Less than 24 hours after his primetime chest-thumping Afghanistan speech, Donald Trump took the podium at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Arizona amidst his avid supporters and at a safe distance from protestors. In hopes to change the tide after a very rocky week that included his criticized reaction to the events at Charlottesville, Trump gave an uneventful rehash of his usual talking points about immigration control, his Wall, Clinton callbacks, North Korea, “draining the swamp” and getting rid of Obamacare, but his rally leaned heavily on the crooked media as well as a quick take on Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Bragging about his much-disparaged Charlottesville comments, Trump in Phoenix recounted those comments without mention the blame-“on-all-sides” qualifier that prompted much of the public outrage.
A topic that has been front and center for Trump is the pardoning of Arpaio. The Maricopa County sheriff in July was found guilty of criminal contempt after a years-long legal saga over his discriminatory policing tactics. A federal judge found that Arpaio had ignored a court order to stop racially profiling Latinos. Arpaio was ousted in the November elections after 23 years in office, and faces a potential six months in jail.
Trump had said last week on Fox News Channel, in regards to a pardon for Arpaio, “I might do it right away,” and “I am seriously thinking about it.” He called Arpaio a “great American patriot” who “doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”
Many thought it may be announced at the rally, but according to Reuters, Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump on Air Force One today, “There will be no discussion of that today at any point and no action will be taken on that front at any point today.”
In his own Trumpian way, he kept true to Sanders words, but reiterated that the pardon is going to happen, “I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s gonna be just fine, all right? But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. Is that alright?”
Amidst “U.S.A.!” chants, he began to talk about Charlottesville and how the event “strikes at the core of America.” He spent a good amount of time railing against “fake and dishonest media” while defending his delayed responses to the tragic events. He recapped the statements he released, insisted that he isn’t racist, how racism is evil, and how he “loves all the people of our country.”
Applause stroked Trump’s ego as he patted himself on the back for being a non-racist and how race relations were bad under Barack Obama. Adding to that, he said that he will create more jobs, which will somehow improve race relations. He went on to say that the “source of division in the country is fake news and crooked media.”
Arizona, a state Trump narrowly won in the 2016 election, is home to Senator John McCain and Jeff Flake, both have crossed the former Celebrity Apprentice host. McCain gave a thumbs down to the so-called skinny repeal, which caused Trump to throw a Twitter tantrum. Meanwhile Sen. Jeff Flake, who Trump referred to as “toxic” and “weak,” has pushed back at his effort to shut down legal immigration channels. Neither were present at Trump’s ego-boosting “unifying” rally submerged in “Make America Great Again” rhetoric.
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