Politics & Government

Live updates from President Donald Trump’s North Carolina campaign rally

President Donald Trump is holding a rally on the campus of East Carolina University in Greenville on Wednesday starting at 7 p.m. It’s Trump’s sixth visit to North Carolina as president and his first 2020 campaign event in the state. We’ll update this live blog all afternoon and evening with reports from the scene.

11:15 p.m. Why #IStandWithIlhan is trending

Hours after Trump’s rally, where the crowd in Greenville chanted “Send her back” in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar, the hashtag #IStandWithIlhan was the No. 1 trending topic in the country.

At the rally, Trump took specific aim at Omar, one of the four congresswomen of color he has been feuding with since the weekend.

Omar is a Somali refugee who was granted asylum in the United States as a child. She became a U.S. citizen in 2000, when she was a teenager.

Shortly after the rally, the Minnesota congresswoman tweeted a quote from Maya Angelou: “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.”

The tweet went viral within two hours. Then she added another response: “I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!”

Meanwhile, people on social media responded with their own support for Omar. N.C. Rep. Cynthia Ball, a Democrat from Wake County, wrote on Twitter: “This kind of hatred is not welcome in the NC that I love. #IlhanRise.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Greensboro Republican who was inside Minges Arena, tweeted that he “struggled” with the crowd’s response: “Though it was brief, I struggled with the ‘send her back’ chant tonight referencing Rep. Omar. Her history, words & actions reveal her great disdain for both America & Israel. That should be our focus and not phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.”

Walker is a former pastor who represents the 6th district in central North Carolina.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, tweeted: “It’s vile. It’s cowardly. It’s xenophobic. It’s racist. It defiles the office of the President. And I won’t share it here. It’s time to get Trump out of office and unite the country.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, another Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted: “#IStandWithIlhan and am proud to work with her in Congress. Trump is stoking the most despicable and disturbing currents in our society. And that very hatred and racism fuels him. We must fight together to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of our country.”

10:05 p.m.: ‘We’re going for what he’s teaching’

Among the Trump supporters was Byron Jimenez, a native of Guatemala. Jimenez, 56, became a citizen in the 1980s and now lives in Raleigh with his wife Esther, who was born in Los Angeles after her family immigrated from Mexico.

The couple said they care more about “family values” than Trump’s immigration policy, but said they support Trump’s effort to build a wall on the southern border.

“I think they’ve got to approach it the legal way,” Jimenez said of people entering the country. He said he worries that immigrants entering the country illegally are doing so to smuggle drugs.

“This place is a blessing. This is a place we need to take care of,” he said.

Esther Jimenez said she appreciates that Trump is anti-abortion and wants to protect Americans.

“We know that Trump isn’t a sweetheart sometimes. But we’re not going for that. We’re going for what he’s teaching,” she said.

9:40 p.m.: Supporters react

It was the first Trump rally for Linda Knight, president of the Horry County Republican Women’s Club in Myrtle Beach, who said her favorite part of the rally was “everything he has accomplished ...I can’t pick just one thing. Probably jobs, creating jobs, and unemployment. I mean, we can’t get any better than that.”

Said Jesse McQueen, of Hamlet: “Everything he said he was going to do when he ran in 2016, he’s done it, and we need to keep him going.” He said the most important promise to him related to the Supreme Court. “The conservative justices in the Supreme Court, that’s what it’s all about. That’s why he got my vote and that’s why he’s going to continue to get my vote.”

9:30 p.m.: Omar responds with Angelou quote

Just as Trump finished his speech in Greenville, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat of Minnesota, tweeted a response to Wednesday night’s speech and the crowd’s chants of “Send her back.”

“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. — Maya Angelou”

She quote-tweeted a tweet from Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for President Obama, who wrote earlier in the night: “The crowd at Trump’s rally chanting ‘send her back’ after the President viciously and dishonestly attacked Ilhan Omar is one of the most chilling and horrifying things I’ve ever seen in politics.”

Omar is a Somali refugee who was granted asylum in the United States as a child. She became a U.S. citizen in 2000, when she was a teenager.

