By Vandana Rambaran
Published January 14, 2020
President Trump lashed out at congressional Democrats during a raucous rally in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, saying the party wouldn't give him credit for ordering the killing of "son of a b----" Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani and urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to spend more time fixing her "filthy, dirty district."
The president mocked Democrats demanding answers about the motivation for the attack: "I think they're gonna start a new investigation. Was the attack imminent?"
Congressional Democrats have expressed increasing frustration with the administration over the Soleimani attack. The Senate is expected to vote in the coming weeks on a privileged War Powers Resolution meant to block Trump from using military action toward Iran without first seeking congressional approval.
The resolution is expected to receive bipartisan support with at least four Republicans voting for its passage, despite Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's insistence that the attack, which was carried out without the approval of Congress, was necessary due to an imminent threat against the U.S.
Trump reiterated Tuesday night that Soleimani was "actively planning new attacks. But we stopped them cold." He did not give any new details about what exactly the imminent threat was.
"Frankly, they already started the attack," Trump added, referring to Iran-backed militias storming the U.S. embassy in Baghdad late last year. "I said to our generals, get there now, I don't want another Benghazi. Not on my watch. They said, 'Sir, we'll be there tomorrow,' and I said, 'Nope, get 'em over there now."
The president joked that the soldiers who came to the aid of the embassy were "better than Tom Cruise, at his best." He added, "I warned the Ayatollah, they must not harm hurt or kill any protestors, the whole world is watching."
Trump's campaign stop in Wisconsin is set against the backdrop of a looming Senate impeachment trial, which could begin as early as next week.
Hours before Trump left Washington, D.C., for Wisconsin, Pelosi announced that she will name impeachment managers ahead of a House vote on Wednesday to send two articles of impeachment -- alleging obstruction of Congress and abuse of power -- to the GOP-controlled Senate.
"Our opponents say, 'We're not going to win. Let's impeach him,'" Trump said at the top of his rally.
Trump later lambasted Pelosi, calling on her to fix the "filthy, dirty district" she represents in California and said she’s taking her cue from the "socialist" wing of her party.
Trump called the impeachment proceedings against him "a total hoax," adding that allegations that he leveraged military aid for an investigation into 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, were "based on a perfect phone call."
"If you go back and look at Lyndon Johnson, take a look at them, can you imagine his phone calls," Trump said. "He's either looking down or up saying these people are going crazy, that's the nicest call."
Trump's comments bore a resemblance to similar remarks he made at a Michigan rally in December about former Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who died of pancreatic cancer in February. Trump quipped that Dingell was "looking up... Maybe, but let’s assume he’s looking down," drawing harsh criticism from Dingell's wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who decried the comments as hurtful.
Trump took the stage at the Panther Arena, where scores of supporters lined up throughout the day, an hour before Democrats faced off in the final debate in Iowa before that battleground state holds its caucuses on Feb. 3.
The president's appearance in Wisconsin was an effort by his campaign to again clinch victory in a state that was notoriously blue before Trump beat Hilary Clinton by nearly 23,000 votes in 2016.
A recent Fox News Poll showed Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., leading Trump by four points in Wisconsin. Forty-six percent of registered voters favor Sanders compared to 42 percent backing Trump.
"Bernie is surging," Trump said.
He later called Sanders a "nasty guy" but admitted he did not believe Sanders said a woman was incapable of winning the presidency, as Warren recently alleged. "It's not the kind of thing he would say," Trump said of Sanders.
Democrats are expected to hold their national convention in the crucial state of Wisconsin in July in an effort to secure a 2020 win.
Trump also touted his construction of a wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico and claimed "Mexico's paying for the wall," which Mexico has said is untrue.
"We're adding new miles every week," Trump said. “We believe Wisconsin should be a sanctuary for law-abiding citizens, not for criminal aliens."
Counterprotests and other related events organized by both Democrats and the Trump administration were planned ahead of the rally at an arena in the heart of downtown.
Democrats were focused on health care issues, with Mayor Tom Barrett, the state Democratic Party chairman, and others were planning to speak against Trump's health care policies at a Milwaukee hospital. They were pressing the need to uphold the current law, enacted under former President Barack Obama, that guarantees coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Protests were also planned around the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee arena. The Coalition to March on the DNC said more than a dozen groups would be joining its event. And immigrant and refugee advocacy group Voces de la Frontera planned a separate rally to criticize the Trump administration's treatment of immigrants and refugees.
Meanwhile, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, was holding an event to highlight the administration's criminal justice reform efforts with Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Trump signed the First Step Act, a law designed to overhaul the criminal justice system, reduce the number of people in prison and help former inmates rejoin society. It was a rare bipartisan victory, with backing from black leaders and lawmakers.
Democrats and Republicans are trying to win over black voters in big cities such as Milwaukee that will play a huge role in deciding who will become the next president. Lower African American turnout in 2016 was part of what helped fuel Trump's victory.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.