Trump turns veterans address into political rally

President Donald Trump urged the audience before him on Tuesday to support a Missouri Republican’s Senate campaign, smeared Democrats and warned the crowd not to “believe the crap you hear from (the media.)”

The speech amounted to a typical political stump speech for Trump, all except for the setting. Instead of a political rally draped in campaign signage, Trump was addressing the annual convention of the nonpartisan Veterans of Foreign Wars, which invites the sitting US president every year — regardless of party — to address its members.

Past US presidents have typically focused their remarks at the annual veteran’s event on policy issues, leaving little room for partisan political attacks or political endorsements. President Barack Obama, though, in 2015 used his speech to take shots at Republicans over their budget proposal at the time.

Politics were on Trump’s mind as he began his speech — which was welcomed with raucous cheers and at times boos aimed at the Democrats Trump attacked — by remarking that the roll call of “nay” votes on his Veterans Affairs secretary’s confirmation amounted to a list of Democrats who will likely challenge him in 2020.

From there, Trump welcomed Missouri’s Republican attorney general, Josh Hawley, on stage and told the crowd “we need him so badly” in the Senate. Next — much like a political rally — Trump ticked down a list of accomplishments and promises kept since he came into office before delivering fierce criticism of the news media and leveling attacks against Democrats.

“Don’t believe the crap you hear from these people — the fake news,” Trump told the crowd of veterans. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Raising the issue of immigration, Trump claimed many Democratic politicians are “disciples of a very low IQ person,” Rep. Maxine Waters, a frequent Democratic critic of the President’s. He also falsely accused Democrats of being “OK” with crime in the US.

“They want open borders, and crime’s OK,” Trump said. “We want strong borders and we want no crime.”

Trump arrived in Kansas City, Missouri, on Tuesday after a local newspaper rolled out a welcome mat in the form of an editorial warning about his bellicose rhetoric toward Iran.

His appearance came amid a confluence of controversy involving Trump on the world stage, including an all-caps tweet two days earlier warning Iran that continued threats would result in “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

Trump’s tweet prompted an editorial from The Kansas City Star urging Trump to take the opportunity “to listen — and we mean really listen — to some of the heroes who will be on hand to hear him.”

“They surely will have something to say about the realities of war and the horrors of combat,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote. “Those insights would be good for Trump to hear now as he continues to rattle his saber at foes around the globe.”

Trump on Tuesday said he was open to negotiations with Iran and said he is “ready to make a real deal, not the deal done by the previous administration, which was a disaster.”

Trump’s earlier saber-rattling toward Iran also came as he has sought out a less confrontational approach to Russia that has left the President’s critics and supporters alike accusing him of adopting a weak posture in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last week in Helsinki, Finland, Trump refused to back the US intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference in 2016 over Putin’s denials, before later attempting to walk back his remarks and reaffirm his support for US intelligence agencies.

Trump has sought to sweep away that controversy with another, signaling on Monday that he may revoke the security clearances of several former national security officials who have criticized him.

The President’s trip to Kansas City will also include a political component. Trump will also hold a roundtable with supporters and will deliver remarks at a fundraising luncheon benefiting Josh Hawley, the Republican seeking to unseat Missouri’s Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.