Angelou, the late author and poet, lived in North Carolina for decades and taught at Wake Forest University. She died in 2014 in Winston-Salem.

8:55 p.m.: Trump wraps up

After more than an hour and 30 minutes, Trump has finished his speech.

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8:30 p.m.: Jabs at potential 2020 rivals

Trump targeted the Democratic candidates for president:

He mocked former Vice President Joe Biden for being caught off guard in the Democratic debate.

He got in a “Pocahontas” jab against Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

He mocked Sen. Bernie Sanders for promising “free” things.” (He said he likes to joke that Sanders will give everyone a free Rolls Royce, then mocked the media for feeling the need to fact check his joke.)

And he said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg can’t stand up to China because he couldn’t help African Americans in his city.

8:20 p.m.: Praise for Tillis

Trump brought on stage for brief speeches the Republican nominees in two 2019 special congressional elections in North Carolina: state Sen. Dan Bishop and state Rep. Greg Murphy.

Trump thanked Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who’s running for governor in 2020, for attending.

He mentioned Sen. Thom Tillis, who is up for re-election in 2020 — drawing some boos but mostly cheers.

Later, Trump praised Tillis for his bill allowing people to sue sanctuary cities. “Thank you very much, Thom,” Trump said, drawing only cheers this time.

8:10 p.m.: ‘Send her back’

Trump ran through a litany of statements made by four freshmen Democratic congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

“Send her back,” the crowd chanted as Trump went through a list of actions by Omar.

7:48 p.m.: Man removed from rally

A man was escorted out of the rally.

A Fox News broadcast showed a bearded man in a green shirt with darker green stripes on it being escorted out by men in sport jackets. As he left, he whipped his head backward, sending his red hat flying.

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7:39 p.m.: ‘He said it’

“I think we’ve done more in 2 and a half years than any president ever,” Trump says. “What could have been if we didn’t have the witch hunt ...

“If we didn’t have the bullshit,” he says, repeating a fan in the crowd.

“He said it,” referring to the fan in the crowd and smiling.

7:35 p.m.: ‘Witch hunt’

Trump started his speech with some of his favorite claims.

He said the investigation into Russian election interference was a “witch hunt” and that the economy is at its highest point.

“By the way, North Carolina has had its best economic year in the history of your state,” Trump said.

He thanked the crowd for helping him win NC, before counting off all the states he won that people expected Clinton to win.

“Remember, North Carolina was gonna be the Clinton firewall,” Trump says, mocking the polls and media.

Nov. 8, 2016, “was the most exciting night in the history of television, in the history of anything.”

7:25 p.m.: Trump takes the stage

President Trump is now speaking. The crowd chanted “USA” as he took the stage.

7:18 p.m.: ‘America is back’

Vice President Pence says, “In a word, North Carolina, America is back. That’s what we call promises made and promises kept.”

Pence says Trump has appointed more conservatives to the courts than any president in history.

“It’s going to take at least four more years to drain that swamp,” he said.

7:10 p.m.: ‘Time for Round Two’

Vice President Mike Pence has taken the stage.

“It’s on everybody. Time for Round Two,” Pence said. “The campaign for America’s future starts tonight.”

“President Trump is the real deal. He’s a man who says what he means and means what he says.”

7:05 p.m.: ‘Tons of attitude’

Kate Taylor said she doesn’t agree with anything that Trump does, but was prompted to join the protest outside the arena because of his recent remarks about the four Democratic congresswomen.

“That just pushed me over the edge,” Taylor said.

Taylor, a professor in the Human Development and Family Science program at ECU, was still outside as the rally began, but she didn’t think she wanted to be around when the rally ended and thousands of Trump supporters were leaving.

“We’ve gotten tons of attitude from people walking by,” said Taylor, who held a sign she had made that said, “Your Hate Will Never Make This Country Great.”

Kate Taylor holds a sign at a protest outside President Donald Trump’s rally at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, on July 17, 2019.

7 p.m.: Trump arrives

Trump arrived at ECU at 6:33 p.m., according to a White House pool report, and attended a campaign fundraising reception before the rally.

