Trump Invokes Patriotism and Unity After Day of Twitter OutburstsBy
Speech to Christian group heavy with campaign applause lines
President takes a stab at inclusiveness: ‘We all bleed red’
President Donald Trump delivered a campaign-style speech heavy with patriotic themes and support for American troops on Saturday night, and didn’t spare the news media from another dose of the criticism dished out earlier in the day on social media.
“The fake news media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them, because the people know the truth,” the president said in a speech to the “Celebrate Freedom” event at Washington’s Kennedy Center. “I’m president, and they’re not.”
The program, billed as a tribute to veterans, was staged by Christian broadcasting group Salem Media and the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Trump recycled many of his biggest campaign applause lines, including a vow to “build the wall” on the U.S. border with Mexico, a reminder that he “inherited a mess” upon taking office, and a warning of the dangers of “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Trump used the event, on the weekend before the Independence Day holiday, to attack the free press as “fake” for coverage critical of him. But the First Amendment, the tenet of U.S. democracy that bolsters freedom of religion and speech, also covers freedom of the press -- a protection Trump didn’t highlight.
In a stab at inclusiveness late in the 34-minute remarks, Trump said, “We all share one home, and one glorious destiny. And whether we are black or brown or white -- we all bleed the same red blood. We all salute the same great flag.”
The speech, heavy on praise for the military and law enforcement, and for the role of religion in public life, came days ahead of the nation’s annual Independence Day celebration.
Trump is also considering his administration’s approach toward fighting Islamic State.
He said Saturday that terrorism and extremism can’t be allowed to spread in the U.S., and was the “one of the most grave and dire threats to religious liberty.”
The occasion gave Trump an opportunity to reset his message after a stalled push for a vote on Senate health-care legislation, resistance from several Republican-led states to turning over private voter data for a Trump commission to study fraud, and the now three-day feud with MSNBC morning show hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
Trump has looked to recent rallies to energize his base. At an event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in June, he spoke for more than an hour. In May, he used a commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, to amplify his own reputation as a political outsider.
He returned to that theme on Saturday, saying that his administration “is transferring power out of Washington and returning that power back to the people, where it belongs.”
The president made a special return flight to Washington for the event at the Kennedy Center. He’s spending the long weekend with wife Melania, son Barron, and in-laws at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort.
Reporters were kept several miles from the property on Saturday, and the White House gave no details about the president’s day. Trump kicked off his day with a series of tweets that continued criticisms of cable TV networks and asking the more than 20 states resisting turning over broad voter data: “What are they trying to hide?”
Trump’s swipes at Brzezinski’s physical appearance and mental state have prompted several Republicans in Congress to call the tweets inappropriate and un-presidential. The back-and-forth also includes a claim by the MSNBC hosts that White House officials suggested the couple could have fended off a negative story about them in the National Enquirer by apologizing to Trump for their negative coverage of him.
“My use of social media is not Presidential - it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL,” Trump tweeted to his 33 million followers Saturday.
Organizers of Saturday’s event, an event with a voice and orchestral show, said the audience was to include hundreds of veterans from around the country including wounded warriors receiving care at Walter Reed Medical Center in suburban Bethesda, Maryland.
The church’s pastor, Robert Jeffress, host of “Pathway to Victory,” an internationally distributed radio and television program, said in a statement ahead of the event that he was “honored” but “not surprised” that Trump had agreed to participate. “I’m grateful that President Trump has created an atmosphere in which evangelical Christians feel at home once again in our nation’s capital,” Jeffress said.
“My administration will always support and defend your religious liberty,” Trump said in his prepared remarks.
The first family will return to Washington Monday night in preparation for a July 4 gathering at the White House that’s become tradition for U.S. presidents. Later next week, Trump embarks on his second foreign trip as commander in chief, which will include stops in Poland and Germany, where he’ll participate in a Group of 20 summit and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders.