President Donald Trump touted his first 60 days in office as the most productive ever for a president and compared himself to President Andrew Jackson during a raucous rally Wednesday in Nashville that resembled the campaign that catapulted him into office.
Drawing roars from the thousands in attendance, Trump slammed a Hawaii federal judge’s decision from earlier in the day that temporarily halted the administration’s new attempt to ban most travel from six majority Muslim countries.
He also promised to repeal Obamacare while throwing his support behind a House Republican effort to overhaul the controversial law and vowing additional changes of his own.
“It’s time for us to embrace our glorious national destiny,” Trump said at the conclusion of his 40-minute speech.
Trump took the stage Wednesday evening later than expected as long lines of supporters waited in the cold to get into Municipal Auditorium because of a security bottleneck and confusion. Over the course of the day, the line of people grew several blocks long, circling the perimeter of the state Capitol.
At the lawn of the Metro courthouse, thousands of protesters jeered as the president arrived in downtown Nashville. Inside the 1960s-era arena, multiple protesters interrupted Trump's speech and were escorted out — including one woman holding a sign that read, "Medicare for all."
Trump's loyalists responded with chants of "Trump!" and "USA!" that were akin to his many stump speeches last year.
Trump, escorted by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and the state's two Republican U.S. senators, began his afternoon in Nashville at The Hermitage, historic home of Jackson, the nation's seventh president whose populist appeal has drawn comparison to Trump.
“He understood that great leadership was about putting America first," Trump said shortly after taking the stage for his rally. “It’s time that America heard your voice, and believe me, on Nov. 8, they heard your voice.”
Trump proceeded to tout his accomplishments, ticking off several of the deeds he considers his early crowning achievements:
- Pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
- Promoting the construction of the Dakota pipeline.
- Touting improving job numbers.
- Progressing with plans to build the border wall.
- Deregulation — He spent Wednesday morning in Detroit, signaling his administration would move away from fuel-efficiency standards set by the Obama administration.
“And we have just gotten started," Trump said. "Wait to you see what’s coming, folks.”
Trump then made his case for a travel ban that a federal judge in Hawaii halted moments before the president took the stage. It marked the third judicial decision that has gone against the president's attempt to stop refugees and some immigrants from entering the country.
“Let me give you the bad, the sad news. Moments ago, I learned that a district judge in Hawaii — part of the much overturned 9th Circuit Court — and I have to be nice, otherwise I’ll be criticized …,” Trump said, calling the media among “the most dishonest people in the world.”
“A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming in to our country from certain countries," he said. "The order blocked was a watered-down version of the first order.”
Trump vowed to fight for the plan, appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary while floating the idea of reissuing the original ban. That order barred travel from seven majority Muslim countries and was already halted by two different judicial orders.
Leading up to Trump's speech, health care had been expected to be the focus, but he didn't approach the issue until nearly a half-hour into his remarks.
"The bill that I will ultimately sign will get rid of Obamacare and make health care better for you and your family," Trump said.
While providing few specifics, Trump acknowledged some of the procedural hurdles still facing the House GOP's bill. He promised additional phases of health care reform without going in to specifics. He also alluded to recent decisions of the health care companies BlueCross BlueShield and Humana to pull out of Obamacare markets in the Volunteer State.
"Insurers are fleeing," Trump said. "It's a catastrophic situation."
At The Hermitage, the president also met with about 100 state lawmakers, mostly Republicans, and laid a wreath in honor of Jackson's 250th birthday.
Along with U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, Trump was joined on Air Force One en route to Nashville by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. Also on board were Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, spokeswoman Hope Hicks, press secretary Sean Spicer and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner
At the rally, Trump's appearance was kicked off by speeches from Corker; Tennessee Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville; Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee; Vanderbilt University doctor Manny Sethi; as well as music by the country and gospel group Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.
Hours before the speech, Blanca Kiely stood near the stage in Municipal Auditorium. Kiely, who will turn 86 next month and said she immigrated to the United States from Colombia in 1954, is confident Trump will change the course of a country she believes is headed in the wrong direction.
“I really think that we have been given a chance to make America great again. I really think, because we can see the difference: When we came in ’54, it was such a beautiful, great place. And we have seen it go down, down, down. We have a second chance to raise it up," Kiely said.
Herself an immigrant, Kiely said it's important for Trump to promote policies that stress legal immigration.
“I think he’s on the right track. We want everyone to come, but we want them to come here legally. Legally: That’s a little word that everybody forgets," Kiely said.
Trump's message on health care resonated with Alison Fox, who made the trip to Nashville from Maryville to hear him speak.
"Affordable Care Act was not affordable and nothing is perfect, can't fix it overnight, but the fact that Donald Trump is passionate about it and realizes that Americans need affordable health care, no one wants to not have insurance and have all these bills piling up everywhere," she said. "Everyone wants to have health insurance, you just can't afford it."
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