Trump uses re-election campaign rally to try to undermine impeachment inquiry


MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday used a campaign rally to blast the impeachment inquiry against him as a brazen attempt by Democrats to overthrow him, vowing the attempt to remove him from office would backfire.

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at an event to sign executive orders on “transparency in federal guidance and enforcement” in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Supporters of the Republican president packed the 20,000-seat Target Center in Minneapolis for the first of three campaign rallies scheduled for the next week, with stops in Louisiana on Friday and Dallas in a week.

Trump said the impeachment drama will drive up his support ahead of the November 2020 election and help him win re-election for another four-year term.

“The Democrats’ brazen attempt to overthrow the government will produce a backlash at the ballot box the likes of which they have never ever seen before in the history of this country,” Trump said to cheers.

The Minneapolis event was Trump’s first campaign rally since House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top U.S. Democrat, opened an impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24 against him on accusations that Trump sought Ukraine’s help to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his son, businessman Hunter Biden.

Trump made a personal attack on Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, a former senator and former vice president who served two four-year terms under President Barack Obama.

“And your father was never considered smart,” Trump told the rally. “He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good senator because he learned how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

He called Hunter Biden “a loser” and wondered aloud how he “got $1.5 billion.” Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have repeatedly called the Bidens corrupt without providing any evidence.

Trump returned to the subject of impeachment repeatedly during his speech, saying: “Democrats are on a crusade to destroy our democracy. We will never let it happen. We will defeat them.”

Trump’s son, Eric Trump, warmed up the crowd by attacking Hunter Biden for his ties to Ukraine’s energy industry while his father was vice president. He suggested Trump’s 2016 “lock her up” campaign cry against then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should be applied to Hunter Biden.

“Maybe ‘lock her up’ goes to ‘lock him up,’” the younger Trump said.

“Lock him up! Lock him up!” the crowd chanted.

Vice President Mike Pence also spoke, denouncing Democrats for pursuing “partisan politics” and trying to “overturn the will of the American people.”

“We stand with Donald Trump,” he said.

Trump’s appearance in Minnesota was aimed at trying to pluck away the state from Democratic hands. He lost Minnesota narrowly to Clinton in 2016 and, bidding to expand his electoral chances in 2020, made his stop to try to build his support in the state.

“This is a great state,” said Trump. “We are going to win this state.”

While the energy inside the arena was electric with Trump supporters cheering and waving signs, it was unclear what a prolonged impeachment drama might do to Trump’s level of support.

Opinion polls show an increasing number of Americans think he should be impeached, but his Republican base has largely stuck by his side.

Outside the arena on a rainy night, thousands of protesters lined the streets, many holding signs calling for Trump’s impeachment or calling for him to be locked up. The crowds broke out in chants of “lock him” and “impeach him.”

One protester, geologist Aubrey Lee, 36, said Trump needs to be impeached because he does not represent America’s values anymore, from national security to equal rights.

“I am ecstatic about the impeachment inquiry and can’t wait to see him impeached. It’s long overdue,” Lee said.

Trump’s path to re-election depends on clinching a cluster of farm and Rust Belt states decided by slim margins in 2016, including Minnesota.

Trump’s visit generated local backlash. The city’s mayor was criticized for initially suggesting Trump was not welcome. The Minneapolis police union began selling pro-Trump T-shirts after the police chief said off-duty officers could not wear their uniforms to political events.

No Republican presidential candidate has won Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972.

A poll released by Alliance for a Better Minnesota on Wednesday showed 52% of registered voters in the state would vote for the Democratic candidate next year, while 42% would vote for Trump. The survey of 1,175 voters was conducted with the left-leaning Public Policy Polling.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Jarrett Renshaw; editing by Grant McCool

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