Live coverage: Trump rallies supporters in Las Vegas on eve of Nevada Democratic caucuses

  • In Politics
  • 2020-02-21 21:59:43Z
Live coverage: Trump rallies supporters in Las Vegas on eve of Nevada Democratic caucuses
Live coverage: Trump rallies supporters in Las Vegas on eve of Nevada Democratic caucuses  

LAS VEGAS - President Donald Trump is looking to fire up supporters in Las Vegas on Friday, just one day before Nevada Democrats decide who they want to challenge him in November.

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Trump slams nuclear waste project key to Nevada

President Donald Trump used his Las Vegas rally on Friday to weigh into one of the most touchy political issues between the Silver State and Washington: A long-dormant plan to store nuclear waste in the state's Yucca Mountain.

Trump recently reversed his position on Yucca, announcing via a tweet that his administration no longer supports funding the controversial nuclear repository. Trump revisited the issue during his remarks Friday - briefly.

"Why would you have waste in your backyard?" Trump asked the crowd. " Why should you have nuclear waste in your backyard?"

Congress selected Yucca Mountain in 1987 to become the nation's permanent repository for nuclear waste generated by utility power plants and the military.

The government already has spent $15 billion studying the location, and the Energy Department began pursuing a license for the facility in 2008. But the Obama administration abandoned the project three years later amid intense opposition from residents and political leaders in Nevada, including Harry Reid, who at the time was the Senate's top Democrat.

Trump tweeted his position on Yucca earlier this month.

"Nevada, I hear you on Yucca Mountain and my Administration will RESPECT you!" Trump wrote. "Congress and previous Administrations have long failed to find lasting solutions - my Administration is committed to exploring innovative approaches - I'm confident we can get it done!"

- John Fritze

Medical emergency briefly pauses rally

More than an hour into the rally, Trump briefly paused for what appeared to be a medical emergency involving someone in the audience.

Trump interrupted his remarks to call for a doctor. He then waited while medical personnel attended to someone in the audience.The exact nature of the emergency was not immediately clear. But after a few minutes, Trump resumed his remarks with a soliloquy about illegal immigration.

-Michael Collins

Trump brings wall jacket supporter on stage

President Donald Trump often brings elected officials and celebrities on stage at his rallies, but he only rarely invites up attendees. On Friday in Las Vegas, Trump invited a man to the stage who was wearing a brick pattern suit jacket - as in, a "wall" jacket.

Did he look familiar? He should. The president has invited him on stage previously, including during a rally last year in Pennsylvania.

The man could be heard telling Trump that he has attended dozens of the president's rallies. Another supporter came up wearing a T-shirt accusing CNN of being "fake news."

"Thank you for saving America," the second man told the president.

-- John Fritze

Trump says report of Russian interference on his behalf 'disinformation'

President Donald Trump dismissed the idea that Russia is interfering on his behalf - again.

His remarks at the Las Vegas rally follow reports that U.S. intelligence officials told lawmakers this month that Russia is mounting an effort steer the 2020 election in his favor.

"Here we go again," Trump told the crowd. "Aren't people bored? It's disinformation."

Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that Russia had launched a widespread campaign to aid Trump in 2016 but said there was no evidence the Trump campaign colluded in that effort.

Democrats accused Trump of dumping Joseph Maguire as his director of national intelligence this week because of the briefing.

During his rally, Trump questioned why Russia wouldn't wait to see who the Democratic nominee is before deciding whom to support in 2020.

"Would he rather have, let's say Bernie, who honeymooned in Moscow?" Trump said. "These people are crazy."

-- John Fritze and David Jackson

Donald Trump … movie critic?

For the second night in a row, Trump complained that this year's Academy Award for Best Picture went to "Parasite," a film from South Korea.

"I don't get it," Trump said.

"I get along great with South Korea," he said, "but you know I never saw that one before."

Trump aired the same gripe Thursday night at a rally in Colorado Springs, Colo., suggesting that an American movie should have won.

"Was it good? I don't know. Let's get 'Gone with the Wind' back, please? 'Sunset Boulevard.' So many great movies," he said.

