“We’re in a struggle for the survival of democracy in America,” he said.
The rawness flowed out against a backdrop of the House impeachment inquiry that stems from a July phone call Trump made to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in which he asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Although some within the government, including congressional Democrats, have decried the call as asking for foreign interference in a U.S. election, Trump has maintained that he did nothing wrong.
“The do-nothing Democrat extremists have gone so far to the left that they believe it should not be a crime to cross our border illegally and that it should be a crime to have a totally appropriate, casual, beautiful, accurate phone call with a foreign leader,” Trump said during the Thursday rally. “I don’t think so.”
He also repeated unfounded claims that the former vice president worked to nix a Ukrainian investigation into his son when Hunter Biden sat on the board of an energy corporation in the country. (Trump expressed frustration over the media’s reports that the claims have been debunked, saying during the rally: “It’s not unsubstantiated, you crooked son of a gun. It’s 100 percent true.”) The president’s team has often recited the claims to counter the accusations of fishing for foreign election assistance. Shortly before his father took the stage, Eric Trump led the audience in a chant of “Lock him up,” referring to Hunter Biden.
The president also lobbed personal insults against Joe Biden — a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — that were particularly vicious even for the raucous standards of Trump’s rallies.
Biden “was never considered smart,” the president said. “He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.” The line received riotous applause from the thousands in attendance at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
He also went after Pelosi, whom he called “either really stupid, or she’s really lost it, or there’s a certain dishonesty in there in some way.”
Polls have recently shown increased public approval for the impeachment inquiry, including a Fox News national poll that showed 51 percent of voters supporting Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. During the rally, he denounced the surveys as “crooked” and the media as “so bad for our country.”
At times, Trump seemed more fed up than riled up in his rhetoric. He railed against the constant scrutiny his administration has been under since taking office. He went after former special counsel Robert Mueller for disrupting his administration by investigating him and his circle over several months. He accused the media of unfairly targeting his people while working in tandem with Democrats.
“They took people that were full of life and energy and vigor — we’d just one the greatest campaign in the history of American politics, it’s true — and they destroyed their lives!” Trump said of the numerous investigations into his administration and campaign.
“They destroyed people, good people, people that ended up paying far more money in legal fees than they made,” he continued. “And the media was behind every single step.”
Trump, who had met with Chinese representatives earlier Thursday to continue ongoing trade negotiations, went so far as to say that “the U.S.A. is the toughest nation to deal with, because we’re dealing with some very sick and deranged people.”
The president also went back deep into the early days of the federal investigations into the 2016 election. He invoked former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who had a romantic relationship, with a mocking dialogue: “‘Oh, I love you so much. I love you, Peter!’ ‘I love you too, Lisa! Lisa, I love you. Lisa, Lisa! Oh God, I love you, Lisa.’”
Even before he took the stage, Trump’s appearance in Minneapolis was bound to be a fiery confrontation. In the lead-up to the rally, he had gotten into a feud with the city’s Democratic mayor, Jacob Frey, who has been a vocal critic of the president. Minneapolis is also represented by Rep. Ilhan Omar, a freshman Democratic congresswoman who has become one of Trump’s favorite punching bags.
Both Frey and Omar got their shout-outs during the rally, with Trump deriding the mayor as “rotten” and the Somali-born lawmaker as an “America-hating socialist.”
Trump also bragged about dramatically decreasing the number of refugees admitted to the country, sparking thunderous applause. He pointed out that Minneapolis has a large population of Somali refugees and vowed to place refugees only in communities that explicitly express interest in accepting them.
The comment carried a double meaning — Omar came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia.
Trump’s presence in Minnesota also reflecting his campaign’s increased focus on the state compared with the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. Though Trump lost the deep-blue state that year, Republicans have been pouring resources into Minnesota and his campaign has noted that his loss was by a historically narrow margin.
Trump expressed that optimism at the top of the rally, bellowing to the crowd: “We are going to win this state.”
“We are going to win the great state of Minnesota in 2020.”