Trump blames media for condemnation of comments on Virginia [video]

Trump blames media for condemnation of comments on Virginia [video]

August 22nd, 2017 by Associated Press in Breaking News

This story was updated Aug. 22 at 11:59 p.m. with more information.

UPDATE: PHOENIX (AP) — President Donald Trump blamed the media Tuesday for the widespread condemnation of his response to a Charlottesville, Virginia, protest organized by white supremacists that led to the killing of a counter-protester.

Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix with a call for unity, saying, "What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America and tonight, this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs that perpetrated hatred and violence."

But he quickly trained his ire on the media, shouting that he "openly called for healing unity and love" in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville and claiming the media had misrepresented him. He read from his three responses to the violence — getting more animated with each one.

Democrats and fellow Republicans had denounced Trump for placing blame for the Charlottesville violence on "both sides." Trump omitted that part of his reaction from his recap Tuesday night.

"You know where my heart is," Trump said. "I'm only doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are."

After the rally, a day of noisy but largely peaceful protests outside the Phoenix convention center turned unruly as police fired pepper spray at crowds after someone apparently lobbed rocks and bottles at officers.

Violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump spoke after Vice President Mike Pence and others called repeatedly for unity.

Housing Secretary Ben Carson and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., were among the openers. Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham, led the rally-goers in prayer, saying, "We're divided racially, and we're adrift morally."

Trump teased a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio, asking the crowd what they thought of him. Loud cheers erupted. The former Maricopa County sheriff is awaiting sentencing after his conviction in federal court for disobeying court orders to stop his immigration patrols.

"So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?" Trump asked. "I'll make a prediction: I think he's going to be just fine."

Earlier, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wouldn't discuss or take action on a pardon "at any point today," even though the president had told Fox News he was considering it.

Trump said at the rally that the only reason he wouldn't pardon Arpaio from the stage was to avoid controversy for the moment.

In the comfort of his most fervent fans, Trump often resurrects his free-wheeling 2016 campaign style, pinging insults at perceived enemies such as the media and meandering from topic to topic without a clear theme. Although Trump's high-profile warm-up acts suggested the president's speech would be about unity, the president was more intent on settling scores. And the tone of the event took on a combative tone.

At one point, the president threatened to shut down the federal government unless Congress, mired in gridlock over spending bills, agrees to provide funding for the border wall he wants to have built between the United States and Mexico.

Trump told the crowd, he said he has a message for "obstructionist" Democrats. "If we have to close down our government, we're building that wall."

He skewered both of Arizona's Republican senators — but coyly refused to mention their names, describing his own restraint as "very presidential."

Instead, Trump bemoaned that the Senate was only "one vote away" from passing a health care overhaul. Sen. John McCain, who is undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer, voted against a Republican health care bill.

Trump called another unnamed senator "weak on borders, weak on crime." Trump has lashed out at Sen. Jeff Flake, a frequent critic, using the same language in the past.

The president tweeted last week: "Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!" Flake has been on tour promoting his book that says the Republican Party's embrace of Trump has left conservatism withering.

Ward attended Trump's rally, but did not appear onstage.

In a modest but telling swipe at Ward — and, by extension, at Trump — the Senate Leadership Fund, a political committee closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is spending $10,000 on digital ads that say of her, "Not conservative, just crazy ideas."

Trump began his Arizona visit with a brief trip to the southern edge of the country.

While touring a Marine Corps base in Yuma that is a hub of operations for the U.S. Border Patrol, Trump inspected a drone and other border equipment on display in a hangar.

Trump shook his head as he was shown a series of everyday objects, such as a fire extinguisher, that had been refashioned to secretly transport drugs across the border. Afterward, he spent about 20 minutes greeting service members in the grueling, 106-degree heat, signing caps with his "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan and posing for selfies on the tarmac just steps from Air Force One.

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ORIGINAL STORY: YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — Fresh off a speech on Afghanistan that moved him in a different direction from many of his core voters, President Donald Trump is highlighting his pledge to combat illegal immigration by visiting a Marine Corps base along the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday.

