(CBS News) — In President Trump’s third rally this week, he criticized the media for its coverage of the arrest of Cesar Sayoc, who is suspected of sending at least 13 explosive devices sent by mail to prominent Democratic figures. Mr. Trump claimed the media tried to tie Seyoc to his followers.
“The media has tried to attack the incredible supporters of our movement,” he said, segueing to discussing his administration’s accomplishments. “We want honest coverage from the media. That’s all we want.” He also repeated his claim that he was a “nationalist,” not a “globalist,” but he wants “to help the globe.”
Mr. Trump began the rally by addressing Sayoc’s arrest, applauding the FBI, the Secret Service, and state and local law enforcement. “We love our police, and we love our law enforcement,” he said.
“Political violence must never, ever be allowed in America and I will do everything in my power to stop it,” Mr. Trump said, calling for an “end to the politics of personal destruction.” He added that “the media has a major role to play, whether they want to or not.” The crowd then chanted “CNN sucks,” while Mr. Trump looked on.
Mr. Trump falsely said that when a supporter of Bernie Sanders shot at several Republican congressmen last year, Republicans did not blame Sanders, as “it would have been the wrong thing to do.” In fact, Republican figures such as Newt Gingrich and Rep. Steve King pointed to the rise of violence on the left as a cause for the shooting.
Mr. Trump is in Charlotte, the site of the 2020 Republican convention, to rally for vulnerable Republican candidates in the purple state, Rep. Ted Budd and GOP candidate Mark Harris. The CBS News Battleground Tracker rates Budd’s district and “lean Republican.” Harris, an evangelical pastor, is facing a tighter race against Democrat Dan McCready. That race is rated “toss up” by the CBS News Battleground Tracker.
At the rally, Mr. Trump made some references to North Carolina, congratulating the state for its recovery from Hurricane Michael earlier this year. He also mentioned the death of a state trooper whose family was attending the rally. At one point he brought Budd and Harris to the stage, saying that they were the “real reason” the rally was occurring.
As with many of his recent rallies, Mr. Trump emphasized the need for Republicans to turn out and vote in the midterm elections, raising the specter of “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer” as Senate Majority Leader and Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. At one point he also began to criticize Rep. Maxine Waters, but he said that he was “going to be nice tonight.”
Mr. Trump hit familiar beats in this speech, falsely saying that Democrats wanted to allow “caravan after caravan” of migrants into the country, alluding to a caravan currently en route to the United States from South America, which the U.S. is seeking to block. He repeatedly teased that an announcement related to the border wall would come next week. He also incorrectly said that the majority of Democratic congressional candidates supported Medicare for All, and that this plan would “obliterate” existing Medicare.
Mr. Trump used a version of a catchphrase he has unveiled in previous rallies over the past month: “This will be the election of the Kavanaughs, and the caravan, and law and order and the tax cuts. And you know what, frankly, this will be the election of common sense.” He also said that his views weren’t conservative or liberal, but “common sense.”
Mr. Trump’s predecessor, former President Obama, also rallied on Friday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Detroit, Michigan, following a similar pattern of criticizing the other party and calling on Democrats to vote.
Mr. Trump did not directly address Sayoc, a 56-year-old man from South Florida with connections to New York, who has a criminal history in Broward County, Florida. He also appeared to be a supporter of Mr. Trump. CBS News has also acquired a video of Sayoc at a Trump rally, although it is unclear when the video was recorded. His vehicle appears to have been covered by pro-Trump stickers. Sayoc will likely be prosecuted by the Southern District of New York.
Speaking to the Young Black Leadership Summit after Sayoc’s arrest, Mr. Trump congratulated law enforcement for collaring him. He said the suspect would be prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law.” He said that the “terrorizing acts” were “despicable and have no place in our country.”
“We must never allow political violence to take root in America,” Mr. Trump said. He did not refer to the suspect or the people targeted by name.
The president, speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn, said he doesn’t share blame in the incident, despite Sayoc’s apparent support for him.
“No not at all,” the president said. “I mean, not at all. No. There’s no blame there’s no anything. If you look at what happened to Steve Scalise, that was from a supporter of a different party. If you look at what happened on numerous of these incidents they were supporters of others, no. I’m just really proud of law enforcement, I think they did an incredible job.”
— Grace Segers
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