- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 18, 2020

President Trump pledged support to Iowans devastated by a high-wind derecho and nabbed the endorsement of a border-patrol union in the Arizona heat Tuesday, hoping to lock down support in swing states that he won in 2016 but could slip from his grasp in November.

Speaking in 110-degree weather, Mr. Trump said border-wall construction will reach 300 miles by the end of this week.

“You don’t hear about the wall anymore, because we won,” Mr. Trump told supporters in Yuma.

In full campaign mode, he accused Democrats of pushing for open borders and said he is entitled him to an extra four years, even if he wins reelection, because the last administration “spied” on his 2016 campaign.

Mr. Trump is crisscrossing the country to counter-program the Democratic national convention this week, though his tangible aim is locking down states he won in 2016, promoting GOP allies and expanding the map where he can.

The president put Iowa in the red column in 2016 after President Obama nabbed it in successive elections. But Democrats view the state as a potential pickup for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, as polls show the president leading by only a percentage point or two.

In Cedar Rapids, state and local officials described how the derecho on Aug. 10 knocked out power to nearly 600,000 households and destroyed millions of acres of crops.

Mr. Trump approved Gov. Kim Reynolds’ emergency declaration request on Monday.

“We’ve come through for you and will always come through for Iowa,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump won Arizona in 2016 but will have to fight to keep it as it trends blue and Democrats field a well-funded Senate contender in former astronaut Mark Kelly, who is leading Republican Sen. Martha McSally in polls.

Mr. Trump slammed Mr. Kelly — whose wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, suffered a brain injury in a 2011 assassination attempt — for his position on the Second Amendment.

The president also graded the Democrats’ primetime performances, saying former First Lady Michelle Obama offered an opening keynote that was “too divisive” and so pre-recorded that it undercounted the number of COVID-19 deaths on his watch by 20,000.

“She was over her head and frankly she should have made the speech live, which she didn’t do,” Mr. Trump said. “It was not only taped, it was taped a long time ago because she had the wrong deaths. She didn’t even mention the vice-presidential candidate in the speech.”

He underscored that his speech on Thursday of next week will be live from the White House South Lawn.

“Live, by the way, is always much more exciting,” he said.

Mr. Trump accepted the endorsement of the National Border Patrol Council in Yuma and checked out progress on his border wall. The barrier was one of the president’s key promises in 2016, although he’s still working on how to make Mexico pay for it.

“They will pay for it. They are paying for it, it’s 100%,” Mr. Trump said.

He suggested one option would be to charge a “toll” on money being sent across the border. That could be a reference to taxing remittances, the money Mexican migrants send to family back home. In 2019, Mexican migrants sent back $38.6 billion — the vast majority of that from people in the U.S.
Officials said they are funded for more than 730 total miles, and while 300 are almost completed, another 300 are under construction. The remaining mileage is still in planning.

Mr. Trump said his border wall is a vital tool in keeping out coronavirus-infected persons from hotspots like Tijuana, Mexico, although the pandemic remains a political drag on the president’s reelection bid.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday found 46% of voters believe the pandemic response would be better if Mr. Biden were president versus 24% who say it would be worse and 26% who think it would be about the same.

In Iowa, Mr. Trump said the derecho’s 100-mph winds damaged over 300 cellular towers and flattened miles of corn.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said he’s never seen anything like it.

“I have never seen it, mile after mile — and you know just flat on the ground,” Mr. Grassley said. “Very little of it recoverable, I think. That’s something to keep in mind.”

Mr. Trump highlighted China’s decision to place large orders of corn in recent days, as the U.S. and Chinese governments try to implement a phase-one trade deal amid rancor over the coronavirus pandemic that began in Wuhan, China.

Mr. Grassley said farmers should be able to fulfill the order from last year’s crops.

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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