President Trump delivered a fiery performance to his base on Tuesday during a rally in Phoenix that featured tirades against the media, attacks on incumbent Republicans and threats to shake up long-standing procedures on Capitol Hill as he reprised many of his campaign themes.
Trump dedicated a lengthy portion of the campaign-style rally to venting his frustrations with the way reporters covered his response to recent racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., just one day after drawing praise for a unifying address to the nation on Monday.
"The words were perfect," Trump said of the two statements and one news conference he delivered in response to the white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville that grew violent on Aug. 12. Trump suffered intense criticism for claiming, on the day of the protests, that "many sides" bore responsibility for the clash that claimed the life of a counter-protester.
But the statement Trump read back to the raucous crowd on Tuesday did not contain the two most controversial words in his initial statement, and what followed was a lengthy relitigation of the statements that caused so much heartache for the administration and for congressional Republicans just one week earlier.
"Here's what I said...'We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.' This is me speaking. 'We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.' That's me speaking on Saturday right after the events. So I'm condemning the strongest possible terms — egregious display of hatred, bigotry, violence,'" Trump said as he read back portions of his past statements on Charlottesville.
"They had it on initially, but then when they talked, 'He didn't say it fast enough? He didn't do it on time. Why did it take a day? He must be a racist,'" Trump added as he lamented the negative coverage of his remarks.
The president's rally in Phoenix on Tuesday included a heavy dose of his trademark vitriol toward the media, including attacks aimed specifically at CNN, ABC and The Washington Post. Trump took particular offense to the way those outlets covered the fallout from Charlottesville.
"The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news," Trump said.
The president aired his frustration with congressional Republicans' inability to make progress on his legislative agenda, and he renewed his calls to scrap a procedural rule that requires most major pieces of legislation in the Senate to attract 60 votes rather than a simple majority in order to proceed.
"We have to get rid of what's called the filibuster rule. We have to," Trump told the thousands of supporters who braved the heat to attend his rally in Phoenix. "If we don't, the Republicans will never get anything passed."
"We have to get rid of the filibuster rule right now. We have 60 votes and we have 52 Republicans. That means that eight Democrats are controlling all of this legislation," Trump said. "If we don't, the Republicans will never get anything passed."
Turning to his foreign policy agenda, Trump signaled tensions between the U.S. and North Korea could be easing in the wake of Pyongyang's abandonment of threats against the American territory of Guam.
"Kim Jong Un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us," Trump said of the North Korean dictator. "And maybe — probably not, but maybe — something positiive can come about."
Neither McCain nor Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona's two Republican senators, attended the rally in Phoenix on Tuesday.
But Trump referred to his grievances with both men, attacking McCain specifically for casting the decisive vote last month in the GOP's latest unsuccessful attempt to repeal Obamacare.
"Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who's weak on border, weak on crime, so I won't talk about it," Trump said of Flake, with whom he has long sparred. "Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is."
Trump also flouted his White House's claim that former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio would not be a topic of discussion at the rally on Tuesday when he hinted that he could soon pardon the embattled official.
"I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine," Trump said of Arpaio, who is awaiting sentencing after a judge held him in contempt.
Arpaio was accused of defying a judge's orders to stop detaining Hispanic citizens solely on the suspicion that they were undocumented.
After Trump told Fox News earlier this month that he has seriously considered pardoning Apraio, a longtime supporter of his, the timing of his trip to Arizona stoked speculation that the controversial pardon would come on Tuesday. The White House said earlier Tuesday that Trump would not grant the pardon during this rally in Phoenix, and Arpaio later confirmed that he would not attend the speech.
"I don't want to do it tonight because I don't want to cause controversy," Trump said during the rally. "But Sheriff Joe can feel good."