6:55 p.m.: Protesters and Trump supporters

More than a dozen police were visible between protesters and Trump supporters as the two groups heckled each other.

Police stand between protesters and Trump supporters at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Greenville, NC, on July 17, 2019. Richard Stradling rstradling@newsobserver.com

6:45 p.m.: Trump in Greenville

Air Force One landed in Greenville at 6:08 p.m., according to a White House pool report.

“We just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment and that is the end of it. Let the Democrats now go back to work,” Trump reportedly said after leaving the plane.

The House voted Wednesday not to proceed with an impeachment resolution. The measure was not supported by Democratic leadership, which has resisted calls to impeach the president since taking the majority in January.

Trump also called it “the most ridiculous project.”

6:30 p.m.: Lara Trump

Speakers so far at the rally include Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law.

The wife of Eric Trump, she grew up in Wrightsville Beach and graduated from N.C. State University. She told the crowd her brother went to ECU.

Trump talked about polling, telling supporters not to believe the polls that predicted her father-in-law would lose in 2016.

Supporters started chanting “CNN sucks” after she mentioned the president’s negative media coverage.

6:25 p.m.: Heading for home

After the doors of the arena closed, hundreds remained outside, watching on the video screen. Hundreds more filtered away.

Among them was Barbara Burke, who said just showing up made her feel good.

“At least we know we supported him,” she said, before she and her sister started for home.

Burke saw candidate Trump at a rally in Fayetteville.

“It just makes you feel like your heart is going to swell up inside you,” she said. “I love that man.”

6:10 p.m.: A ‘million reasons’ for protest

Cindy Elmore, who teaches journalism at ECU, was among about 150 demonstrators corralled behind police tape a couple hundred yards from the arena entrance.

“I stole the line off Facebook,” Elmore said of her sign, which read “Make America Normal Again.” “But I did make it, yes.”

She said there were a “million reasons” she joined the protest.

“We’ve got to prove that there are a lot of us that are against Trump,” she said. “We just can’t roll over.”

Cindy Elmore, who teaches journalism at East Carolina University, was among demonstrators near President Donald Trump’s rally in Greenville, North Carolina on July 17, 2019. Richard Stradling rstradling@newsobserver.com

5:55 p.m.: Who will get in?

John Pate, a retired bread delivery truck driver from Midland, outside Charlotte, came to Greenville for the first time in his life to see Trump, but wasn’t sure he was going to get in, despite having a ticket.

“When you see this many people and know that only 8,000 are going to get in there?” Pate said. “It’s very disappointing.”

Minges Coliseum has a capacity of 8,000, but there will be overflow room set up.

Pate said if he didn’t get in, he would watch the rally on TV in his hotel room.

“I think he’s a very special person,” he said. “I think he’s really done a lot for this country.”

Supporters await the arrival of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence prior to a campaign rally Wednesday , July 17, 2019 East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

5:50 p.m.: The Terry Train

A rock band made up of a father and his four sons — The Terry Train, from Memphis, Tenn., sang a song called ‘CNN Sucks.’

A rock band made up of a father and his four sons sang a song called “CNN Sucks” at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on July 17, 2019. Richard Stradling rstradling@newsobserver.com

5:30 p.m.: What one supporter wants to hear

Teresa Aycock-Lyles and LaDonna Jenkins drove down from Roanoke Rapids and joined the back of the long, snaking line outside the arena at 3:45 p.m.. They said the line had been moving pretty well, but they were still a couple hundred yards from the door by 5 pm.

“We’re resilient,” Jenkins said.

“How many times do you get to see your president?” Aycock-Lyles added. She said she wanted to hear Trump talk about his accomplishments, because she doesn’t think the media does that enough.

“They don’t talk enough about the good things he has done — the jobs, the stock market and the economy.”

4:30 p.m.: ‘This is not Trump country’

Across town from the Trump rally site, a North Carolina Democratic Party news conference opened with comments from Charles McLawhorn, chairman of the Pitt County Democratic Party.

