PENSACOLA, Fla. — In a wide-ranging speech on Friday night, Donald Trump said that as president he would shoot Iranian boats out of the water if they make improper "gestures" toward American vessels, that Hillary Clinton is so protected from having to face consequences that she could murder someone in front of 20,000 witnesses and not face prosecution and that voters need to be "very, very vigilant" on Election Day.
Ever since he installed new campaign leadership about three weeks ago, Trump has softened his tone on the campaign trail and mostly stuck to prepared rally speeches loaded onto teleprompters. That level of discipline seemed to fade during a rally in a packed arena in the Florida Panhandle on Friday night.
As Trump shared his plans to dramatically grow the "depleted military" and grow the number of Navy ships to 350, he brought up Iran, a country he has frequently said takes advantage of the United States' generosity.
"And, by the way, with Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people, that they shouldn't be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water," Trump said to thunderous applause. Soon the crowd began to chant: "USA! USA! USA!"
In late August, Iranian naval vessels repeatedly veered close to American warships and maneuvered in ways that U.S. officials deemed harassing and unsafe. The American warships repeatedly signaled to the Iranian vessels to stop and, at one point, fired three warning shots into the water.
Trump also continued his attack on Clinton, saying that she has escaped punishment for using a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
"She is being so protected, she could walk into this arena right now and shoot somebody with 20,000 people watching — right smack in the middle of the heart — and she wouldn't be prosecuted, okay?" Trump said, exaggerating the capacity of the Pensacola Bay Center which can only hold 12,000. "That's what's happened. That is what's happened to our country. I never thought I'd see the day where this is happening to our country."
It was reminiscent of a comment Trump made in late January when he told a rally crowd in Iowa: "They say I have the most loyal people... where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters."
Later in the rally, Trump said that Clinton could not be trusted to make clear-headed military decisions.
"Her policies have produced only death, destruction and not diplomacy," Trump said. "She's trigger-happy, and now she's trying to say like she's this — let me tell you, folks, personally? Personally? I think she's an unstable person. Okay? She is trigger-happy."
The crowd cheered Trump's personal take and a few women in the crowd started chanting: "Lock her up! Lock her up!"
Trump also defended his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," which former president Bill Clinton has recently suggested is a coded message to white Southerners because the "the good old days ... weren't all that good in many ways." Trump praised the media for pointing out that Clinton said the same words, "make America great again," while campaigning for president in the early 1990s.
"'Make America great again — racist, racist!' Except he used it. A lot," Trump said. "Surprised. I thought it was just ours. It's just one more Clinton lie. And even the media reported it as a big, fat, juicy lie. Thank you very much, fellas. Finally. Finally!"
And Trump once again suggested that he might lose the election because of voter fraud, telling his crowd: "Be very, very vigilant on November 8. Watch what's happening. Watch what's happening." Trump was only interrupted once by protesters during his hour-long speech. The group was quickly escorted out of the arena by security — along with a large group of bikers who support Trump.