-Michael Collins

'Thank you, President Trump'

President Donald Trump used his Las Vegas rally to mark the 40th anniversary of one of the sports world's biggest upsets: The U.S. Olympic ice hockey team's 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union in 1980.

Trump brought members of the "Miracle On Ice" team to the stage; as college-age kids back in 1980, the U.S. team defeated the heavily favored Soviets - essentially professional-level players - en route to the gold medal in ice hockey.

Trump also inserted himself into the discussion, asking team leader Mike Eruzione if he regarded the president as a good athlete and golfer.

"You are, sir," Eruzione told Trump. "Whatever you say."

Some people may have wondered why Trump was celebrating the 1980 Winter Olympic ice hockey team - at least until the president noted that Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics, and give himself credit for that.

"Thank you, President Trump," Trump said.

- David Jackson

Trump rally underway

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has kicked off his rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center - the third of three rallies this week during his swing through western states.

Trump is speaking a day before Nevadans head to their caucus to choose a Democratic presidential candidate. If past is prologue, Trump is guaranteed to rag on the Democratic field, knock his impeachment as a "hoax" and tout the economy.

Trump in Colorado: Donald Trump bashes Brad Pitt, Joe Biden and polls during Colorado rally

Here are a few other things to watch for:

Nevada swing. How much Trump talks about Nevada as a state he'll compete in later this year. The state has gone for Democrats in the past three elections, but by progressively narrower margins. Polls indicate that the state leans Democratic, but is still up for grabs this year.

Caucus trouble? The Democratic Party is bracing for its second try at a caucus following the messy problems in Iowa. Trump relished slamming Democrats for the problems that delayed the results in Iowa, and it's possible he'll revisit the issue again Friday on the eve of the voting in Nevada.

Thank the Academy. In his rally in Colorado on Thursday, Trump broke into a new line of attack against the Oscars, asserting that the Academy should not having given the Best Picture award to the South Korean film Parasite. Film executives fired back by suggesting that Trump didn't appreciate the movie because he couldn't read the English subtitles. Was Trump's criticism a renewal of his broadside against Hollywood liberals, or a one off for the Colorado crowd? His supporters will know soon.

- John Fritze

'Between us and the rest of the world'

LAS VEGAS - Israel Morfin drove nine hours from Santa Fe to attend the Las Vegas Trump rally.

The 42-year-old nurse has a complicated relationship with the presidency.

"I couldn't stand the man for the first two years," he said.

Morfin is a gay, Hispanic man born and settled in New Mexico. Most of his friends are Democrats.

So how did he end up here wearing a Captain America shirt and "Make America Great Again" hat?

"I saw a documentary," Morfin said. "'Trump At War.' That changed everything. Trump is standing between the rest of the world and us."

In Morfin's view, Democrats sold out the U.S. to China - and calling a gay man LGBTQ is far-left propaganda.

"That term doesn't represent me as a gay American," he said. "I think a lot of gays are starting to open their eyes."

Morfin echoes many Trump supporter sentiments about Democrats fighting the president in congress or on the campaign trail: "They're trash. Impeachment? For making a phone call?"

In the distance, chants of "Four more years, four more years!" rippled through a sea of red waiting for the president to step up to the podium.

-Ed Komenda

The King backs The Donald?

LAS VEGAS - Elvis is not endorsing anyone for president. But Elvis impersonator Jeff Stanulis is all in for Trump.

Stanulis has been performing along the Las Vegas Strip for years and counts among his repertoire a majority of the 439 songs Elvis ever recorded.

Striding into the Las Vegas Convention Center wearing his white jumpsuit, sunglasses and that iconic hairdo, Stanulis seemed to be a reminder that this is not just any campaign rally -- and certainly not Iowa or New Hampshire -- but Las Vegas.

Why does The King back the president?

Stanulis said that the president seems to work for the public rather than powerful people in Washington -- that swamp, perhaps, the president derides so often.

"He's going to win by a landslide," Stanulis said.

- Andrew Oxford

Does Trump have a chance in Nevada?

WASHINGTON - Nevada has backed a Democrat in the last three presidential elections. So why is President Donald Trump rolling the dice with a rally in Las Vegas?

