President Donald Trump attacked his critics, promoted his steel and aluminum tariffs and tossed out an idea to have drug dealers face the death penalty, all while addressing a raucous rally Saturday for a Republican congressional candidate in a tight race.
“I don’t know if that’s popular,” he said of the death penalty idea. “I don’t know if that’s unpopular.”
Trump’s appearance was aimed at helping Republican Rick Saccone in a district Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016 as part of a narrow win in Pennsylvania.
But while he heartily endorsed Saccone as a “really good person,” Trump spent a lot of time talking about his own fortunes in a “Make America Great Again” rally in an airport hangar at the Pittsburgh International Airport.
He said it was crucial for Republicans to muster forces to turn back a strong Democratic drive to win one or both houses of the U.S. Congress in November midterm elections.
“We need Republicans. We need the vote,” Trump said, saying Democrats would take away, among other things, “your Second Amendment rights” to bear firearms.
'Build the wall'
The president also revisited a campaign promise, saying he rejected a demand from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to say Mexico would not have to pay for a proposed U.S. border wall.
Trump brought up the issue when the crowd started chanting “Build that wall.”
Trump called Pena Nieto a “really nice guy” who made his request respectfully.
But, “I said, ‘Are you crazy? I am not making that statement,' " Trump said he replied.
Trump is set to visit a prototype of his long-sought wall in the San Diego area on Tuesday.
Tariffs and jobs
A day after getting news that the U.S. economy produced 313,000 jobs last month, Trump said his policies were paying off.
He said 25 percent tariffs on steel imports would boost Pennsylvania’s economy.
Critics say the tariffs could trigger retaliatory trade measures and damage the U.S. economy. There are also doubts about how far Trump’s policies will go toward resuscitating the battered American steel industry.
“Your steel is coming back. It’s all coming back,” Trump told several thousand cheering supporters.
Trump vowed to fight any retaliatory trade measures by, for example, taxing imported European cars.
Trump also said he hoped to run for re-election against Democrat Oprah Winfrey, although the entertainer has ruled out a run.
“I’d love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness,” Trump said.
Tuesday a test
Saccone is trying to win an election Tuesday in Pennsylvania’s 18th District to replace Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last fall while enmeshed in a sex scandal.
Polls show Saccone is in a close race against Democrat Conor Lamb. A Saccone loss would be the first loss of a Republican seat in the House of Representatives since Trump took office in January 2017, although Republicans would still control the chamber.