Trump, at Halloween rally, bashes 'far-left media' for trying to 'push people apart' after Pittsburgh slayings

Speaking Wednesday night at a rally in Fort Myers, Fla., President Trump condemned the "far-left media" for "once again using tragedy to sow anger and division" shortly after his visit to Pittsburgh in the wake of Saturday's deadly mass shooting at a synagogue there.

The approximately 8,500 supporters in the crowd at the Hertz Arena erupted in a chant of "CNN sucks" as Trump paused. He then accused the media of overblowing a protest in Pittsburgh during his visit, and "doing everything in their power to play it up and push people apart."

CNN host Don Lemon was fiercely criticized earlier in the day after an on-air rant in which he declared that “white men” are the biggest terror threat to the United States, adding that "there is no white-guy ban" and wondering aloud, "What do we do about that?" A CNN spokeswoman said neither Lemon nor CNN would have any further comment on his statement.

Trump's broadsides were unrelenting: "The far-left media has spread terrible lies and stories about the Trump administration, and the tens of millions of people who make up our movement -- the greatest political movement in the history of our country," the president continued, as the crowd cheered.

On-air personalities at CNN and other networks have hammered Trump for his fiery rhetoric in the wake of last week's mail bombs, which police say were directed at prominent liberals by a supporter of the president, as well as Saturday's shooting -- even though the alleged perpetrator in Pittsburgh, Robert Bowers, had posted anti-Trump and anti-Semitic messages online.

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Close to a thousand protesters, including some organized by the Jewish group IfNotNow, demonstrated against Trump's visit in Pittsburgh -- with many arguing that Trump's rhetoric has endorsed white supremacy. IfNotNow advocates for ending what it calls Israel's "occupation" of the Palestinian territories; Trump formally moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem earlier this year, enraging groups like IfNotNow.

Earlier in the day, Trump on Twitter took a shot at some Democrats in Pittsburgh, including the city's mayor, who refused to meet with him during his visit.

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Trump then turned to the migrant caravans making their way through Mexico to the U.S., saying, "They got a lot of rough people in those caravans -- they are not angels. They are not."

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The White House has said that up to 15,000 U.S. troops could be deployed to the border if the caravan continues its approach. The Pentagon also said Wednesday afternoon that its initial estimate was for 7,000 troops at the border.

The president referred to birthright citizenship -- the process by which the children of illegal immigrants born on U.S. soil automatically become citizens -- as a "crazy policy," echoing remarks he has made throughout the week.

"Illegal aliens are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States," Trump said to applause at Wednesday's rally, to chants of "U-S-A!"

That comment was significant, because the 14th Amendment reads: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

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Some Republicans are advancing the theory that illegal immigrants are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the U.S. within the meaning of that provision, which would give Congress the legal daylight to pass a law codifying Trump's view, modifying the current Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) of 1952.

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The president was kicking off a final series of rallies, ahead of next week's pivotal midterm elections, and fans had streamed into the arena after lining up well before dawn, many wearing red shirts and tossing beach balls.

"They got a lot of rough people in those caravans -- they are not angels."

— President Trump

A few people wore Halloween attire — a man in an Uncle Sam hat, one in a red cape, another dressed as a Revolutionary War soldier. While the atmosphere was festive, the president's schedule appeared urgent: Trump has 10 more rallies planned in 8 other battleground states ahead of Election Day on Nov. 6, with two each in Indiana and Missouri, plus stops in Tennessee, Georgia, Ohio, Montana and West Virginia.

And, a new round of Fox News state polls Wednesday showed several of those states remain tight.

Florida, which Trump narrowly carried in the 2016 presidential election, is home to two major, neck-and-neck races that Fox News currently rates as toss-ups.

The Republican Senate candidate, incumbent Gov. Rick Scott, is facing off against Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, who has held the office since 2000 and leads by 2 points in the RealClearPolitics polling average. Trump called Scott an "incredible asset" Wednesday night, saying he had handled Hurricane Michael effectively earlier this year.

"Together, we will ensure Florida comes back stronger than ever -- it's already happening," Trump said. "Rick and everybody in Florida did a phenomenal job."

Meanwhile, polls show GOP gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally, slightly trailing Democratic nominee and current Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, who has been besieged in recent days by a series of document releases that show he may have lied about potentially illegal campaign expenditures and donations.

The president frequently referred to Scott and DeSantis as "Rick and Ron" during Wednesday's rally, and said they had worked well together and, if elected, would both "keep the Florida boom in full swing."

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Trump already has taken public shots against Gillum, calling him a "stone-cold thief" in a Fox News interview on Monday, after the state ethics commission released documents that showed he accepted tickets to the Broadway musical "Hamilton" from an undercover FBI agent posing as a local developer in the summer of 2016. Gillum has maintained he assumed his brother bought the tickets.

Other disclosures from the investigation into possible corruption in the Tallahassee government appeared to show Gillum illegally using city funds for campaign trips that his office apparently misrepresented as official business.

Gillum struck back on Twitter, writing that it's never wise to "wrestle with a pig." He also has accused DeSantis of failing to be fully transparent about roughly $150,000 in taxpayer-funded travel expenses he has incurred during his six years in Congress. DeSantis is not legally required to provide detailed receipts for those expenses.

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All congresspeople receive an allowance for traveling during their time in office, including to attend interviews and answer questions, and DeSantis has said those funds were used for hotel stays and travel expenses. His spokeswoman has said the money went to "official office travel that included official media appearances."

While Trump is not on the ballot in November, both Democratic and Republican strategists have reported that Trump's rallies — the centerpiece of his unconventional and underestimated 2016 campaign — have been a boost for local candidates, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in free media and boosting Republicans in post-rally polls.

At least one local business allowed employees to take the day off if they attended the rally.

The atmosphere leading up to the speech was like a rock concert, with some people batting a large beach ball in the bleachers as the Village People's "Macho Man" blared over the sound system.

By Election Day, Trump will have held 30 rallies since Labor Day, according to the White House. He's been holding events in competitive House districts and in states with competitive Senate and gubernatorial races.

More than 3.4 million people already have voted in Florida, surpassing the number who voted early or by mail four years ago.

Fox News' Barnini Chakraborty, Dana Blanton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.