White House

At Michigan rally, Trump accuses Dems of ‘poisoning’ country with Mueller probe

President claims ‘total exoneration’ even though special counsel saw signs of obstruction of justice

Supporters wave caps as they listen as President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on April 28, 2018 in Michigan. He was back in the state for another rally on Thursday night. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump wasted no time at his second re-election rally taking a victory lap in the wake of Attorney General William P. Barr revealing a lengthy Justice Department did not find a criminal-level conspiracy between his 2016 campaign and Russians.

The president lashed out at congressional Democrats, saying they “have now got big problems” because, after accusing him and his associates of colluding with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton, they have broken their “trust” with the American people with a “sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory.” He accused Democrats of “poisoning” American democracy because “they refuse to accept the results of one of the greatest presidential elections — probably, No 1. — in our history.”

“This has been an incredible couple of weeks for America,” Trump said to cheers inside a Michigan arena.

“And after three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over,” he said. “The special counsel completed its report and found no collusion and no obstruction. I could have told you that two and a half years ago. Total exoneration. Complete vindication.”

Only it’s not that easy.

[Does Trump understand how the federal budget process works?]

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III Mueller found no criminal collusion with Russia in 2016 — but he also opted against exonerating him on obstruction of justice. According to Barr, the special counsel said there are arguments on both sides of the obstruction argument, and Democrats want to see Mueller's full report — or something very close.

The president again attacked House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, calling him a “pencil neck” and accusing him of lying for two years about his claims of evidence of collusion. He also lashed out at another congressional Democrat who is investigating him: House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, whom he noted he has been “fighting” for years give his Empire State roots. 

“These people are sick,” he said of the two Democrats and others in their party. “Sick. Every single deal, every single paper. All of the Democrat politicians, the media bosses — bad people.”

The crowd booed.

“It’s interesting, 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. “The crazy attempt by the Democratic Party and the fake news media … and the deep state to overturn the results of the 2016 election have failed. The greatest election we’ve had … maybe right from the beginning.”The crowd responded by roaring a “Trump! Trump! Trump!” chant.

Surrounded by supporters in the Van Andel Arena, the president appeared in high spirits — and in a fighting mood — just four days removed from one of the biggest wins of his tenure after Barr on Sunday afternoon sent Congress his summary of Mueller’s report. 

When the president stepped onstage in Grand Rapids as singer Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” played in the arena, Trump kicked off his second rally of the 2020 cycle as he ramps up his re-election effort.

[Trump veers off post-Mueller ‘no collusion’ victory message as conservatives worry]

Much has changed since his first one, on Feb. 11 in El Paso, Texas. The “streetfighter” — as former chief strategist Steve Bannon calls Trump — has new lines of attack and applause to employ against congressional Democrats and that party’s ever-growing roster of 2020 hopefuls.

Polls show Trump has a lot of ground to make up there after his stunning win in the state in 2016, when he bested Hillary Clinton by less than half a percentage point.

The current RealClearPolitics polling average, based on two recent Michigan surveys, shows Trump trailing several potential Democratic opponents — one by double digits.

In a hypothetical general election race against former Vice President Joe Biden, the RCP average put Trump behind in Michigan by 10.5 points. He also trailed Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont by 8 points, Kamala Harris of California by 3.5 points and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts by 2.5 points.

“Winning Michigan is key for Trump to win a second term,” Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said. “Ohio is trending GOP, so the Buckeye State will be easier for Trump to win. The Democratic gubernatorial win last year in Michigan and the GOP victory in the Ohio gubernatorial in 2018 tell the tale.”

Watch: The back and forth on why Mueller’s report hasn’t been released yet

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