Over the course of the rallies, Trump has amped up his attacks on refugees and a Muslim congresswoman, his approval of violence against journalists, his baseless theories about Joe Biden and his not-terribly subtle shunning of a mask to protect against the novel coronavirus.
Trump has, as he has sought to before, tied Democrats to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Previously, he urged Omar and fellow women of color in “the Squad” to “go back” to where they came from — although all are U.S. citizens and three of the four were born in the United States.
Trump last week in Bemidji, Minn., referred to Internet rumors that Omar had married her brother, saying, “Did she marry her brother? Where is that writer that writes — that writer should be given the Pulitzer Prize.” He added that “every family in Minnesota needs to know about Sleepy Joe Biden’s extreme plan to flood your state with an influx of refugees from Somalia,” where Omar comes from, and “from other places all over the planet.”
And: “One of the most vital issues in this election is the subject of refugees. You know it. You know it perhaps better than almost anybody. Lots of luck. You having a good time with your refugees?”
Trump added Tuesday in a rally near Pittsburgh: “She’s telling us how to run our country. How did you do where you came from? How is your country doing?”
Omar immigrated from Somalia amid its civil war when she was 8 years old.
Trump has also taken to citing MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi, who was struck by a rubber bullet while covering racial-justice protests. That’s despite it occurring months ago. Trump has occasionally wrongly described Velshi’s employer and the object that struck his knee.
“I remember this guy, he got hit on the knee with a canister of tear gas and he went down. He didn’t — he was down. My knee, my knee,” Trump said, as the crowd laughed. “Nobody cared. These guys didn’t care. They moved him aside. And they just walk through him. It was like — it was the most beautiful thing.”
Trump added: “Wasn’t it really a beautiful sight? It’s called law and order. Law and order.”
Trump added Monday in Ohio: “Remember they hit the CNN reporter in the knee. He went down, Ali Velshi. He said this is a friendly protest. It’s wonderful to see such a — behind him, it was all fire for blood. It looked like Berlin during the war.”
Trump previously praised GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte (Mont.) for an assault on a reporter to which the congressman pleaded guilty. But at the time, it was couched as a joke.
Trump has also in recent days attacked his 2020 opponent, Biden, for how much he wears a mask — something health officials encourage — and has made unsubstantiated claims of drug use and plastic surgery on Biden’s part.
“He’s like 100 yards from the nearest human being, he’s got a — he feels good about the mask,” said Trump, who has regularly played down the need for masks and has eschewed wearing them even when in close quarters, apart from a brief period in which he labeled them “patriotic.” “I wonder in the debate, it’ll be him and I on the stage. Is he going to walk in with a mask? I’ll be honest, he feels good about — he feels good about the mask, and that’s okay.”
It’s not the first time Trump has ridiculed Biden for how much he wears a mask, but it comes as health officials have doubled down on how vital they are — and as much of Trump’s base continues to buck that advice. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said last week the protection of a mask is more guaranteed than even the effectiveness of a vaccine. Trump, though, disputed what Redfield said and has repeatedly cast doubt on their efficacy and declined to more forcefully urge their use.
Trump went on to claim Biden is covering up plastic surgery with his mask: “I mean honestly, what the hell did he spend all that money on the plastic surgery if he’s going to cover it up with a mask? Seriously.”
Trump has also baselessly claimed in recent days that Biden has taken drugs. Trump cited Biden’s primary debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as his supposed evidence, suggesting Biden had done better than in previous debates — and apparently adjusting expectations for his own clashes with Biden beginning at next week’s general election debate.
“And I said, ‘What the hell is he taking?’ And we’d like to ask him and I said that,” Trump said. “We want a drug test. We want a drug test. We’ll both take it. We’ll both take it.”
Trump echoed his baseless claim about Biden and drugs this weekend on Fox News.
Trump has hit on all of these themes before — accusing his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton of being infirm, attacking refugees as potential sleeper cells or anti-American and labeling reporters the “enemy of the American people” while suggesting approval of violence against them.
But what we’ve seen over the past several days is Trump pushing the envelope even more in an attempt to rile up his base. The rallies suggest people who turn out to see him in the midst of a pandemic approve of his political style — often laughing or applauding his provocations — but those probably won’t be the voters who decide the 2020 election.