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Trump Revisits Comments in Angry Speech08/23 06:11

   President Donald Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix with calls for 
unity and an assertion that "our movement is about love." Then he erupted in 
anger.

   PHOENIX (AP) -- President Donald Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix 
with calls for unity and an assertion that "our movement is about love." Then 
he erupted in anger.

   He blamed the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to 
violence at a Charlottesville, Virginia, protest organized by white 
supremacists. And he shouted that he had "openly called for healing, unity and 
love" in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and had simply been 
misrepresented in news coverage.

   He read from his three responses to the racially charged violence --- 
getting more animated with each one. He withdrew from his suit pocket the 
written statement he'd read the day a woman was killed by a man who'd plowed a 
car through counter-protesters, but he skipped over the trouble-causing part 
that he'd freelanced at the time --- his observation that "many sides" were to 
blame.

   That, as well as his reiteration days later that "both sides" were to blame 
for the violence that led to the death of Heather Heyer and two state troopers, 
led Democrats and many Republicans to denounce Trump for not unmistakably 
calling out white supremacists and other hate groups.

   Trump also suggested he still intends to pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 
who is awaiting sentencing in Arizona after his conviction in federal court for 
disobeying court orders to stop his immigration patrols. But he left little 
doubt that he wanted to do it. He said he'd aimed to avoid "controversy" by not 
immediately granting the pardon. But Trump also said, "I'll make a prediction: 
I think he's going to be just fine."

   Of his media criticism, the president told the crowd of thousands shoehorned 
into the Phoenix convention center: "You know where my heart is. I'm only doing 
this to show you how damned dishonest these people are."

   Well after his appearance had ended, Trump sent a tweet on his Twitter 
account saying: "Not only does the media give a platform to hate groups, but 
the media turns a blind eye to the gang violence on our streets."

   Trump's broadside against the media, and the "fake news" he says is out to 
get him, was one of several detours he took from his prepared remarks at a 
rally where he was introduced by Vice President Mike Pence and other speakers 
appealing for unity and healing.

   The president unabashedly acknowledged that his own advisers had urged him 
to stay on message, and that he simply could not.

   He went on to skewer both of Arizona's Republican senators, insisting that 
his coy refusal to mention their names showed a "very presidential" restraint. 
He said his aides had begged him, "Please, please Mr. President, don't mention 
any names. So I won't." Yet he'd clearly described Sen. John McCain as the 
reason Congress didn't repeal and replace the much-maligned Affordable Care 
Act, and he labeled Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake as "weak" on borders and crime.

   As for how he would assist with the upcoming Herculean tasks facing Congress 
--- passing tax reform, raising the debt ceiling, and agreeing on a budget --- 
Trump offered little detail. He did threaten that if legislators force a 
government shutdown "we're building that wall," a reference to his campaign 
promise to close off the border with Mexico.

   In the comfort of his most fervent fans, Trump often resurrects his 
free-wheeling 2016 campaign style, pinging insults at perceived enemies such as 
the media and meandering from topic to topic without a singular theme. This was 
Trump's eighth rally since taking office in January, and each event is attended 
by supporters screened by his campaign.

   His comfort-level was apparent: As he discussed his responses to 
Charlottesville, he interrupted himself. "I didn't want to bore you. You 
understand where I'm coming from. You people understand."

   Outside the rally, the divisiveness seen across the country was on display.

   One man on a loudspeaker said the largely Latino protesters belong in the 
kitchen. A Trump opponent hoisted a sign depicting the president with horns. A 
day of noisy but largely peaceful protests turned unruly after his speech, as 
police fired pepper spray at crowds after someone apparently lobbed rocks and 
bottles at officers.

   Trump is on a two-day trip to the west, which continues Wednesday with 
travel to an American Legion convention in Reno, Nevada. He began his Arizona 
visit Tuesday with a brief trip to the southern edge of the country, touring a 
Marine Corps base in Yuma that is a hub of operations for the U.S. Border 
Patrol.

   His focus on immigration and rallying a supportive crowd offered a respite 
from a more uncomfortable development in his presidency.

   Trump on Monday announced in an address to the nation a plan to maintain a 
U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, upending a campaign vow to end America's 
longest war. Senior U.S. officials said Trump's strategy may involve sending up 
to 3,900 more troops, with some deployments beginning almost immediately.


(KA)

 
 
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