At his first public appearance since announcing his presidential run, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Monday that President Trump has an even better chance of being reelected now than he did before.
The 77-year-old billionaire added that he “looked in the mirror and said, ‘I just cannot let this happen.’"
Calling himself a problem-solver who can rebuild America and beat the “existential threat" posed by the president, Bloomberg was chatting with people at a diner in Norfolk, Va. The state is part of his strategy of focusing on states with primaries on Super Tuesday.
Bloomberg's remarks echoed those of his campaign manager, Kevin Sheeky, earlier in the day. "Right now, Donald Trump is winning," Sheekey said. "It’s very tough for people who don’t live in New York or California to understand that, but that is what’s happening."
Polls have shown that independents are souring on the idea of impeaching and removing Trump from office, including in critical battleground states like Wisconsin, even after House Democrats aggressively presented their case over the past two weeks.
The centrist Bloomberg is joining an already-crowded group of Democrats, who wasted no time in unloading on the former Big Apple mayor. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, for example, said voters don't want "another wealthy person" in the White House. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders slammed Bloomberg's $30 million advertising buy, saying he was “disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any other billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy our elections."
Sanders, for his part, has already committed to spending $30 million on his own advertising, although the money was raised from supporters.
As for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, on Monday she spoke at a community meeting in Ankeny, Iowa: "Michael Bloomberg is making a bet about democracy in 2020. He doesn't need people, he only needs bags and bags of money. I think Michael Bloomberg is wrong and that's what we need to prove in this election."
Bloomberg said his campaign would focus on issues including gun control, the environment and education. But already, his campaign has been shrouded in ethics concerns and dogged by his past policies. For example, the news service that bears Bloomberg's name said Sunday it will not “investigate” him or any of his Democratic rivals, and Bloomberg Opinion will no longer run unsigned editorials.
Bloomberg News' announcement led the organization’s former Washington bureau chief to blast the decision as “staggering” and “not journalism.”
And last month, during remarks where he looked to the future before a majority-black church in Brooklyn, Bloomberg suddenly apologized for his unprecedented “stop and frisk” policy that sowed distrust of police in black and Latino communities during his administration.
That policy, which was later repealed, allowed police to stop individuals on the street and briefly question and frisk them if they had reasonable suspicion that the person may be committing, had committed or is about to commit a crime. During his speech, Bloomberg recognized that the policy, which has been credited for cutting down on violent crime, led to “far too many innocent people” being stopped, many of them black or Latino.
“Over time I’ve come to understand something that I’ve long struggled to admit to myself,” Bloomberg told congregants at the Christian Cultural Center in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. “I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong. ... The erosion of that trust bothered me. And I want to earn it back."
But, the city's top police union hit back within hours, while commentators noted that Bloomberg had defended "stop and frisk" even after a judge ruled it was unconstitutional as enforced in 2013. ("This is a dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution as determined by the Supreme Court,” Bloomberg told the media at the time. “I worry for my kids, and I worry for your kids. I worry for you and I worry for me. Crime can come back any time the criminals think they can get away with things. We just cannot let that happen.”)
“Mayor Bloomberg could have saved himself this apology if he had just listened to the police officers on the street," Police Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said.
"We said in the early 2000s that the quota-driven emphasis on street stops was polluting the relationship between cops and our communities," Lynch continued. "His administration’s misguided policy inspired an anti-police movement that has made cops the target of hatred and violence, and stripped away many of the tools we had used to keep New Yorkers safe. The apology is too little, too late."
Fox News' Brian Flood and The Associated Press contributed to this report.