Donald Trump rails against 'greatest hoax' at first rally since Mueller report

President wrongly claims special counsel’s report fully exonerated him as he woos voters in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Donald Trump continued his assault on the media and Democrats on Thursday night, wrongly claiming “total exoneration, complete vindication” at his first rally since Robert Mueller submitted his report.

Trump dedicated about half of his approximately 90-minute speech in front of a raucous audience at Grand Rapids to the topic, labeling the accusations and investigation “ridiculous bullshit”. The president bounced between theories about why the special counsel’s investigation happened and attacks on his opponents.

“All of the Democrats, politicians, the media also – bad people,” Trump told the crowd at Michigan’s Van Andel Arena. “The crooked journalists, the totally dishonest TV pundits” helped perpetuate “the single greatest hoax in the history of politics”.

He later claimed that the investigation was really an effort “to overturn the results of the 2016 election”.

“It was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election and to sabotage the will of the American people,” Trump said to loud boos.

He repeatedly called for “accountability”, drawing chants of “Lock them up”. At other points, the president mocked Democratic opponents, including “little pencil-neck [US representative] Adam Schiff” and his fellow lawmaker Jerry Nadler, whom Trump said he “beat again”.

Though Trump told the crowd multiple times that Mueller found “no collusion and no obstruction”, the attorney general William Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s report only stated that it found no proof that Trump criminally colluded with Russia. Barr’s summary said Mueller had reached no conclusion about whether Trump had obstructed justice, but Barr wrote that he decided there was insufficient evidence to pursue obstruction charges against Trump.

Democrats and Republicans are calling on Barr to release the full report, which he has so far refused to do, raising suspicion about its contents among Democrats.

Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the House judiciary committee, was told by Barr there is no intention of giving the confidential report to Congress immediately, as Barr redacts grand jury testimony and other elements.

Democrats say they may subpoena the report if it’s not forthcoming by the Tuesday deadline they have set, which Barr has said will not be met.

Through the day on Thursday, tempers were rising on Capitol Hill. Shaking her fist for emphasis, the Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said Barr’s summary was “condescending” and “arrogant”.

“Mr Attorney General,” she said, “show us the report and we’ll come to our own conclusions.” She asked what Trump and the Republicans were afraid of and mocked them as “scaredy-cats”.

On Thursday night, to loud cheers, Trump recounted that Grand Rapids was the last stop during his 2016 campaign. Despite the enthusiasm, Trump may face a struggle to win the state, as the latest polling shows a strong majority of Michigan voters – including independents – don’t plan to vote for Trump in 2020. Moreover, Democrats in 2018 swept all three statewide offices by healthy margins, and Democrat candidates received more collective votes in the state legislature.

Trump touted his work on the economy, appearing to take credit for a new auto plant Fiat Chrysler is proposing in Detroit. Though General Motors recently announced it would shed 18,000 jobs and close two plants in and around Detroit, Trump assured the crowd he was pressuring the company to keep the plants open and restore jobs. He also promised to deliver $300m for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, though his most recent budget proposal called for $270m in cuts to the environmental program.

Trump’s more outlandish claims came in an attack on progressives’ Green New Deal, a proposal to tackle climate change and reform the economy, which Trump falsely stated called for the elimination of airplanes and cows. Trump also claimed Democrats were pushing for a law that would allow for the execution of newborn babies in Virginia. He was referring to comments made by Ralph Northam, who is not proposing such a law.

Trump returned to the border wall and immigration several times throughout the speech, telling the audience: “By the way, we are building that wall.” Later in the speech, he said he would travel to an undisclosed location in several weeks to reveal “vast sections of brand new wall”, drawing familiar chants of “Build the wall”.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


Tom Perkins in Grand Rapids, Michigan

The GuardianTramp

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