GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A raucous crowd clapped, cheered and chanted as President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Grand Rapids Thursday, slamming the Russia investigation, promising to protect the automotive industry and saying he would devote more money to the Great Lakes.
Trump promised “full funding” of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which works to fight pollution and stop invasive species in the lakes and their watersheds. That program has faced funding cuts the last two years in Trump’s budget, with the money eventually being restored.
Trump credited hard work from Michigan Republicans in Congress including U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland and John Moolenaar of Midland.
“We’re very close to getting started on the new Soo Locks that people have wanted to build for a very, very long time,” Trump added.
In his first rally since the findings of the Russia investigation came out, Trump started by claiming a victory.
“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead,” he said.
Special counsel Robert Mueller found there was no evidence Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in 2016, though Mueller left the issue of obstruction of justice open. The U.S. attorney general ultimately decided there was not enough evidence to charge Trump with obstruction.
Trump blamed Democrats and the media for pushing the investigation forward, repeating his claim that it was a “witch hunt” meant to remove him from office. He said the investigation hurt many people, “but more importantly, our country was hurt.” He said it was proof that his call to “drain the swamp” was still necessary.
Trump’s rally at Van Andel Arena, which police say drew around 15,000 people downtown, marked his first visit to West Michigan since he became president. Like it was in 2016, Michigan is expected to be a battleground in 2020. A spokesperson for the Trump campaign said Thursday it’s a must-win state.
It’s far too early to say which way Michigan may go, but voters did elect Democrats to several important offices in the midterm. Only a few blocks from the arena, opponents held a rally at Rosa Parks Circle, where the Baby Trump Balloon was on display.
But a crowd of thousands filled the arena, many wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats or Trump T-shirts. Shortly before doors opened, the line to get in stretched around the arena along Ionia Avenue and ended more than half a mile away at the Downtown Market. Trump’s speech was streamed on a big screen outside for the hundreds of people who couldn’t get in.
Met by cheers, Trump championed his 2016 victory in Michigan. He reminded the crowd that metro Grand Rapids was his last campaign stop before the election. He said the turnout then told him he was going to take the state.
“I said, ‘How the hell can I lose Michigan?’ And guess what? We didn’t lose Michigan,” Trump said.
“Four more years, four more years,” supporters chanted.
Several pieces of Trump’s speech were directed at key constituencies, including blue-collar workers and women. He touted a strong economy and said his administration has revitalized the automotive industry, creating more auto manufacturing jobs in Michigan. He said his trade policies, including reworked deals with North American partners and in Asia, have given the American auto industry an edge.
“Under my administration, we live under two simple rules: Buy American and hire American,” he said. “And we’re already seeing the results.”
He cited Fiat Chrysler’s recently announced $4.5 billion investment in southeast Michigan, and other investments by Ford Motor Co. and General Motors. He added he was still fighting with GM to keep open plants that are scheduled to be closed.
Hitting one of his core platforms, Trump spent much of the speech talking about immigration and what he has called a crisis at the southern border. He promised to build his border wall, celebrating his recent veto of a congressional move to overturn the national emergency he declared to get the money to fund that wall.
“National emergency it is,” he said. “And if you look at the border … you would know that we need (the wall).”
>>App users: Photos from President Donald Trump’s visit