WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump made only the most passing mention of the political and legal troubles rapidly enveloping his presidencyduring a rally of West Virginia Tuesday night, saying there’s still no proof his campaign worked with Russian agents to win the 2016 presidential election.
“Fake news. How fake are they?” he said, pointing to news cameras at the back of the Charleston Convention Center. “Fake news and the Russian witch hunt. We’ve got a whole, big combination. Where is the collusion? You know, they’re still looking for collusion! Where is the collusion? Find some collusion. We want to find the collusion.”
Trump’s rally in West Virginia came scarcely three hours after nearly simultaneous legal developments that threaten his presidency: A guilty verdict against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on tax and bank fraud charges, and a guilty plea by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen for tax evasion bank fraud and illegal campaign contributions.
Arriving in Charleston on Air Force One, Trump addressed reporters about Manafort – but walked away when the subject turned to Cohen.
Manafort, he said, was “a good man” who worked for previous Republican presidential candidates Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole.
“He was with a lot of different people over the years and I feel very sad about that. Doesn’t involve me but I still feel, you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened,” he said. “Had nothing to do with Russian collusion. We continue the witch hunt.”
Trump then met with supporters for a fundraiser and held a 75-minute campaign rally for Patrick Morrisey, the GOP Senate candidate challenging Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
As he does at campaign rallies, Trump offered up a meaty stew of off-the-cuff one-liners on immigration, trade, judicial nominations, jobs and taxes. He criticized sports network ESPN for not broadcasting the national anthem at football games, commented on the arrest of an undocumented immigrant in the death of an “incredibly beautiful young woman” in Iowa, and blasted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for saying “America was never that great.”
“That’s the Democrats’ new theme,” Trump said.
Trump’s visit to the heart of coal country came the same day as his Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules allowing states to adopt less stringent regulation on older, coal-fired electric plants.
“We love clean, beautiful West Virginia coal. We love it. You know, that’s indestructible stuff,” he said, suggesting that coal was more durable than wind, solar or even petroleum.
The West Virginia capital is the latest destination in what the White House said would be a blitz of political appearances in key states in advance of November’s congressional election.