MINNEAPOLIS — In his first rally since becoming the target of an impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump launched scathing personal attacks on everyone from Joe Biden and his son to Ilhan Omar, as he whipped up a crowd of loyal supporters by focusing them on individual hatreds.
The Trump campaign flashed images of Omar, the Democratic member of Congress from Minnesota, on huge screens that hung from the top of the Target Center in Minneapolis, as Trump raged against her in her home state. The crowd responded with raucous boos.
Trump has refused to take part in the impeachment inquiry, launched by House Democrats last month. He has tweeted almost endlessly since, but Thursday was his first chance to speak directly to a loyal crowd, at times off-script, something that energizes him. He was due to hold a second, more hastily planned, rally in Louisiana on Friday.
“You know, I know you people, I know you people. I know the people of Minnesota. And I want to tell you, and I also at the same time, it's both a question and a statement: How the hell did that ever happened? How did it happen?” he said to the 19,000-capacity arena, speaking of Omar’s election last year. He repeated a litany of accusations against Omar, often echoed by Fox News and other right-wing media, including that she minimized the Sept. 11 attacks and misrepresented her marriage.
“How do you have such a person representing you in Minnesota? I'm very angry at you people right now. She is a disgrace to our country and she is one of the big reasons that I'm going to win and the Republican Party is going to win Minnesota in 13 months,” Trump said. Trump lost Minnesota by just 44,000 votes in 2016 and his campaign is making a big push for the state ahead of 2020.
The almost entirely white crowd responded with deafening boos when Trump said, “As you know, for many years, leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia.” He then said he had “reduced refugee resettlement by 85 percent” and would “give local communities a greater say in refugee policy.”
Anti-Trump protesters and Black Lives Matter activists flooded the streets outside the arena. Minneapolis deployed hundreds of police, canceling days off and working with regional and federal partners, including the FBI.
Trump saved his most venomous attacks for Joe Biden’s son Hunter, whose seat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company prompted Trump and his associate Rudy Giuliani to spin a conspiracy theory that Biden had a prosecutor removed to stop him investigating the company (the prosecutor was not investigating the company, Burisma, at the time).
“By the way, whatever happened to Hunter, where the hell is he? Where is Hunter? And fellas, I have an idea for a new T-shirt….Where's Hunter? Where is he?” (The Trump campaign released a t-shirt within an hour of the rally.)
Trump ended his tirade by saying “Hunter, you're a loser.” He then turned to Joe Biden and said “he was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's ass.”
Trump’s son Eric prompted the crowd to chant “Lock Him Up” earlier in the evening, a take on the “Lock Her Up” chant targeting Hillary Clinton aimed at Hunter Biden, after saying “Maybe lock her up goes to lock him up.” To a supporter in the crowd who appeared to yell it out first, he said, “Thank you, that’s a good idea,” before adding, “Hey guys, we don't need to 'lock him up'” because "we're going to win."
Earlier this week, Joe Biden’s sister called Trump “unhinged” for attacking her family.
Trump meandered into odd territory as he strayed from the teleprompters. At one point, he spent several minutes listing which Fox News hosts he liked. At another, he appeared to reenact text messages between former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. And so for several minutes he said: “She's going to win, 10 million to one, she's going to win, I'm telling you, Peter, I'm telling you, Peter, she's going to win, Peter, oh, I love you so much. I love you, Peter! I love you too, Lisa. Lisa, I love you. Lisa! Lisa! Oh, God, I love you Lisa. And if she doesn't win, Lisa, we've got an insurance policy, Lisa! We'll get the son of a bitch out.”
Tim Murtaugh, the director of communications for Trump’s reelection campaign, said the campaign had made no adjustments because of the impeachment inquiry. “The campaign moves ahead with all of our plans that we’ve always had regardless of what the inside the beltway media thinks,” Murtaugh told BuzzFeed News. “We have our own plans, the president has plans and I don’t know if it annoys the inside the beltway press or the pundit class, but we are going to pursue our own plans whether they like it or not.”