PRESENTING himself as both vindicated and vindictive, a fired-up President Donald Trump turned the findings of the Russia investigation into a political weapon at a Michigan rally that was part victory lap, part 2020 campaign push.
Trump unleashed a fervent diatribe Thursday about the inquiry, which he deemed “the greatest hoax in the history of our country.” He warned that those behind the probe “would be held accountable,” aired his grievances about the “unfair” media coverage and seethed that the matter was an attempt “to tear up the fabric of our great democracy.”
“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is dead,” said Trump. “This was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory and to sabotage the will of the American people.”
The rollicking 82-minute speech unfolded before a boisterous crowd in a key state that Trump swiped from Democrats in 2016. It marked his first political event since Attorney General William Barr released a summary that said special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that his campaign “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government to influence the 2016 campaign.
With the cloud of the probe largely lifted, Trump is hoping to win re-election by keeping Michigan and several other Rust Belt states in his column.
“It’s going to be so much easier the second time: We’re one for one,” Trump boasted.
He basked in the adulation of his supporters at the Grand Rapids rally. The packed crowd, some of whom began to line up the night before, delivered a deafening roar for the president while unleashing its vitriol as he bashed the media and Democrats.
The president linked Mueller’s probe with the myriad investigations launched by House Democrats and tried to make the case that, after Mueller’s findings, further inquiries are partisan overreach.
“The Democrats now have to decide if they will continue to defraud the American public with this ridiculous bulls–t,” said Trump, who urged the opposing party to instead work with him on issues like infrastructure repair and drug pricing.
While Trump’s base has long been suspicious of Mueller, the president’s team believes independents and moderate Democrats who backed him in the last election but have since soured may return to the fold if convinced he was unfairly targeted.
Trump used the moment to heighten his attacks on the media, which many Trump supporters believe unjustly fanned the flames of the special counsel’s probe in an effort to bring down the president.