President Donald Trump doubled down his attacks against Democrats and his impeachment trial at a New Jersey campaign rally Tuesday night, accusing them of pursuing “deranged partisan crusades” and reminding supporters of the importance of winning back the House of Representatives in November.
“The Congressional Democrats are obsessed with demented hoaxes, crazy witch hunts and deranged partisan crusades,” Trump said, speaking at the Wildwoods Convention Center by the New Jersey shore in his shortest rally of the campaign so far.
“Americans of all political beliefs are sick and tired of the radical, rage-filled left socialists,” Trump continued. “Really, the Democrat Party is the socialist party and maybe worse. Voters are making a mass exodus from that party and we are welcoming them to the Republican Party with wide open arms.”
Trump continued to go after Democrats, claiming that they “have never been more extreme than they are right now” and calling them “crazy.”
“These people are crazy. They’re taking their cues from socialists like Bernie [Sanders],” he said of the Vermont senator and presidential candidate.
Trump addressed the New Jersey crowd Tuesday night shortly after his lawyers wrapped up their defense in the president’s Senate impeachment trial. The first day of questioning will begin on Wednesday when senators of both parties are allowed to question House prosecutors and White House team.
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“They can’t win an election so they’re trying to steal an election. It’s not happening folks, it’s not happening,” the president said.
Though the president railed against impeachment, he avoided bringing up one of the most significant revelations so far. Citing an unpublished manuscript, The New York Times on Sunday reported that former national security adviser John Bolton charged that Trump told him last year that nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine was conditioned on investigations into Trump’s political rivals.
NBC News has not seen the manuscript or verified the allegations.
Trump, who typically holds rallies in competitive states that supported him in 2016, made an unusual choice to visit a Democratic stronghold for his first campaign rally since the start of the Senate impeachment trial. Hillary Clinton won New Jersey in 2016 by 14 percentage points.
But Trump waded into enemy territory Tuesday night amidst a political battle back in Washington to show thanks for newly minted Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey.
“I have to tell you, a few weeks ago Jeff was one of the brave and principled Democrat lawmakers — in all fairness, we’ve been after him for a long time — who stood up to the House Democrats and the outrageous abuse of power that you see going on right now,” Trump said, praising Van Drew and inviting the congressman to join him on stage.
“Jeff had the guts to defy the left-wing fanatics in his own party.”
Van Drew, a freshman congressman representing the southern New Jersey swing district, announced in December that he was defecting from the Democratic Party to join Republicans over his opposition to impeaching Trump. In an Oval Office meeting, Van Drew pledged his “undying support” to the president and in turn, Trump offered his endorsement.
Some Democrats have suggested that Van Drew switched parties after polling showed that Democrats in his district did not want to renominate him in 2020. Trump promised he would support Van Drew in his re-election and campaign for him.
“You have to get out and vote Republican, get rid of these clowns. And you have to get out and vote for really a brave man, what he did was incredible, Jeff Van Drew,” Trump continued.
Van Drew traveled with the president from Washington to New Jersey on Air Force One Tuesday evening. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, a New Jersey native, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime Trump ally, were also in attendance.
Monica Alba contributed.