Amid underwhelming protests, and in the absence of Republican Governor Doug Ducey, President Trump is set to hold a campaign-style rally in Phoenix tonight that may be must-watch for a number of reasons.
As The Hill reports, Trump is expected to use the podium in Phoenix to defend his hard-line approach on immigration and to pressure Congress for more than $1 billion to build the southern border wall that was at the core of his presidential campaign.
This is President Trump’s first publica rally since ‘Nazi-gate’ and while local officials had prepare for a storm of protests (with the city’s mayor asking for the rally to be relocated), the protests were “underwhelming.”
And the pronoun has turned: “Lock him up” chants ring in Phoenix pic.twitter.com/309AH14xGR
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) August 23, 2017
VIDEO: Trump rally in downtown Phoenix: Supporters, protesters meet at convention center pic.twitter.com/vJSAJE87hJ
— azcentral (@azcentral) August 23, 2017
Puerto Rican Trump supporter blasts CNN ahead of Phoenix rally: ‘You’re the real racists and fascists!’ pic.twitter.com/nqday5Aa7j
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) August 22, 2017
Trump’s speech is sure to be full of his usual vim and vigor, and The Hill notes five things to watch out for…
Arizona illustrates Trump’s fraught relationship with his own party.
While Trump won Arizona in November, he’s been openly feuding with the state’s two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of whom are frequent Trump critics. Trump last week called Flake, who’s up for re-election in 2018, “a non-factor in the Senate” and “toxic” in a tweet that also welcomed a primary challenge to him from former State Senator Kelli Ward. That prompted several senior Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to come out with statements of support for Flake. Neither Flake nor McCain is planning to attend Trump’s rally.
Flake, whose approval ratings stand below 20 percent, says he’s unconcerned with Trump’s attacks, which are likely to continue in Phoenix. But Ward is relishing the boost. Anticipating Trump’s speech, she launched a new ad campaign on Monday warning voters that Flake’s clash with the president is “a huge liability for Arizona.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may also prove an irresistible target for the president given his vote to sink the Senate’s effort to repeal ObamaCare. McCain also hammered Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville. “There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry,” McCain tweeted last week. “The President of the United States should say so.”
Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Trump recently told Fox News that he’s “seriously considering” pardoning Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., whose aggressive approach to the detention of undocumented immigrants has made him a national voice for the hard-line enforcement policies championed by the president. A massive rally in Phoenix would be just the place to do that. A federal judge found the 85-year-old Arpaio guilty of contempt of court last month for the “flagrant disregard” of another judge’s 2011 order to stop the racial profiling that came to define Arpaio’s immigrant roundups. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 5, when he faces a maximum of six months in jail. Arpaio is one of Trump’s oldest political allies. The two men supported each other as far back as 2012, when they were two of the most prominent advocates of “birtherism,” the claim that then-President Obama was not born in the United States. Arpaio’s conviction has become a flashpoint in the largely partisan debate over immigration reform, with both sides watching Trump’s actions closely. On Monday, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs (R), one of Trump’s most vocal supporters, urged the president to pardon Arpaio, touting the former sheriff’s long public service record. He accused the Obama administration of conducting “a witch hunt” against him. Some Democrats seem to be expecting the pardon, noting that Trump has come under fire from conservatives for the recent ouster of top strategist Stephen Bannon and may use the Phoenix speech to get back into the critics’ good graces. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said Monday that pardoning Arpaio might “placate [Trump’s] xenophobic, racist base.” A few hours after this story was published, the White House announced Trump would not pardon Arpaio at the rally.
Trump launched his presidential campaign with an attack on immigrants and a vow to build “a beautiful wall” on the southern border, paid for by Mexico. But his chief domestic promise has smacked into the political realities of Capitol Hill, where GOP leaders, needing Democratic votes to pass spending bills, have failed to get new construction funding to the president’s desk. The issue was a major sticking point in the fight over a 2017 spending bill, when Democrats successfully yanked new wall funding from the package. But Republicans are under pressure to hold a harder line in the 2018 spending debate — the House has already approved a bill providing $1.6 billion in new wall funding — and Trump will likely use the stage in Phoenix to elevate the issue. Indeed, in signing the 2017 federal spending bill, a frustrated Trump suggested he’d support “a good ‘shutdown’ in September” in order to secure more Republican priorities.
The Arizona rally comes just as the news cycle is finally moving away from Trump’s botched response to Charlottesville, when he said “many sides” were to blame for the violence at the white supremacist rally. The Phoenix rally is expected to attract large groups of supporters and counterprotesters, however, and has the potential to reopen the discussion depending on what Trump says from the stage — and what happens outside the arena. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) wrote a Washington Post op-edMonday asking Trump to delay his visit. “America is hurting,” wrote Stanton. “And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline. With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the president may be looking to light a match.” Trump took a different tone Monday, in a teleprompter-guided speech laying out his Afghanistan strategy. “When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate,” said Trump. “The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home.”
Tuesday’s rally comes just a day after the prime-time speech in which Trump outlined the contours of his military strategy in Afghanistan — a design that includes the deployment of new U.S. troops to the embattled region.
The military buildup marks a stark shift for the president, who had been highly critical of prolonging U.S. engagement after 16 years of failing to stabilize the country. On the campaign trail, he won accolades from the “America First” crowd with his promise of quick troop withdrawal, arguing the resources would be better used for domestic projects.
The issue carries a special significance following last week’s departure of Bannon, a fierce nationalist who sought to steer Trump away from aggressive interventions into foreign affairs.
Bannon, who quickly returned to the helm of Breitbart News, has vowed his continued support of the administration. But the site wasted no time Monday lashing out at Trump’s Afghanistan strategy, calling it a “flip flop” and equating his plan to that of former President Obama, a pariah in the eyes of conservative Breitbart readers.
President Trump is due to speak at 10pmET…