Trump looks to boost 2020 bid with peace plan, Wildwood rally
By JONATHAN LEMIRE
WASHINGTON (AP) - The unveiling of a long-awaited Middle East peace plan. A fiery, made-for-TV defense against impeachment on the floor of the Senate. A rally in deep blue New Jersey to fire up supporters and back a newly minted Republican ally.
President Donald Trump was spending a particularly busy Tuesday moving on several fronts toward a common goal: shoring up support for his reelection bid. Using both the power of the presidency and his robust reelection bank account, Trump was reaching out to different groups, trying to push past the ongoing impeachment trial that has cast a shadow over the White House.
“I was not elected to do small things or shy away from big problems,” Trump declared in the East Room of the White House. He was referring to his new Mideast peace plan but also giving voice to his fundamental argument for a second term in office.
Iowa's caucuses next week will be the first big milestone of the 2020 presidential campaign. Although Trump doesn't face a serious Republican primary challenger, the kickoff of voting provides a backdrop for the president's whirlwind day in Washington and his evening rally in Wildwood, New Jersey.
Releasing a Middle East peace plan is a signature event for any White House, though Trump’s proposal was immediately met with skepticism that it would go anywhere without Palestinian buy-in. But Trump’s proposal was about more than how the plan would play out in the troubled region. It was also an effort to keep his promises to some of his most ardent supporters at home.
Trump’s strong pro-Israel position has brought him support from Zionist Jews and evangelical Christians. Trump enjoys robust support from evangelicals, and his first campaign event of 2020 was a speech to conservative Christians in Miami.
Minutes after Trump concluded his remarks Tuesday, the president's impeachment trial resumed at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, where his legal team was wrapping up its defense presentation. Trump had demanded that his legal team use its three days to offer a robust televised defense of his actions and play not just to the 100 senators in the chamber but also to the millions watching at home.
Although Trump’s acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate is all but assured, his team has tried to minimize the political damage. And the president is hoping to use impeachment to motivate his political base and independents disenchanted with impeachment to turn out in greater numbers this fall.
Jay Sekulow, one of his lawyers, used his time before the Senate to offer a greatest-hits list of attacks against Trump’s perceived foes - from ousted FBI agents to secret federal courts - and to highlight what he saw as politically driven maneuvering by the Democrats to oust the president.
“Danger, danger, danger,” he told senators. “That’s politics. You’re being called upon to remove the duly elected president of the United States. That’s what these articles of impeachment call for.”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone, also part of the defense, added: “What they are asking you do is to throw out a successful president on the eve of an election, with no basis, and in violation of the Constitution.”
“Why not trust the American people with this decision? Why tear up their ballots?” Cipollone said. “The election is only months way. The American people are entitled to choose their president.”
While Trump’s lawyers argued that the Democrats were trying to undo the last election, the president’s focus on Tuesday night will be on the next one. For his first rally since the Senate trial began, Trump was traveling not to a 2020 battleground state but instead to the Democratic stronghold of New Jersey.
The rally will be in support of Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who recently switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP after breaking ranks over impeachment. Trump hosted Van Drew in the Oval Office last month and pledged to hold a rally for him ahead of his election this fall.
The setting will be atypical for Trump: a Jersey shore town where people camped out overnight on the beach to get a spot in line for the rally being held at a boardwalk convention center. Campaign officials expected a raucous crowd, one that does not have many chances to see Trump in person and may draw in voters from the nearby battleground state of Pennsylvania.
Van Drew, who will attend the rally, has pledged his “undying support” to Trump.
Trump celebrated Van Drew’s defection as a sign of cracks within the Democratic Party over impeachment, and he was expected to use the New Jersey rally to again paint the Senate trial as a purely partisan proceeding, aides said.
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