By John Wagner and Jenna Johnson,
YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO — About 300 miles from Washington, President Trump on Tuesday night offered a view of his presidency free of what he called the “fake-news filter.”
Over the course of nearly an hour, Trump touted the work of his administration in getting gang members and other illegal immigrants “the hell out of our country,” and he promised a continuing crackdown on “sanctuary cities.”
Trump praised the Senate for taking a procedural vote earlier in the day that he said would help deliver “great health care for the American people.” He said he was working hard on “the single biggest tax cut in American history,” and he reiterated plans to spur $1 trillion in new spending on the country’s roads, bridges and other ailing infrastructure, making no metnion that bills have yet to be introduced on either count.
And here in the heart of the industrial Midwest, Trump promised to refill lost manufacturing jobs in factories or to “rip ’em down and build brand-new ones.”
“That’s what’s going to happen,” Trump said at a campaign rally in a packed hockey arena that holds 7,000 people.
Appearing before a crowd of adoring supporters, the president was far removed from the challenges of the Russia investigation and other vexing issues that have contributed to the lowest job approval rating for a U.S. president at this point in his tenure.
When reminders of those troubles surfaced, they were quickly whisked away. That included a young protester who unfurled a Russian flag and who was wrestled out of the arena by local police.
“Boy, he’s a young one, he’s going back home to mommy,” the president declared to the delight of the crowd. “He’s in trouble. And I bet his mommy voted for us.”
The rally here was the latest in a string that Trump has held since taking office in states that he won last year. But he took too much credit Tuesday for what happened in Youngstown.
Appearing at a veterans hall prior to the rally, Trump said Democrats usually win Youngstown, “but not this time.” In fact, Democrat Hillary Clinton bested Trump in Youngstown and edged him out in surrounding Mahoning County.
Still, it was clear from the outset of his remarks that Trump was in his element.
“I’m here this evening to cut through the fake-news filter and speak directly to the American people,” Trump said in the first of many shots at the media, which he later dubbed as the “fake, fake, fake news.”
As he started to detail his achievements, Trump offered an assessment of his work that he said he knew the media — whom he called “a dishonest group of people” — would not share.
“I think, with few exceptions, no president has done anywhere near what we’ve done in his first six months,” Trump asserted.
“But they don’t let you know,” he said, motioning toward the media assembled in front of him. “They don’t want to write about it.”
Near the top of his speech, Trump talked up Tuesday’s vote in the Senate — by a 51-to-50 margin, with Vice President Pence breaking the tie — that will let debate on a health-care bill move forward. It remains unclear what if any legislation the chamber will ultimately pass in the coming days.
“We’re now one step closer from liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care for the American people,” Trump said.
Later, he reflected on how he is perceived by some of his critics.
“Sometimes they say: ‘He doesn’t act presidential,’” Trump relayed. “And I say: ‘Hey look, great schools, smart guy, it’s so easy to act presidential, but that’s not going to get it done.’ . . . It’s much easier, by the way, to act presidential than what we’re doing here tonight.”
Trump continued: “With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president who has ever held this office. That I can tell you. It’s real easy. But sadly we have to move a little bit faster than that.”
Trump also hit hard on the themes of immigration and jobs — two staples from his days on the campaign trail last year.
“I rode through your beautiful roads, coming up from the airport,” he said. “And I was looking at some of those big, once incredible job-producing factories. And my wife, Melania, said: ‘What happened?’ I said, ‘Those jobs have left Ohio.’ ”
But, Trump said: “They’re all coming back. They’re all coming back. They’re coming back. Don’t move. Don’t sell your house.”
Turning to the subject of trade, Trump promised a much better version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), either by revamping the pact with Mexico and Canada or ditching the agreement and starting over.
“We will no longer be the stupid people who get taken care of by their politicians so badly because they don’t know what they’re doing,” Trump promised.
Speaking of another campaign promise for which Trump has little to show, he urged some patience.
“Don’t even think about it. We will build the wall,” Trump said, referring to the promised barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border.
He finished the night on an upbeat note, reprising his campaign rallying cry from last year.
“We will not fail,” Trump said. “We cannot fail. We will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again.”
Johnson reported from Washington.
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