NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of being an “MS-13 lover” and dismissed a Democratic Senate candidate as a “tool” of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a line of attack likely to become familiar as he boosts Republican congressional candidates ahead of midterm elections.
Trump’s visit to Nashville, Tennessee, promoted the Senate candidacy of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who was expected to face former Gov. Phil Bredesen in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker. Besides headlining a private fundraiser for Blackburn, he used a public rally to urge supporters not to become “complacent” this fall while Democrats were “sticking together” to block his agenda.
“We need Marsha in the Senate to continue the amazing progress and work that we’ve done over the last year and a half,” Trump said during the rally. “To keep on winning, you have to vote Republican in November.”
The Tennessee campaign is among several races expected to determine control of the Senate, where Republicans are defending a narrow two-seat majority. The president criticized Bredesen for being backed by national Democrats.
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“He’s a tool of Chuck Schumer and of course the MS-13 lover Nancy Pelosi,” Trump said. Earlier this month, the House Democratic leader criticized Trump’s rhetoric and policies on immigrants after he called members of the international gang “animals.”
Trump added that Bredesen had donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, saying, “Phil Bredesen supported her and he supported her ideas.”
Trump plans a series of political rallies and events to brand Democrats as obstructionists. He said his supporters can’t sit back and relax this fall after working to elect him in 2016. “That’s the worst thing that can happen,” he said.
“In November, we will reverse a trend,” Trump added, alluding to recent precedent in which the party holding the White House tends to lose congressional seats.
He said of Democrats, “They’re bad at everything but they’re good at sticking together,” and appealed for GOP unity come November.
The president held a similar rally in Indiana earlier this month, appearing with Republican businessman Mike Braun and ripping Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly as a “swamp person” who refused to aid the GOP agenda. Trump will also raise money for GOP candidates in Texas on Thursday.
Trump is using the campaign appearances to mobilize his core backers by highlighting his accomplishments in office, like improving economic indicators and moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and resurrecting some of his go-to lines from the 2016 campaign.
“I don’t want to cause a problem, but in the end, Mexico’s gonna pay for the wall,” Trump said of his signature campaign promise.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto quickly replied to Trump, writing Tuesday on his Twitter account — in English, which Pena Nieto seldom does — “NO. Mexico will NEVER pay for a wall. Not now, not ever. Sincerely, Mexico (all of us).”
Earlier Tuesday, Trump raised the prospect of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe affecting the November elections and blamed Democrats for “Collusion.” On Twitter, he said the “13 Angry Democrats” on Mueller’s team “will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls.” Mueller is a Republican.
Trump has also used his Twitter page to boost California Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, hoping to strengthen the party’s chances of securing a spot on the ballot in November. He has also set his sights on Montana, where Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is seeking re-election in a state Trump carried in a landslide. Both states have primaries June 5.
Tennessee has a history of electing centrist senators and the race could be complicated by Corker’s up-and-down relationship with Trump. Corker once said Trump had turned the White House into an “adult day care center” and the president tweeted that Corker “couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee.”
Yet Corker was in the Oval Office on Saturday, receiving praise from the president for his help in securing the release of an American imprisoned in Venezuela. The breakthrough happened after Corker held a surprise meeting in Caracas with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Corker also greeted Trump at the Nashville airport Tuesday, joined by Blackburn and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., among other dignitaries.
Corker has called Bredesen a friend and said he won’t actively campaign against him.
Trump offered an early endorsement of Blackburn in April, tweeting that she is “a wonderful woman who has always been there when we have needed her. Great on the Military, Border Security and Crime.”
Blackburn, who served on Trump’s transition team, has embraced the president and called herself a “hardcore, card-carrying Tennessee conservative.”
Bredesen, who is attempting to become the first Democrat to win a Senate campaign in Tennessee since Al Gore in 1990, has aired TV ads in which he says that he’s “not running against Donald Trump” and that he learned long ago to “separate the message from the messenger.”
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.
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