DULUTH, Minn.—Hours after reversing himself to end the forced separations of migrant families, U.S. President Donald Trump returned to the warm embrace of his supporters at a raucous rally to defend his hard-line immigration policies while unleashing a torrent of grievances about the media and those investigating him.
Trump downplayed the crisis that has threatened to envelop the White House amid days of heart-wrenching images of children being pulled from their immigrant parents along the nation's southern border.
He made only a brief mention of his decision to sign an executive order after spending days insisting—wrongly—that his administration had no choice but to separate families apprehended at the border because of federal law and a court decision.
“We're going to keep families together and the border is going to be just as tough as it's been,” Trump told the cheering crowd in Duluth last night.
Seemingly motivated to promote his hawkish immigration bona fides after his about-face on forced separations, the president denounced his political opponents and those who make unauthorized border crossings, suggesting the money used to care for those immigrants could be better spent on the nation's rural communities and inner cities.
“Democrats put illegal immigrants before they put American citizens. What the hell is going on?" asked Trump, prompting the crowd to chant "Build the wall!”
He even invoked his campaign kick-off speech, held three years ago this week, in which he declared that Mexico “wasn't sending their best” in terms of migrants crossing into the U.S.
That wasn't the only throwback moment at the rally, featuring a packed arena festooned with American flags and roughly 8,000 people responding in chants to many of Trump's cues.
He fumed over what he deemed “dishonest” coverage of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He raved about the economy and his tough new tariffs meant to create fair trade.
And he erroneously suggested a recent Justice Department watchdog report into the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe proved his innocence in the special counsel's Russia investigation while covering up Clinton's guilt.
Trump also accused the media of providing one-sided reports about his Singapore summit with Kim.
“We had a great meeting. We had great chemistry," said Trump, who predicted Kim "will turn that country into a great successful country.”
The Duluth rally was Trump's first in a blue state since taking office. He narrowly lost Minnesota in 2016.
And with the industrial and upper Midwest looming large for Trump's re-election hopes, the president vowed to spend more time there before 2020.
“You know, I hate to bring this up but we came this close to winning the state of Minnesota,” the president said.
“And in two-and-a-half years, it's going to be really easy, I think.”