President Trump shores up support for NJ's newest GOP congressman

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Moving on several fronts toward shoring up support for his reelection bid, President Donald Trump capped off a busy Tuesday by heaping praise on the newest Republican member of Congress and savaging Democrats he said are engaged in “demented hoaxes” like his impeachment trial.

On the day his legal team wrapped up its opening arguments on the Senate floor, Trump spoke to an enthusiastic audience in New Jersey in support of Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who recently switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP after breaking ranks over impeachment.

“While we are creating jobs and killing terrorists, the congressional Democrats are obsessed with demented hoaxes, crazy witch hunts and deranged partisan crusades. That’s all they know how to do,” Trump said.

Trump's visit to Democratic-leaning New Jersey generated a boisterous audience that lined the streets to greet him during a critical moment in his presidency. He called Van Drew on stage, saying, “Jeff had the guts to defy the left-wing fanatics in his own party."

Trump highlighted the economy during much of his speech, noting that 7 million jobs have been created since his election.

He also continued to boast of the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iran's most powerful general, Qassem Soleimani, on Jan. 3. He cited the strike while attacking his political rivals with language that was incendiary even for a Trump rally.

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“We stopped him cold, yet Washington Democrats like crazy Bernie Sanders and nervous Nancy Pelosi, they opposed our actions to save American lives. They opposed it," Trump asserted to a roar of boos.

 
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While Trump’s lawyers argued that the Democrats were trying to undo the last election, the president’s focus on Tuesday night was 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.

Remaining largely disciplined, Trump avoided the specifics of the impeachment trial and did not mention the name of his former national security adviser John Bolton, whom Democrats want to call as a witness in the case. But Trump mused at the rally about competing in New Jersey this election -- he lost by double-digit percentage points in 2016 - and polled the crowd about whether he should hold a rally at the state’s famed Meadowland Sports Complex over the summer

The setting was 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. Van Drew, who attended the rally, said Trump has helped restore the military and protect the economy. “Do we want to keep it that way?" he asked the crowd.

Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

 

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