WASHINGTON — One day after an angry rally in Arizona, President Donald Trump sought Wednesday to make an appeal for a “new unity.”
“We are not divided by the color of our skin, the figure on our paychecks or the politics of our party,” Trump said at the American Legion’s national convention in Reno, Nevada. The Republican invoked “shared values” and a “shared sense of unity” in calling for rebuilding American infrastructure and the economy, and pursuing an “honorable and enduring outcome in Afghanistan.”
Trump’s tone stood in contrast to the night before at a campaign rally in Phoenix, where he lashed out at the news media and both of Arizona’s Republican senators, and threatened to shut down the federal government if his proposed border wall isn’t funded. While he defended his divisive remarks on the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, street protests rumbled outside the Phoenix event.
On Wednesday, Trump held up the thousands of veterans in his audience as examples for the rest of the country as he honored their service in his address, which he followed by signing legislation that aims to streamline the appeals process for disability claims made to Veterans Affairs.
“We are here to hold you up as an example of the strength, courage and love that our country will need, to overcome every challenge that we face,” Trump said. “We are here to draw inspiration from you as we seek to renew the bonds of loyalty that bind us together as one people and one nation.”
But before his remarks, he was tweeting versions of the chiding he did of news outlets and Arizona’s Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake that he had delivered the night before in an angry and sarcastic manner.
“Phoenix crowd last night was amazing — a packed house. I love the Great State of Arizona. Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime & border,” he tweeted.
Trump has drawn strong criticism by equivocating on the cause of violence at a “pro-white” rally to defend a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12 as counter-protesters clashed with neo-Nazis, fascists and white supremacists.
At the Phoenix rally he read his prepared remarks Tuesday: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.” But he failed to add his ad-lib: “on many sides — on many sides.” Days later, Trump put the blame on “both sides.”
Meanwhile, Trump continues to take Congress — and particularly Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — to task for failing to pass legislation on the Republican agenda, especially by failing to get 50 votes for an Obamacare repeal bill when McCain voted no.
“If Republican Senate doesn’t get rid of the Filibuster Rule & go to a simple majority, which the Dems would do, they are just wasting time,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
McConnell scrapped the filibuster rule that requires 60 votes instead of a majority to approve a Supreme Court justice to confirm Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch. But McConnell, recalling when Republicans were in the minority, has refused to do the same for legislation.
Trump’s insistence at his Wednesday rally that Congress pass funding to pay for the wall on the U.S.-Mexican border — “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall” — drew a warning from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“If the president pursues this path, against the wishes of both Republicans and Democrats, as well as the majority of the American people, he will be heading towards a government shutdown which nobody will like and which won’t accomplish anything,” Schumer said in a statement.
With Yancey Roy