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Trump touts success, bashes opponents at Greenville campaign rally

Posted July 17, 2019 6:02 p.m. EDT
Updated July 18, 2019 1:25 p.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump on Wednesday gave thousands of supporters what they stood in line for hours to hear.

During his campaign rally at Minges Coliseum on the campus of East Carolina University in Greenville, Trump thanked over 8,000 supporters who packed the facility. He was also joined by Vice President Mike Pence, some members of his family and even two Republican candidates from North Carolina vying for open seats in Congress.

"It's great to be in the great state of North Carolina ... with the great patriots. And thank you for your support," Trump said at the start of his speech, which lasted over 1 hour and 30 minutes.

At times, the crowd was fired up as the president touted his successes and criticized the Russia investigation. While talking about economy, Trump referenced the "witch hunt" investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election. He then repeated what a person in the crowd said about it, saying "bull----."

Trump also brought up the four Democrat women he referenced in a weekend tweet that led to the U.S. House on Tuesday passing a measure condemning his actions. He referenced Ilhan Omar, one of the four, and the crowd chanted "Send Her Back."

"Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down," Trump said. "They never have anything good to say. That's why I say, 'Hey if you don't like it, let 'em leave, let 'em leave.'"

On Twitter, Omar responded by quoting from Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise."

"You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise," she posted.

The Associated Press published a fact check about Trump's statements about Omar.

Some Trump supporters lined up as much as 24 hours in advance to get into the arena. They said seeing the president was definitely worth it, and they plan to vote for him again, without a doubt, in 2020.

While the president's supporters were inside the event, protesters gathered outside.

The demonstrators held signs as people walked into the event. People on both sides shouted in support of their views. The protesters said they want to see the president leave the White House for good.

"I came out to protest the horrible mistake this country made by electing Donald Trump," said Wayne Patafio. "I'm a lifelong Democrat, I'm a progressive and this country made the biggest mistake of its life electing Donald Trump."

Some protest signs were general criticisms of President Trump, others pointed out specific policies, like conditions at the border.

Dr. Greg Murphy and Dan Bishop also spoke at Wednesday's rally. Murphy is running in the 3rd District for Congress for the seat held by Walter Jones Jr., who passed away in February. Bishop is running in the 9th District, a seat that opened after a new election was ordered there because of absentee ballot fraud in last November's election.

It was Trump’s sixth visit to the state as president and his first 2020 campaign event in North Carolina, where he defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. The latest Real Clear Politics polls have Trump behind against Democrat Joe Biden in North Carolina and in close races against Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

The Associated Press and CNN also contributed to this story.

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Live coverage of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence speaking at a campaign rally at Williams Arena on the campus of East Carolina University in Greenville.

8:56 p.m.

President Trump's campaign rally ends with him saying to the crowd to continue to "Keep America Great." Kevin Knoth, regional deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee, released this statement after the rally:

“With over 175,000 jobs created in the state since his election and the unemployment rate continuing to drop, it’s no surprise thousands of North Carolinians came out tonight to show support for President Trump and his booming agenda. The president’s ‘promises made, promises kept’ approach has produced prosperous results for the Tar Heel State, and North Carolina voters are eager to return the favor and send him back to the White House in 2020 for another four years.”

8:29 p.m.

A woman in the crowd said she's been to all but two of Trump's rallies. He was touting his success on women's issues and how much he believes women like him when the woman in the crowd spoke. He continued to rally the crowd and mentioned the Republican National Convention in 2020, which will be in Charlotte.

8:05 p.m.

Dr. Greg Murphy and Dan Bishop speak. Murphy is running in the 3rd District for Congress while Bishop is running in the 9th District. Sept. 10 is the special election for the two congressional seats. Murphy won a special election last week to be the Republican candidate.

7:59 p.m.

Fox News reports a person was removed from the crowd. He was wearing a green shirt with stripes and had a beard.

7:45 p.m.

Trump talks about the four Democrat women he referenced in a weekend tweet that led to the U.S. House on Tuesday passing a measure condemning his actions. He referenced Ilhan Omar, one of the four, and the crowd chanted "send her back."

7:39 p.m.

While talking about economy, Trump referenced the "witch hunt" investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election. He then repeated what a person in the crowd said about it, saying "bull----."

7:21 p.m.

President Trump has taken the podium to speak. He tells the crowd he has nothing to do and can speak all night. He thanks the crowd for attending. He also mentions how the U.S. House just voted to overturn a referendum to impeach him. He said the vote was 332-95.

7:09 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the crowd in Greenville before President Trump speaks.

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President Donald Trump's racist tweets aimed at four Democratic congresswomen of color have injected drama and tumult into an already-divided Washington this week. On Wednesday evening, he will leave all that behind for friendlier territory, holding a campaign rally before an arena of supporters in Greenville, North Carolina.

"Big Rally tonight in Greenville, North Carolina. Lots of great things to tell you about, including the fact that our Economy is the best it has ever been. Best Employment & Stock Market Numbers EVER. I'll talk also about people who love, and hate, our Country (mostly love)!" the president teased in a tweet Wednesday morning, alluding to his battle with the lawmakers known as "the Squad."

It's expected he will continue -- if not intensify -- his attacks on the progressive lawmakers on Wednesday night, doubling down on a campaign strategy to cast the freshmen congresswomen as the face of the Democratic Party.

The Associated Press reports Trump told reporters before departing the White House on Wednesday that he thinks he’s “winning the political argument” — “by a lot.”

Ahead of Trump's rally, Democrats gathered to talk about what they said were broken promises on ensuring families have affordable health care, protecting people with pre-existing conditions, putting corporations over the middle class and other issues.

“President Trump promised North Carolinians he’d fight for them but four years later, it’s clear he’s just another corrupt snake oil salesman," NC Democrat Chair Wayne Goodwin said. "From sparking a harmful trade war that puts our farmers in the cross hairs, to giving corporations a billion-dollar giveaway at the expense of our middle class, to repeatedly pushing to end protections for pre-existing conditions and raise health care costs, his broken promises have hurt hard-working families across North Carolina."

On Sunday, the president told the four minority lawmakers to "go back" to their "crime infested" countries. Three of the four women were born in the US and the other is a naturalized citizen. Trump's use of the racist trope sparked outrage amid Democrats and a small number of Republicans.

The president, meanwhile, has dismissed allegations of racism and has only intensified his criticism of the lawmakers, whom he branded as the "vicious young socialist congresswomen" in another tweet Wednesday.

While those close to the president have conceded his line about going back to the places they came from was not helpful, Trump's allies believe the overall strategy of making the four congresswomen the face of the Democratic Party will be a successful one, helping him frame the party as a far left, radical group.

Trump employed a similar strategy during the 2018 midterm elections, in which his party lost 40 seats to the Democrats. It's also part of how he successfully won the presidency in 2016 -- but it's unclear if the strategy will again appeal to the same moderate voters he needs win over in 2020 swing states.

Wednesday evening will mark Trump's first rally since he officially kicked off his reelection campaign last month in Orlando where he delivered a wide-ranging, lengthy speech echoing many similar themes and grievances of his 2016 campaign, including attacks on Clinton.

The trip to Greenville was initially expected to coincide with special counsel Robert Mueller's long-awaited testimony before the House Judiciary and House Intelligence Committees. It was announced last week that the testimony was delayed a week until July 24, at Mueller's request.

Trump filed for reelection the day of his inauguration, and Wednesday's rally will mark the 61st rally of his presidency, the seventh of 2019, and his third in North Carolina since taking office.