WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump used a rally in Iowa on Thursday to slam the ongoing impeachment trial in the Senate and claimed his administration is having a “happy period” because Americans have already moved on.
“The American people and frankly people all over the world know it’s a hoax,” said Trump, who is rallying in Des Moines on the eve of a pivotal vote that will decide whether senators will hear witnesses in the trial. “This is a happy period.”
Trump called Democrats “totally sick” and predicted that Republicans in the Senate were going to treat him “very fairly.”
“Watch,” Trump said. “Just watch.”
Embracing harsh rhetoric to describe Democrats, Trump claimed that his rivals wanted to “nullify your ballots, poison our Democracy and overthrow the entire system of government.”
Trump is rallying in Iowa four days before Democrats there hold the nation’s first presidential nominating caucus. Though Trump doesn’t face a serious challenge for the nomination in Iowa or anywhere else,the president’s campaign has described the event as a “good workout for our ground game” ahead of the November general election.
Trump started the rally by touting his recent trade agreements with China, Mexico and Canada. Trump signed a “phase one” trade agreement with China that lifts some tariffs in exchange for Beijing agreeing to purchase billions more in U.S. agricultural products.
“You’re going to make a lot of money,” Trump told the crowd. “You’re going to have to get bigger tractors and a hell of a lot more land.”
The rally is the president’s fourth in 2020, and it marks his first return to Iowa since he traveled there in June to tout his efforts to promote gasoline with higher blends of ethanol – a popular position with many Iowa farmers. The president has scheduled a rally in New Hampshire early next month ahead of that state’s primary.
The president mocked Joe Biden’s alleged forgetfulness, the pronunciation of Pete Buttigieg’s name, and also cracked a joke about Mike Bloomberg’s height.
“During this campaign season, the good people of Iowa have had a front-row seat to the lunacy and the madness of a totally sick left, this is a radical left,” Trump said.
Democrats have often made Trump a major campaign issue, saying he has divided the country, alienated allies, and skirted the law.
Proclaiming that “character is on the ballot,” Biden said Thursday that, “I don’t believe we’re the dark, angry nation we see in Donald Trump’s tweets.”
He added: “I don’t believe we’re a nation that builds walls and whips up hysteria over immigrant invasions. I don’t believe we’re a nation that embraces white supremacists and hate groups. I don’t believe we’re a nation that defers to Vladimir Putin.”
Bernie Sanders tweeted earlier Thursday that: “In just four days the people of Iowa will take the first stand against the divisiveness and bigotry of Donald Trump.”
Thursday’s rally set up a split-screen moment between the president and the ongoing trial, where senators lobbed questions at White House lawyers and Democratic impeachment managers for a second day. The Senate could vote as soon as Friday on whether to extend that trial by calling witnesses.
Trump’s visit to Iowa initially appeared to offer the president an opportunity to take a victory lap. Senate Republican leaders had signaled the impeachment trial could wind down as soon as Friday, potentially yielding the long-expected acquittal on charges that Trump abused his power by withholding military aid to Ukraine.
But that timeline was thrown into question earlier this week when The New York Times reported that a forthcoming memoir by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton alleges the president demanded Ukraine officials open an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. foreign aid.
The allegation was at the center of Trump’s impeachment, and the bombshell revelation left some centrist senators open to extending the trial by calling Bolton and potentially other witnesses. It’s not clear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the votes to block the calling of witnesses.
Supporters began lining up at the Knapp Center at Drake University more than a day before the president was set to touch down in the state, according to the Des Moines Register. Trump made a stop in Michigan earlier Thursday to highlight his new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, a rare bipartisan win for the president that will have implications for Iowa farmers and manufacturers.
Trump said he had just come from Michigan, a state that “is booming now because of me.”
Days after the rally, as Iowans caucus, the Trump campaign is expected to send an unusually long list of GOP heavyweight surrogates to the state, including Cabinet officials, congressional leaders and members of Trump’s family.
Contributing: Detroit Free Press, Des Moines Register