President Donald Trump called out his detractors and threatened to shut down the government over funding for the border wall during a fiery rally in Phoenix Tuesday.
His comments topped a week of criticism for his response to the hate groups in Charlottesville, painting himself as the victim in the aftermath of the violence while claiming that the media attacked him in their coverage. He even suggested the media was un-American.
“I really think they don’t like our country. I really believe that,” Trump said.
Trump touched on his usual campaign points to rally the crowd: the economy, illegal immigration, draining the swamp and the border wall.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake did not attend the rally. While President Trump did not mention McCain or Flake by name, he took shots at both senators during his speech.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton urged Trump to not visit Phoenix this week, saying the country was still too tense after the violence in Charlottesville, VA. He also said that if President Trump announced a pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio would add to the chaos. Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt for defying a federal court order to stop detaining people he suspected of being undocumented immigrants.
While Trump didn’t officially pardon Arpaio, last night he hinted that it was in the works.
“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? He’s going to be just fine. I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy, okay? But Sheriff Joe can feel good. He’s going to be just fine.”
The criticism of the speech was swift. CNN anchor Don Lemon called the speech a “total eclipse of the facts.”
Demos Vice President of External Affairs Tori O’Neal-McElrath released the following statement:
“At Donald Trump’s disastrous rally in Phoenix tonight, we saw more of the same bigoted, hateful rhetoric from President Trump that continues to tear our nation apart. With every speech, and every action, we see more of who Donald Trump truly is: our divider-in-chief.
“After failing to show leadership in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Donald Trump has repeatedly doubled down, fueling racial violence and division and pandering to hate. Tonight he went even further, defending his own failed responses to white supremacy, and claiming that ‘they’re trying to take away our history and our heritage.’
James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence who served under Republican and Democrat administrations said he found the speech disturbing. “I really question his ability to be, his fitness to be in this office and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out,” Clapper said.
Trump ended the speech promising to the crowd “We will make America great again.”
Outside of the Phoenix Convention Center hall, protestors were met with tear gas as police tried to disperse the crowd after the rally. Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Howard said gas was dispersed into the area after some people in the crowd began fighting and throwing rocks and bottles at the police.
Phoenix police said there were four arrests after the rally.