During a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Tuesday night, Trump returned to his free-wheeling campaign style diatribes, jumping from topic to topic, sharing his unfiltered thoughts on several matters.
As he did during the campaign, Trump peppered his lengthy, raucous speech with asides to the crowd, responding to chants and shouts. The President spoke for more than an hour, lashing out at his critics and renewing the push for several of his campaign promises.
He began his speech by bashing the media and defending his response to the deadly car attack in Charlottesville, conveniently leaving out the fact that he initially blamed “many sides” for the violence there. Trump also touched on several other topics, like the potential to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, funding for the border wall, and NAFTA.
And though he was expected to use his speech to slam Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and prop up one of his primary challengers, the President showed just a little bit of restraint by only offering a few lines criticizing the Republican senator from Arizona.
Below are some of the highlights from Trump’s speech:
At the beginning of the rally, Trump defended the way he responded to the violence in Charlottesville during a “Unite the Right” rally and counterprotest. He complained that the “dishonest” media does not like to report that he “spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry, and violence, and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, and the KKK.”
Trump pulled out a transcript of the initial remarks he made after the deadly car attack but omitted the fact that he blamed “many sides” for the violence.
His defense was met with chants of “CNN sucks” from the crowd, prompting Trump to lament that the network fired Jeffrey Lord, a pro-Trump analyst who tweeted a Nazi salute.
While discussing the “dishonest” media, Trump singled out Fox News as his favorite network. He praised Sean Hannity, perhaps the host most favorable to Trump, and called “Fox and Friends” the “absolute most honest show.”
While on the topic of Charlottesville, Trump also made sure to say he was disappointed by the renewed push to remove Confederate statues from public land.
“They are trying to take away our history and our heritage,” he told the crowd.
Trump did not announce that he would pardon Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, as the White House had said earlier in the day. But he did hint that he could pardon the sheriff at some point.
“So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked the crowd in Phoenix. “You know what, I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine, okay? But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe should feel good.”
The President was expected to go after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and potentially praise one of his primary challengers, Republican state Sen. Kelli Ward. But Trump did not mention Flake or Ward by name, and offered only a subtle jab at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Trump mentioned that Republicans were “one vote away” from passing a bill to repeal Obamacare, a reference to McCain’s dramatic vote cast against the bill.
“I will not mention any names,” Trump said, patting himself on the back for acting “presidential.”
The President then turned to Flake, again not actually mentioning his name.
“And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime. So I won’t talk about him,” Trump said.
Trump visited the southern border before his speech in Phoenix on Tuesday, and mentioned his proposed border wall during the rally. He suggested that he would push to tie funding for the wall to a must-pass government spending bill in the fall, even if that risks shutting down the government.
“The obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Trump told the crowd.
Trump brought up one of his most prominent campaign trail promises on Tuesday night, his pledge to re-negotiate or terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement. In April, the President was prepared to terminate NAFTA, but was persuaded to instead seek re-negotiation. But Tuesday night, he suggested he could still change his mind again.
“Personally, I don’t think we can make a deal because we have been so badly taken advantage of,” he said of the trade agreement. “I think we’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point.”
While Congress has been away for the August recess, Trump has stayed relatively quiet on legislation. But Tuesday night he called for the Senate to change its rules so that they could easily pass Obamacare repeal, tax cuts, and funding for the border wall. He echoed his past calls for Senate Republicans to nix the legislative filibuster, which allows the minority to force bills to be passed with 60 votes instead of just 51. Eliminating the filibuster would not have helped Republicans pass Obamacare repeal, however, because they were not even able to get 50 GOP senators on board.
“If we don’t, the Republicans will never get anything passed. You’re wasting your time,” Trump said Tuesday night. “We have to get rid of the filibuster rule. Right now, we need 60 votes. We have 52 Republicans. That means that eight Democrats are controlling all of this legislation.”