MINNEAPOLIS — President Donald Trump ripped into Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter at a rally here Thursday night, saying Biden was only a good vice president because he “understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”
In his first campaign event since House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry, Trump mocked Biden and his son at length, accusing them of being corrupt. Earlier, Trump’s son Eric warmed up the supporters with an attack on the former VP and the crowd broke into a chant of “Lock him up!” at the mention of Hunter Biden.
“I’d love to run against (Biden) to be honest,” Trump said. “If you can’t beat him in a debate, you’ve got a big problem, folks.” In a largely off-script diatribe that strayed from his recent rally talking points Trump railed against his favorite foils, from the FBI to the media. He laid into Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents the district Trump campaigned in, repeating Internet conspiracy theories about her.
“How do you have such a person representing you in Minnesota? I’m very angry at you people right now,” Trump said. He went on to call Omar “a disgrace to our country, and she is one of the big reasons why I’m going to win.”
It has been a tumultuous week for Trump, beginning with even his closest allies in Congress excoriating his decision to pull back U.S. troops in Syria. A series of polls in recent days also have shown a growing number of Americans backing the impeachment inquiry.
Thursday brought its own new twist, with two associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani being charged with campaign finance violations over donations they made to the Trump campaign-endorsed super PAC America First Action.
During past moments of pressure in Trump’s presidency, White House aides have emphasized the importance of the “Make America Great Again: rallies around the country in improving the president’s emotional state, saying the events energize and motivate him.
But Trump didn’t travel to the friendliest of venues. Minnesota is a solidly Democratic city in a state Hillary Clinton won by 1.5 percentage points. Nearly two dozen groups planned protests, according to local news reports, and a giant baby Trump balloon was inflated across the street from where Trump spoke.
In the days leading up to the event, Trump and his campaign got into a feud with the Minneapolis mayor over who would cover the public safety costs for the event. The campaign threatened to sue the city for demanding a more than $500,000 safety fee for the event and indicated the mega-rally might need to be rescheduled. Eventually, the matter was resolved, but it’s unclear who will ultimately foot the bill.
Still, Trump’s campaign is hopeful it can flip Minnesota. The campaign didn’t invest substantial resources in Minnesota and he barely campaigned here in 2016, but there’s a concerted effort to change that this time around, even though the state hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since Richard Nixon.
Aides said the re-election effort already has two dozen paid staffers here and is planning to spend millions on the Minnesota get out the vote effort after only spending $30,000 in 2016. Trump often wistfully talks about winning the state, arguing “one more speech” could have made all the difference.
This stop — Trump’s fourth visit to the state in 16 months — continues a recent trend for the campaign, flush with cash, of holding events in places they lost in 2016 that they hope to expand the map on next year.Shannon Pettypiece