‘Welcome to Minneapolis’: Trump rally roils liberal bastion

Supporters of the impeachment inquiry rally near the office Democratic US Rep. Ben McAdams on Oct. 9, 2019, in West Jordan, Utah. Trump on Thursday stirred up a storm on social media ahead of his visit to Minneapolis, Minnesotta. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Updated 10 October 2019

‘Welcome to Minneapolis’: Trump rally roils liberal bastion

  • Trump traded Twitter insults with the Minneapolis mayor over who should spend in security costs for Thursday’s rally at a downtown arena
  • Trump will land in Minnesota as polls show Americans’ support for impeachment and for removing him from office have ticked up

MINNEAPOLIS: The conflict and Twitter battles arrived in Minnesota well ahead of President Donald Trump’s touchdown in the state.
Trump traded Twitter insults with the Minneapolis mayor over who should pay more than $500,000 in security costs for Thursday’s rally at a downtown arena. He denounced Jacob Frey as a “Radical Left” lightweight and blasted the Democrat for a police policy banning officers from wearing their uniforms in support of political candidates. He sprinkled in a reference to his favorite foil — the city’s Rep. Ilhan Omar — just for good measure.
“Yawn,” Frey tweeted back. “Welcome to Minneapolis where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbors.”
It was just a warmup to Trump’s first campaign rally since being engulfed in the swirl of an impeachment investigation, an event expected to pack an extra punch. Heading to Omar’s home turf, a liberal outpost in the Midwest, Trump quickly stirred up passions and partisanship as few politicians can.
Trump will land in Minnesota as polls show Americans’ support for impeachment and for removing him from office have ticked up in the weeks since House Democrats launched an impeachment investigation. While his GOP allies have launched a campaign to reverse the trend, Trump’s self-defense may be the best preview of how he intends to fight back in the weeks ahead.
“He needs to be able to show right now, given all of this impeachment stuff, that America is rallying to his defense. And I don’t think that that is going to be the optic that’s created,” said Ken Martin, the state Democratic chairman.
Both sides are tuned in to the symbolism of the moment. The rally at Target Center— the city’s basketball arena— is expected to draw thousands of supporters as well as protesters outside. Trump will be joined by Vice President Mike Pence, who had a separate schedule of appearances in the state Trump is trying to tip his way next year.
At a White House event Wednesday, Trump made it clear he was looking forward to the rally.
“I think it’s a great state, and we’re going to have a lot of fun tomorrow night,” he said.
Minneapolis is a difficult place for the president to try to bask in the glow of support. Trump won just 18% of the vote in the dense, relatively diverse and liberal congressional district where he’s staging his rally.
But the venue serves another purpose: The district is now held by Omar, the Somali-American lawmaker whom Trump often holds up as a symbol of the liberal shift in the Democratic Party. It’s a message viewed as racist by some. He has tweeted that Omar should “go back” to her home country if she wants to criticize the US Trump supporters broke into chants of “Send her back!” at a rally this summer in North Carolina.
The episode is weighing heavily on Trump’s Thursday rally. It drew criticism from fellow Republicans uncomfortable with the prospect of putting race at the center of the campaign.
Some lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and some of the president’s closest outside advisers privately warned Trump about the damage those chants could inflict on the GOP, according to four Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to discuss private conversations. They believed the sight of thousands of mostly white attendees chanting “Send her back!” would dominate news coverage and turn off moderate voters, particularly women and suburbanites.
Trump has held four rallies since. The chant has not erupted since.
Still, the attacks on the “socialist” wing of the Democratic Party are the heart of Trump’s plan to hold onto the Rust Belt and become the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972. Trump fell about 45,000 votes short of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton statewide in 2016. He’s had staff in the state since June, and they have been busy building a network to turn out supporters next November.
The campaign needs to pump up Trump’s support in the rural and suburban areas he carried in 2016 to overcome Democratic strength in Minneapolis, St. Paul and some other cities, plus suburbs that swung Democratic in 2018. The Minneapolis rally will also win media coverage well into western Wisconsin, widely seen as a critical battleground in 2020.
GOP Rep. Tom Emmer, who leads the House Republican campaign arm and will attend the rally, said the opposition to Trump’s visit could backfire on Democrats. Emmer was among Republicans accusing Frey of trying to block Trump’s rally.
Federal campaign law does not require presidential campaign committees to pay for expenses incurred by state and local governments in connection with a campaign event.
“I think this visceral hatred, the blatant attempt to shut down some people’s point of view and deny thousands of Minnesotans their voice ... I think Democrats are going to pay for it at the ballot box next November,” Emmer said.
Indeed, the rally plans provoked strong passions.
Omar, whose family fled Somalia when she was a child and who became an American in 2000, tweeted shortly after the trip was announced: “Our beautiful state welcomes everyone with open arms. But to be clear: we will continue to reject you and your campaign of lies and bigotry.”
Sophia Jungers, 21, of Minneapolis, was planning to protest Thursday, just as she did when Trump rallied in the southern Minnesota city of Rochester last October.
“I feel like we’re falling apart as a democracy, and we’re not taking advantage of all the voices that need to be heard,” said Jungers, a University of Minnesota student.
Michelle Urevig-Grilz, 49, a teacher from suburban Ramsey who identified herself as a longtime Republican voter but a Trump opponent, said she was considering joining the protests.
“He’s a misogynist pig. He always has been. ... And it is surprising to me how many women voters did vote for Trump. That’s absolutely scary,” she said.
But few of Trump’s Minnesota supporters could be more excited than Mike Lindell, known to TV viewers nationwide as the “MyPillow guy” after the pillow company he founded.
Lindell, a significant donor who has appeared at previous Trump rallies, credits the president with creating a booming economy and giving entrepreneurs like him the confidence to take chances. He said he’s scheduled to speak Thursday.
“Everybody voted for him on faith that there would be something good, finally, and boy has he provided it,” Lindell said.