For starters, Trump has showed up in every state where Democrats are holding a primary or caucus for a rally. Trump rallied in Iowa four days before Democrats voted in that state and visited New Hampshire on the eve of that state's first in the nation primary election.

The Trump campaign, which also brings out a bevy of surrogates, has said the rallies are a good way to flex their organizing muscle ahead of November.

But Nevada is also a state that could potentially be in play this fall, depending on the Democratic nominee. While the state has been colored blue at the end of the last three elections, the margins for the Democratic candidate have gotten considerably smaller. President Barack Obama won the state in 2008 by more than 120,000 votes. By 2016, Clinton's margin had shrunk to 27,000.

Trump in Arizona: Trump's Phoenix rally: What were the facts behind his major claims?

The polling also shows the potential for a close contest.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has a wide lead in polling among Nevada caucusgoers. Sanders was up 14 percentage points over of former Vice President Joe Biden in a poll released this week by KLAS-TV and Emerson College.

But for the general election, polling is more sporadic and uncertain.

A Fox News poll last month had Biden beating Trump by 4 percentage points and showed the president narrowly ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren as well as former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Another poll, conducted by Emerson College last fall, put Trump narrowly ahead of Biden and tied with Sanders.

Much of that polling was conducted before former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg became a major force in the Democratic field by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on television and internet advertising.

- John Fritze

Trump tales: From the Chicago cop to the crying businessman, Trump's anecdotes often change with each telling

'Make liberals cry'

LAS VEGAS - As hundreds of Trump supporters filed into his "Keep America Great" rally in Las Vegas on Friday, there was a clashing of conventions.

Standing in another line at the Las Vegas Convention Center were players of the Dragon Ball Super card game in town for a regional tournament.

Wearing team jerseys, beanies and otherwise nondescript clothing, the card players - many of them wearing eyeglasses - encountered Trump supporters with red shirts, cowboy hats and American flags.

"We're going to make liberals cry," said one woman in a red Trump campaign shirt.

The conversations were brief and entertaining to Dragon Ball players like Pooyan Nikjou.

"It's kind of surreal," said the 26-year-old Tulsa native. "If you look at the people in this line, they are all younger and more moderate."

At one point, a MAGA support walked up to the group of card players and asked: "Do you want to keep American great?"

When the group said nothing, the supporter walked off after calling them "damn libs."

Josh Harris, a 32-year-old Dragon Ball Super player from San Diego found the interaction between card players and Trump supporters disconcerting.

"It makes me really sad and embarrassed," Harris said. "We're all Americans."

- Ed Komenda

'He's draining the swamp'

LAS VEGAS - Tammy Joslin, a LGBTQ Trump supporter, stood in line outside the rally with this message written across her shirt: "Find your safe space snowflake."

Joslin has lived in Las Vegas for 24 years. She's been married to her partner for 28 years. A Northern California native who moved to Southern Nevada to buy a home in a cheaper housing market, she works as a slot machine attendant at the Aria on the Strip.

She identifies as a fiscal conservative independent voter who is socially moderate.

Trump is the candidate America needs, she said.

"He's not afraid to say what he feel," Joslin said. "He's draining the swamp for the people."

- Ed Komenda

Vegas rally is part of 4-day western swing

The event at the Las Vegas Convention Center - Trump's third "Keep America Great" rally in as many days - is the final stop on his four-day swing through the West. It starts at 3 p.m. ET.

Trump's supporters won't have the opportunity to vote for him on Saturday. Nevada Republicans canceled their caucus, citing what the state party said was the inevitable conclusion that Trump would be the party's nominee.

But Nevada Democrats will be making their choices for president. And Trump has made a habit of trying to upstage Democrats by scheduling rallies just days - or hours, in some cases - before their caucuses or primaries.

In Iowa, Trump rallied his supporters in Des Moines four days before the state's Feb. 3 caucuses. In New Hampshire, he held a rally in Manchester on the eve of the state's Feb. 11 primary. His next rally is scheduled for next Friday in South Carolina - the day before voters in that state head to the polls.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump in Vegas: President rallies supporters before Nevada caucuses


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