GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Donald Trump traveled Saturday to the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, where he suggested that the United States is nearly as divided now as it was then. But instead of laying out his vision for uniting the country, as President Abraham Lincoln once did here, Trump declared that the system is rigged against him, that election results cannot be trusted, that Hillary Clinton should have been barred from running for president, that the media is “corrupt” and that he will sue all of the women who have accused him of sexual assault.
“It is my privilege to be here in Gettysburg, hallowed ground where so many lives were given in service to freedom — amazing place,” Trump said, soon after taking the stage more than an hour later than expected in a ballroom at the Eisenhower Hotel and Conference Center. “President Lincoln served in a time of division like we've never seen before. It is my hope that we can look at his example to heal the divisions we are living through right now. We are a very divided nation.”
Trump told the crowd of about 500 locals who are active in the Republican Party that he didn't have to run for president, but he did so because the country is in trouble, and he can fix things because he's an outsider who knows how the “very broken system” works. He described himself as being able to deliver “the kind of change that only arrives once in a lifetime.”
Trump said the system is “totally rigged and broken” because Clinton has been allowed to run for president, even though he says that she broke “so many laws on so many different occasions.” Trump also implied that what he called rampant voter fraud could cost him the election and said the media was “dishonest.”
“They’re corrupt. They lie and fabricate stories to make a candidate that is not their preferred choice look as bad, and even dangerous, as possible,” Trump said. “At my rallies, they never show or talk about the massive crowd size and try to diminish all of our events. On the other hand, they don't show the small size of Hillary's crowds but, in fact, talk about how people are there — very small crowds, you know it, they know it, everybody knows it.”
Media outlets often provide crowd estimates for campaign events by both Clinton and Trump.
Trump also accused media outlets of giving voice to women accusing him of improper behavior or sexual assault without fact-checking their claims, even though in many cases the women have provided the publications with the names of witnesses and others who have supported their accounts.
“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” Trump said, as the crowd cheered. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
After spending more than 13 minutes listing his grievances, Trump read several numbered lists of things that he would do on his first day in office or during his first 100 days. Nearly all of the items were things that he has repeatedly promised to do, but this was the first time that he listed them in a speech.
In June, Trump gave a similar speech where he laid out just eight chief goals: Appoint judges who will uphold the U.S. Constitution, push for immigration reform, challenge countries that benefit too much from trade deals, stop the flow of jobs out of the country, lift restrictions on energy production, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, push for tax reform and impose new ethics rules for the office of the secretary of state.
In his speech Saturday, Trump listed more than two dozen things that he wants to do, including amending the Constitution to create term limits in Congress, renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals, overwriting “every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama,” and suspending immigration from “terror-prone regions.”
Trump's priorities were organized along four central themes: ethics reforms in Washington; protecting American workers; domestic security and rule of law; and legislative measures he will propose to Congress, including repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Late Friday night, a handful of campaign aides had a conference call with reporters to preview Trump's speech. Though the call lasted more than 30 minutes, the aides — who spoke on the condition of anonymity — provided little information about what Trump would actually propose in the speech.
When asked why Trump selected Gettysburg as the setting for his address, an aide said that Trump “has spoken before about Abraham Lincoln” and that “Abraham Lincoln is going to be an important figure in terms of Mr. Trump's vision for the Republican Party.” But also: unity, military veterans and African American voters.
“Gettysburg was the moment where the war turned,” the aide said. “It was a symbol of sacrifice. It's obviously a very fitting location.”
Trump was joined in Gettysburg by his top two campaign aides, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, along with former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg. As Trump spoke, Conway and Giuliani stood to the side of the stage and watched.
After his speech, Trump visited the Gettysburg National Military Park, where a small crowd of onlookers had gathered to see him.
DelReal reported from Washington.