US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

Updated 23 October 2020

US presidential debate: Biden warns Iran will ‘pay price’ for election interference

  • Trump and Biden go toe-to-toe on foreign policy, COVID-19 and race
  • Final debate paints two stark pictures of America’s future

NEW YORK: Joe Biden warned Iran would “pay a price” for interfering in the US election if he is elected president.

During a more orderly second debate with President Donald Trump Thursday, the former vice president looked to take the initiative on foreign attempts to influence voters.

Moderator Kirsten Welker asked Biden about revelations from intelligence officials that Russia and Iran had attempted to meddle in the election and obtained voter registration information.

“We know that Russia has been involved, China has been involved to some degree, and now we learn that Iran has been involved,” Biden said, “They will pay a price if I’m elected.”

(AFP)

John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said this week that Iran used the information to send threatening emails to voters in Florida.  On Thursday, the US Treasury Department responded with new sanctions against five Iranian entities accused of spreading disinformation and division ahead of the election.

Biden’s warning to Iran would have rankled with Trump and his foreign policy team. The president has imposed a maximum pressure policy on Tehran by withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal and imposing tough sanctions.

Trump accuses the previous administration, in which Joe Biden deputized to Barack Obama, of allowing Iran to further its missile program and expand its militias across the Middle East.

On Russia, Biden said Moscow did not want him to get elected, because they know he would be tough on them.

“They know that I know them. And they know me,” Biden said.

Trump said: “There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”

He accused Biden of receiving money from foreign companies.

“I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life,” Biden said, arguing that he had released all of his tax returns, unlike the president.

(AFP)

“Release your tax returns or stop talking about corruption,” Biden said. 

While the second and final debate ahead of the Nov. 3 election was a calmer affair than the first one, it was laden with attacks. 

The rules were different this time: microphones were muted for two-minute stretches to allow the other an uninterrupted answer. 

Welker kept the contentious rivals under control, and made sure things were clear and organized at the venue in Belmont University in Nashville. She got the best reviews of the night. 

A viewer tweeted: “Kristen Welker is putting on a master class in how to moderate a presidential debate.”

The two candidates squared off on foreign policy, the economy, race, healthcare, and climate change. 

(AFP)

The debate kicked off with exchanges over the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 220,000 in the US, where most states are seeing a dramatic resurgence of the virus. 

Trump defended the way his administration handled COVID-19. “We closed up the greatest economy in the world in order to fight this horrible disease that came from China,” he said.

The president argued that the mortality rate has decreased and a vaccine would probably be ready before the end of the year. 

“We’re rounding the turn. We’re learning to live with it,” said Trump. 

“We’re learning to die with it,” replied Biden, who criticized the president for not having a plan to address the crisis.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America,” Biden said. 

(AFP)

Pivoting to a report that the current administration could not locate the parents of more than 500 children detained at the border with Mexico and separated from their families, Trump said children are brought across the border by “coyotes and drug cartels.” 

Defending his immigration policies, Trump said the border is now more secure than ever. 

He said he is “trying very hard” to reunite children with their parents. 

Biden called the Trump administration’s inability to locate the parents “criminal.” He said Trump’s family separation policy made America a laughingstock: “It violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

The president then pressed Biden to answer “who built the cages” that were shown in media reports. Biden dodged the answer. 

The cages were built in 2014 by the Obama administration. 

Biden then promised, if elected, to put in motion reforms that would provide a pathway to citizenship, protected from deportation, for undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers”.  “We owe them,” Biden said.

Discussion heated up when Welker breached the race topic, as the country continues to contend with civil unrest over racial injustice and police brutality.  

Biden said the US has “never, ever lived up” to the promise of liberty and equality for all, a principle upon which it was founded.

Trump said that, other than Abraham Lincoln, “nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump.”

He attacked Biden’s support for the 1994 crime law, which critics say has led to mass incarceration.

But Biden turned to the camera and addressed voters directly:  “You know who I am. You know who he is.” 

Biden called the president a “racist” who “pours fuel on every single racist fire.”

(AFP)

“I think I have great relationships with all people. I am the least racist person in this room,” Trump responded.

Twelve days before the election, American voters were able to watch unfold two visions for the future of their country. It is hard to tell whether the candidates were able to broaden their appeal beyond their own bases and attract the undecided voters, whose numbers are shrinking by the day. 

Millions of them are already standing in long lines outside polling stations, braving night and chilly temperatures, to cast their early, final votes.