As if the 2016 campaign had never ended, a pugnacious President Trump delivered a free-wheeling speech at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday night, where he bashed Obamacare, Democrats, and the media, and touted with hyperbole the successes of his five-month-old presidency fraught with infighting and scandal.
"They have a phony witch hunt going against me and you know what: all we do is win, win, win," Mr. Trump told the clamorous crowd over the course of an hour and ten minute long speech, relishing Tuesday night's congressional special election GOP wins in South Carolina and Georgia.
Mr. Trump announced that he was going to introduce legislation "very shortly" barring immigrants from having access to welfare during their first five years in the country. Under existing law, many immigrants are already barred from applying for federal welfare programs during their first five years in the country. It's unclear how Mr. Trump's proposal will differ.
The President, who claimed that after "years of lawlessness," the U.S. was enforcing immigration laws for the first time, also revealed a new vision of the wall along the southern border.
Candidate Trump's "Who's gonna pay for the wall" call and response was replaced by a plan to build a solar wall along the border "so it creates energy and pays for itself."
"And this way, Mexico will have to pay much less money and that's good," Mr. Trump told the crowd of over 5,000 people at the U.S. Cellular Center.
While White House staffers spent the night with Republican Senators on the Hill, drafting their secretive healthcare bill to be released on Thursday, Mr. Trump offered no details of the replacement bill but defended the controversial process to the audience — "I've only been there for five months" — and assailed Democrats for being Trumpcare "obstructionists."
"If we came to you and said, here's your plan, you're going to have the greatest plan in history and you're going to pay nothing, they'd vote against it folks," Mr. Trump claimed.
"I can't guarantee anything, but I hope we're going to surprise you with a really good plan," he added. "You know I've been talking about a plan with heart. I said add some money to it, a plan with heart. But Obamacare is dead."
Mr. Trump's speech was riddled with reversals and contradictions that received applause nevertheless.
While describing the situation in the Middle East — "$6 trillion of thousands of young beautiful lives" — Mr. Trump, who ran on a campaign opposed to engagement, conveniently failed to mention that he had recently delegated authority to the Pentagon to send several thousand more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
Hours after his 2020 campaign team confirmed that the President would be hosting a fundraiser at the Trump Hotel in D.C. on June 28th, Mr. Trump claimed that he does "not answer to any donors of financial contributors"
And after a campaign spent lambasting Goldman Sachs and a corrupt establishment, Mr. Trump bragged that he had entrusted the role of Chief Economic Adviser to former Goldman Sachs CEO Gary Cohn.
"I love all people — rich or poor — but in those particular positions I just don't want a poor person. Does that make sense?" Mr. Trump quipped, explaining why he had hired Cohn.
Remarkable clip from tonight where Trump explains why only rich people should be in charge of economic policy.
"I don't want a poor person" pic.twitter.com/HdWFg0aU1t— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) June 22, 2017
Mr. Trump's tone on China had also been dramatically tailored. After praising the newly confirmed Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, the former Governor of Iowa, informed the group that Branstad had told him that "we've had a very good relationship with China."
"I wish we would have a little more help with respect to North Korea, but that doesn't seem to be working out," Mr. Trump added in a muted manner.
After lauding himself for exiting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the President gingerly walked the crowd of loyal Trump supporters through why he had not yet ripped up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as he had promised to do on the campaign trail.
"So I announced that essentially that I was going to terminate [NAFTA] but got a very nice call from Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada and the President of Mexico asking me not to terminate – could we negotiate and I'm always willing to negotiate," Mr. Trump told the crowd, who booed at the mention of Trudeau.
Mr. Trump, prone to embellishments, littered his speech with factual inaccuracies. Explaining why he had pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement several weeks ago, Mr. Trump cited a "permanent economic disadvantage" if the United States had remained in the accord.
"And they all say it's non-binding, like hell it's non-binding," Mr. Trump said. "When we get sued by everybody because we thought it was non-binding, then you can tell me it was non-binding."
The agreement is, indeed, non-binding.
The President also repeated an oft-repeated false claim that the United States is one of the most highly taxed nations in the world.