything for himself. He’s a private guy and he wants to help people,” Trump said of West.

Trump was asked about reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former conservative GOP senator, is trying to block efforts to overhaul prison policies. If Sessions tries, “he gets overruled by me,” Trump said, again highlighting tensions between president and AG.

The Fox show played a clip of former Attorney General Eric Holder telling an audience that Democrats should “kick” Republicans “when they go low.” Trump replied: “He better be careful what he’s wishing for,” and added: “Holder, he’s got some problems.”

Trump said he doubts Holder could make it out of a Democratic primary.

The president did not deny that he is considering firing Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after November’s midterm elections. He did tout his relationship with Rosenstein, whom he met with Monday for a half hour on Air Force One.

In a remarkable statement, Trump suggested he might award House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes the Medal of Freedom. The California Republican has defended the president over alleged Russia election meddling and allegations his 2016 campaign coordinated with Russians.

In the wide-ranging interview, a fired-up Trump said the New York Times staff likely wrote an anonymous op-ed last month purportedly written by a senior staffer that was highly critical of his fitness for office and described an internal government resistance to his policies.

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