Trump also scheduled a nighttime rally in Phoenix, which left local officials concerned that emotions may run hot among those inside and outside of the hall so soon after Trump blamed "both sides" for violence at a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Even before the rally began, protesters were engaged in minor scuffles and shouting matches with Trump supporters as hundreds of people lined up to get inside the Phoenix convention center and the temperature soared above 100 degrees. At one point, police officers formed a line in the middle of a street to separate the protesters and Trump supporters. In one exchange, a Trump supporter and protester shoved each other. In another, the two groups shouted at each other before moving on.

Still, one potential flashpoint was extinguished when the White House ruled out a pardon, at least for now, for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Trump told Fox News in a recent interview that he was considering issuing a pardon for Arpaio, who awaits sentencing after his conviction in federal court of disobeying court orders to stop his immigration patrols.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a pardon was off the table for the time being.

"There will be no discussion of that today at any point, and no action will be taken on that front at any point today," Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump.

Trump's first stop was a Marine Corps base in Yuma that is a hub of operations for the U.S. Border Patrol. Trump inspected equipment used on the southern border, including a drone, helicopter and boat, which were on display in a hangar at the base. At one point Trump was spotted patting the side of the drone.

Trump also shook his head as he was shown a series of everyday objects, such as a fire extinguisher, that had been refashioned to secretly transport drugs across the border. After the tour, Trump spent about 20 minutes greeting service members in the grueling, 106-degree heat, signing caps with his "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan and posing for selfies on the tarmac just steps from Air Force One.

Administration officials briefing reporters on the trip said the area had seen a 46 percent drop in apprehensions of people attempting to illegally enter the U.S. between Jan. 1 and July 31, compared with the same period in 2016. None of the officials would agree to be identified by name.

In fact, immigrant traffic around Yuma has dramatically slowed over the past dozen years. Once a hotbed for illegal immigration, the Border Patrol sector covering Yuma now ranks among the lowest in the Southwest for apprehensions and drug seizures.

There were some 138,000 apprehensions in 2005. The number had dropped to 14,000 by last year.

Trump is trying to shift the focus to his core campaign theme of getting tough on immigration after rankling some of his most loyal supporters with his decision, announced Monday, to maintain to a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. They are also unhappy about the recent ouster of conservative Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist.

Bannon had made it his mission to remind Trump of what his most fervent supporters want from his presidency, and some conservative strategists have openly worried that without Bannon around, Trump will be too influenced by establishment Republicans on issues such as Afghanistan policy.

Democratic leaders and other Trump opponents planned protests and marches outside the Phoenix convention center to criticize the president's immigration policies and his comments about Charlottesville. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton had asked Trump to postpone the rally to allow time for national healing after one woman was killed during the clashes in Charlottesville.

Gov. Doug Ducey, a Trump supporter, greeted Trump upon his arrival in Phoenix, but will not attend the rally to focus on safety needs, his spokesman said.

Vice President Mike Pence, asked about the rally by Fox News Channel on Tuesday, said Trump will be "completely focused" on his agenda for the country.

"He's also going to call on the Congress to get ready to come back when they arrive on Sept. 5th and go straight to work to make America safe again, make America prosperous again, and in his words, to make America great again," said Pence. He was flying separately to Phoenix to introduce Trump at the rally.

Neither of Arizona's two Republican senators planned to appear with Trump.

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a conservative, has been a frequent target of Trump's wrath. The president tweeted last week: "Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!" Flake has been on tour promoting his book that says the Republican Party's embrace of Trump has left conservatism withering.

Ward planned to attend Trump's rally, sparking talk that the president could take the politically extraordinary step of endorsing her from the stage over an incumbent Republican senator.

In a modest but telling swipe at Ward and, by extension, at Trump, the Senate Leadership Fund, a political committee closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is spending $10,000 on digital ads that say of her, "Not conservative, just crazy ideas."

Arizona's other senator, John McCain, is undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer. Trump has been critical of McCain for voting against a Republican health care bill.