Trump lashes out during combative speech at campaign-style rally in Phoenix


(CBS) — In Phoenix, Arizona Tuesday night, President Trump insulted journalists, complained about Republican senators, defended his remarks concerning the rally in Charlottesville that left one dead and many wounded and strongly implied he would soon pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Mr. Trump started off by criticizing the press. “I’m really doing this to show you how … dishonest these people are,” Mr. Trump said toward the beginning of the speech, referring to the media.

The president spent roughly the first half of his rally defending his response to the violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. He called the media’s coverage of his initial statement unfair and began reading a transcription of his first statement verbatim.

“They don’t report it,” Mr. Trump said of the media as he began to read a transcript of his initial statement.

Tuesday evening’s rally was the first since Mr. Trump’s comments blaming “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville earlier this month. The remarks were heavily criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Trump referred to the “failing New York Times” and labeled The Washington Post as a “lobbying tool” for Amazon. He also had predictably harsh words for CNN, a network his White House has frequently feuded with.

“I really think they don’t like our country. I really believe that,” Mr. Trump said of the media.

And although he didn’t mention them by name, Mr. Trump also had harsh words for Arizona’s two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain. The president indicated his reluctance to mention McCain and Flake by name was due to pleas from White House staff.

McCain cast the vote that terminated the president’s long-promised plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and has since been subject to verbal attacks from Mr. Trump ever since. During Tuesday’s speech, Mr. Trump frequently complained that Obamacare had not been repealed due to “one vote.”

Flake, who is up for re-election in 2018, has been a vocal critic of the president. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump called him “your other senator who is weak on borders and weak on crime.”

Mr. Trump has tweeted in support of Flake’s competitor, Dr. Kelli Ward. He criticized Flake for being “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate,” earlier this month.

As expected, Mr. Trump also spent some time discussing immigration. “The most sacred duty of government is to protect the lives of its citizens,” Mr. Trump said as he promised to secure the United States borders, enforce immigration laws and promote “extreme vetting.”

He said that immigration places a “burden” on American citizens and reasserted the near future of his long-promised southern border wall.

“We are building a wall on the southern border,” Mr. Trump said, calling the effort “absolutely necessary.”

He then knocked “obstructionist” Democrats in Congress for “putting all of America’s safety at risk” by opposing funding for the wall along southern border.

Earlier Tuesday, the president visited Yuma, a city in Arizona that borders Mexico, to tour U.S. Customs and Border Protection border equipment and meet with immigration authorities there. The question of border wall funding is on both Mr. Trump and Congress’s agenda after the August recess.

While there was speculation that Mr. Trump may pardon former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio at the rally, he only hinted that this will probably happen in the near future.

“He’s going to be just fine,” Mr. Trump said. “I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy, okay? But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”

Arpaio was convicted of criminal charges last month and a federal judge found him guilty of disproportionately targeting Latinos through traffic patrols. He is currently awaiting sentencing.

The speech lasted more than an hour and drew thousands of Trump supporters as well as protesters. As the rally came to a close, police tried to disperse the protesterswith tear gas.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead had said on Monday that state resources will be on standby as a “backstop” in case Phoenix Police needed reinforcements.

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