Five things to watch at Trump’s Michigan rally | TheHill – The Hill
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says wind power doesn’t work because ‘it only blows sometimes’ Fuel standards to prevent overdependence on foreign oil are out of date Trump knocks MSNBC, CNN rankings: ‘Fake News never wins!’ MORE will hold a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Thursday night, his first campaign-style event since special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE concluded his 22-month Russia investigation.
The president is likely to continue his victory lap following the release of a four-page summary from Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump knocks MSNBC, CNN rankings: ‘Fake News never wins!’ Trump says Schiff should be forced to resign Trump’s decision on health care law puts spotlight on Mulvaney MORE on Sunday that said the Mueller report did not find that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. Barr also said Mueller did “‘not conclude that the President committed a crime'” but also did not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice.
Here are five things to watch at the rally, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. EDT.
Does Trump sound like he is out for revenge?
The president has been exuberant in the wake of Barr’s summary, declaring the report a “complete exoneration.”
Trump is expected to use Thursday’s rally to turn Mueller’s core conclusions into a political cudgel and whip his supporters into a frenzy as he targets those behind the investigation for retribution.
“We can never allow this treasonous — these treasonous acts to happen to another president,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night. “This was an attempted takeover of our government, of our country, an illegal takeover.”
In the same interview, he suggested House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump says Schiff should be forced to resign Trump: Schiff should be forced out of office Obama Homeland Security chief: ‘No reason to doubt’ Mueller report findings MORE (D-Calif.) should be “forced out of office,” slammed former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyComey: I don’t know why Mueller didn’t subpoena Trump Comey: Trump tried to ‘burn down an institution of justice because he saw it as a threat’ Tlaib unveils resolution to investigate Trump impeachment MORE and former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanAlan Dershowitz: How CNN misled its viewers Webb: Mueller report, Barr letter, political fodder Mueller report: Lessons for all, including former law enforcement MORE for their early involvement in the Russia investigation, and said he “absolutely” plans to declassify and release surveillance applications related to the probe.
Trump may even go after his 2016 Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition – Trump to return to campaign stage Trump says Russia would ‘much rather’ have Clinton as president Booker: The person with the most votes should be president MORE. Such a move would draw certain pushback from Democrats and ethics officials who have warned against politically motivated investigations, but would appeal to his supporters, who tend to break into chants of “lock her up.”
How does he approach the 2020 election?
Thursday’s rally will be Trump’s first since mid-February. Since then, the field of 2020 Democratic candidates has expanded, with Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersMedicare for All: Where 2020 Dems stand The Memo: Mueller, health care set the stage for 2020 Booker: Trump is ‘complicit’ in white supremacist violence MORE (I-Vt.) and former Rep. Beto O’RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O’RourkeThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition – Trump to return to campaign stage Poll: Democrats want to abolish Electoral College, Republicans want to keep it Hickenlooper opposes Green New Deal: Resolution sets ‘unachievable’ goals MORE (D-Texas) jumping into the race.
The president has used past rallies to belittle Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTech watchdogs see red flags as Apple expands Medicare for All: Where 2020 Dems stand Booker: Trump is ‘complicit’ in white supremacist violence MORE (D-Mass.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrat Wayne Messam announces 2020 presidential bid Medicare for All: Where 2020 Dems stand Booker: Trump is ‘complicit’ in white supremacist violence MORE (D-N.J.), among other 2020 contenders. He’ll likely utilize the Michigan event to define his potential opponents with derisive nicknames, highlight their personal gaffes and label progressive policies as “socialist.”
In addition, the president may seek to get a head start on appealing directly to voters about his 2020 candidacy, as Michigan will be critical to his reelection bid. He won the state in 2016 by roughly 11,000 votes.
Trump, who rarely misses a chance to credit his administration with positive economic developments, will likely harp on low unemployment and recent investments by Fiat Chrysler, Ford and others in the state to make the case that voters would benefit from another four years of his presidency.
Does he allude to pardons?
Trump has insisted he’s not focused on whether to issue pardons to his former associates implicated in the special counsel’s investigation, but has repeatedly expressed sympathy for the likes of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortTrump: I don’t want to talk about pardons now Giuliani: ‘I would have to disagree’ with Trump that Mueller acted honorably US Embassy pressed Ukraine to drop probe of George Soros group during 2016 election MORE.
“It’s a very, very sad thing,” Trump told Hannity on Wednesday. “I don’t want to talk about pardons now but I can say, it’s so sad on so many levels.”
The White House and Trump’s attorneys downplayed possible pardons as the special counsel’s probe played out, but now that it’s reached its conclusion the president could be more publicly receptive to the idea.
Conservatives have advocated for Trump to pardon Flynn, who pleaded guilty in late 2017 to lying to the FBI, and former Trump campaign aide George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosTrump: I don’t want to talk about pardons now Finding of no collusion is good news, president must now call out 2016 election attack Rand Paul: ‘Time for Congress to investigate’ Obama MORE said this week his lawyers have asked the president for a pardon.
While Trump is unlikely to declare his intentions Thursday, he could further signal that he’s considering the idea.
Does he seize on health care?
Trump caught many Republicans off guard this week when he declared the GOP would be known as “the party of great health care.”
The president clearly sees the issue as a political winner. He sought to assure voters ahead of the 2018 midterms that Republicans would protect those with pre-existing conditions, and the Justice Department is backing a legal effort to strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.
But it’s also a potentially perilous point of focus, as Democrats campaigned during the 2018 midterms and ultimately picked up 40 seats in the House, largely by hammering Republicans over their votes to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Trump has frequently railed against his predecessor’s signature legislation, but he has not offered an alternative other than to promise “a plan that is far better than ObamaCare.”
Marc Short, chief of staff for Vice President Pence, said Wednesday evening that Trump will propose a health care plan to Congress sometime this year. He did not offer many specifics, leaving open the possibility Trump may make some promises of his own on Thursday.
Will Trump have any surprises?
The president’s campaign rallies are often unpredictable events, with the president liable to go off script, make news with off-the-cuff remarks or weigh in on seemingly unrelated topics.
He might bring guests up on stage to sing his praises, or conversely could create fresh headlines by once again attacking the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition – Trump to return to campaign stage Giffords looms large in Arizona’s Senate showdown The Memo: Mueller, health care set the stage for 2020 MORE (R-Ariz.) or an unexpected target.
The length of Trump’s rally could itself exceed expectations. While Trump is scheduled to depart the venue at 8 p.m. for a flight to Florida, his campaign events tend to run long.
Earlier this month, Trump spoke for roughly two hours at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Even though it was not a traditional campaign event, the extended free-wheeling remarks underscored the president’s penchant to surprise when he takes the stage in a room full of supporters.