“This is not Trump country,” McLawhorn says in opening remarks.

McLawhorn pointed out that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton got more Pitt County votes than Trump in the 2016 election. Clinton received 41,800 votes and Trump received 35,600.

McLawhorn said he believes the Democratic nominee, whoever it turns out to be, will carry the county by an even wider margin in the 2020 election.

“Because he is the president, we welcome him to Pitt County and we ask him not to screw up our country,” McLawhorn said, directing his comments to Trump.

“You say you will make America great again. You cannot do that if you are willing to tear it apart with racial politics and pitting one American against another,” he said.

2:45 p.m.: ‘He’s America’s hero’

Here’s some of what supporters are saying as they gather for the rally.

Cindy Moser, New Bern: “We got here at 9:45 a.m., and we got here so early because we wanted to make sure we got through those doors to see our president. He’s my hero; he’s America’s hero because he believes in Americans and America first. He’s going to put us before he puts anybody else and I believe that’s what we need right now.”

Angela Ray, Wilmington: “I got here at about 10:30 a.m., we got here from Wilmington, NC, and I’m here to support Trump and I believe in everything he’s accomplished. I just think we need six more years of this. ... They do not want to look at themselves, the Democrats. They always want to shift blame to Trump. As Hannity said last night in his show, if he had a cure for cancer, they would be against it. It’s an attempt to embarrass our president, cause trouble, and take away from the issues of a strong economy and he building our military back up, and he has basically done everything he said and they are in panic mode.”

Rick Caton of Hatteras awaits the arrival of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence prior to a campaign rally Wednesday, July 17, 2019 East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

Supporters also reacted to Trump’s tweets and comments about four Democratic congresswomen of color.

The Democratic-controlled House passed a resolution of condemnation against Trump for his racist tweets about the congresswomen. Four Republicans and the body’s lone independent voted yes with all Democrats. All Republican members of the North Carolina delegation voted no.

Deborah Peterson, New Bern: “What he tweeted was not racial, in my opinion. What Nancy Pelosi did on the floor of the House yesterday was against the rules of the House. And with the speaker doing that, and she’s gone right into the bed with the four ‘squad.’ He did not tweet, say women, he just said that if you don’t like America, get out from here. And I believe it too.”

Duchess Sicay, Hampton, Virginia: “I think that President Trump said what everyone else is thinking and just didn’t have the guts to say it. I support him 100% and I think the Republicans that voted against him should be ashamed of themselves.”

Arnold Wright, Raleigh: “Well, he tweeted but there are a lot of lies about that tweet. He didn’t mention race at all. He’s not a racist. He only said what people think and that’s why the people like him so much: People think like he does. But he’s not a racist. If you look at what he said in the tweet, he did not say anything about race.”

2:05 p.m.: Politics of immigration

The Greenville rally is President Donald Trump’s first major event in North Carolina since October, when he rallied supporters in Charlotte ahead of the midterm elections.

Since then, the political landscape has changed In both Washington and North Carolina. Democrats now control the U.S. House of Representatives. And in North Carolina, they broke the Republican supermajority in the legislature, meaning Republicans no longer have the votes need to override vetoes from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Trump, who this week faced criticism for racist tweets telling congresswomen to “go back” to their countries, on Wednesday entered a state that supported him in 2016 — and one that’s grappling with racial tensions stoked by a proposed immigration policy.

GOP state lawmakers are pushing a bill, House Bill 370, that would require sheriffs to comply with detention requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Republicans say it would protect public safety because it targets people who have already been arrested and gone to jail on criminal charges.

But immigrant activists have called the bill racist. And some black sheriffs have suggested the bill targets them because they won last year’s elections after promising to cut ties with ICE.

Sheriff Paula Dance of Pitt County, where Greenville is located, is one of those newly elected black sheriffs. Dance didn’t campaign on the idea of opposing ICE — she complies with ICE requests — but she recently told the Daily Reflector newspaper that she opposes the bill.

Richard Stradling, Brian Murphy and Bryan Cereijo contributed to this report.
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