Trump portrays mid-term elections as poll on him and agenda

At Missouri rally president attacks law enforcement, vowing to erase ‘lingering stench’

President Trump told the Missouri crowd that federal law enforcement was defective and he pledged to root out the “real bad ones”. Photograph: Getty Images

President Trump told the Missouri crowd that federal law enforcement was defective and he pledged to root out the “real bad ones”. Photograph: Getty Images

 

US president Donald Trump has cast the mid-term elections as a referendum on him and his agenda.

The president told a Missouri rally that a vote for any Democrat would empower “dangerous” and “crazy” people and sap the Republican Party’s fragile congressional majorities.

He also continued his attacks on federal law enforcement, promising to root out the “real bad ones” and eliminate the “lingering stench” at the Justice Department. In detailing his complaints about federal law enforcement, he appeared to allude to a New York Times article published earlier in the day that reported that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, suggested last year that he secretly record Trump and that he discussed recruiting Cabinet members about removing Trump from office for being unfit.

“Just look at what is now being exposed in the Department of Justice and the FBI,” Mr Trump told the Missouri crowd. “We have great people in the Department of Justice, but you have some real bad ones. You see what happened at the FBI. They’re all gone ... but there’s a lingering stench, and we’re going to get rid of that too.”

His remarks capped a week in which he ratcheted up complaints about attorney general Jeff Sessions, casting some federal law enforcement officers as a “cancer on the country”.

Mr Trump came to Missouri – a state he won by 19 percentage points in 2016 – to boost Josh Hawley, the Republican attorney general who is challenging senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, in a race that Republicans regard as one of their best opportunities this year to pick up a Democratic seat. Polls show the two neck and neck. The outcome could be critical in determining who controls the Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 edge.

“Get out in 2018, because you’re voting for me in 2018,” Mr Trump told thousands of supporters in the JQH Arena, on the campus of Missouri State University. “They aren’t just extreme,” he said of Democrats. “They are frankly dangerous, and they are crazy.”

Mr Hawley had only five minutes at the lectern, which he spent effusively praising Mr Trump and savaging Ms McCaskill for not being supportive of the president.

“When he makes a promise, he keeps it,” Mr Hawley said of Mr Trump. “When he makes a commitment, he delivers.”

The president spoke at length about how his candidacy and electoral victory in 2016 had defied predictions, inviting his cheering audience to relive the night of the election with him. He imitated news anchors calling states in his favour and described his election as “one of the greatest nights in the history of our country, but far less importantly, one of the greatest nights in the history of television.”

The dynamic reflected the strategy Trump has embraced as he campaigns for Republicans this year, hoping to transfer his own popularity among core party supporters to candidates who need a highly motivated base of voters to succeed. But it carries risks as well; the president’s popularity here has declined since 2016, with a recent NBC News/Marist poll showing his unfavourable rating at 50 per cent. And Republicans concede that his unique brand of popularity may not be transmittable to others on the ballot. – New York Times