President Donald Trump hosted a rally in Grand Rapids Thursday, his first 2020 campaign stop since the release of the Mueller report.
The report, detailing the two-year investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, found no evidence that President Trump coordinated with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference.
Mueller’s estimated 300-page report has not yet been released in its entirety. And although Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of the report stated that the investigation did not implicate Trump in a crime, it also did not exonerate him of one, Trump declared victory.
“The collusion delusion is over,” Trump said to the crowd at Van Andel Arena. “Total exoneration, complete vindication.”
Trump then referred to the section of the arena reserved for journalists as “the fake news media right back there,” and the crowd booed the group in support.
Trump went on to suggest that the ratings for several news networks “dropped through the floor” following the release of Mueller’s report. He then congratulated Fox News on what he presumed would be increased ratings, referring to the network’s television personalities Tucker Carlson, Shawn Hannity and Laura Ingraham by their first names.
“Our friends Tucker, Shawn, Laura, (ratings) through the roof last night,” Trump said.
In an appeal to Michigan and its surrounding areas, Trump promised the crowd that he would secure the $300 million in funding needed for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program designed to protect and restore the nation’s largest freshwater lake system.
“I support the Great Lakes, always have,” Trump said. “They are beautiful, they’re big, very deep. Record deepness, right?”
The promise of funding was in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s spending proposal for the next fiscal year, which was submitted just 17 days earlier and included cutting $270 million, or 90 percent, of the funding for the initiative.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted that Thursday’s rally generated a crowd of 14,000 attendees indoors with an additional 20,000 in the streets. In comparison, the Grand Rapids Police Department determined that roughly 15,000 people total were in the downtown area for the rally. Van Andel Arena has seating for an estimated 12,000 people, and a large screen outside the arena broadcasted Trump’s speech for those unable to get a seat indoors.
After the speech, supporters and protestors shared their takeaway from the presidential visit to Grand Rapids.
Jake Haskins, 18, of Grand Rapids, was pleased with what Trump said during the rally and as a new voter is looking forward to practicing his right to vote during the next election.
“I feel like I was represented very well,” Haskins said. “Trump represented everybody. I heard exactly what I wanted to hear. Trump gave us all the knowledge we needed. It was great. I’m looking forward to seeing the wall and seeing the decline in drugs and human trafficking. I had an amazing time. We’ve been here since 10:30 this morning. It’s been an amazing day. First Trump rally, I’m 18, I’m a new voter. I’m excited to put my vote out there.”
Also inside the Van Andel to see the president in person was Mary Catherine Vierheilig, 80, of Howard City, Michigan, who liked what Trump talked about during his speech and the issues he brought up.
“We like the wall, we like the vets, jobs are great, Lake Michigan is very dear to our hearts,” Vierheilig said. “I hope they bring him back soon, again.”
Standing outside of the venue were protestors who saw the speech from a jumbo screen just outside the arena. Halli Jaros, 21, of Grand Rapids, attended her first protest Thursday and was saddened by what she saw.
“I honestly have never been to a political protest at all before,” Jaros said. “I was kind of more just curious as to what it was like but it was more sad than anything seeing (the supporters). I was actually getting emotional.”
As for the speech, Jaros was left confused and would like to see someone else in the president’s place.
“(The speech) didn’t make any sense,” Jaros said. “I was trying the whole time to figure out where he was going… It’s not very informative to the people that are new to rallies. What’s the point? I would like to see anyone but Trump. Any sort of change would be great. Any sort of positive change would be good.”
Also standing outside the arena was Brad Overbeck, 27, of Saranac, Michigan, who was not fazed by what the president said during his speech.
“There wasn’t anything that he said that I didn’t expect,” Overbeck said. “He was gloating… over the Mueller thing and that’s to be expected and just a bunch of most likely made up numbers about jobs. There wasn’t really anything that surprised me at all.”
As for the political climate in the country currently, Overbeck is not pleased and would like to see some changes.
“It sucks so much,” he said. “I feel like so many people just are caught up around this hysteria sort of around Trump. They identify with his rhetoric sometimes because once in a while he says some really sane things sometimes like “Yeah we have to protect our health care, Medicare.” Yeah that’s good, but it just seems like the Republicans… they’re gone to me. I don’t even know how you bring them back.”
Statements made by Trump at the Grand Rapids rally have been fact-checked by the Associated Press and the results can be found here.
Reporters Tatiana Diaz and Alec Maule contributed to this report.