HUNTINGTON — Sticking to a campaign promise to return to the area, President Donald J. Trump did just that on Thursday evening, speaking to thousands of supporters in Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.
The President spoke of job growth, economic achievements, the Russia investigation and other topics, rallying his supporters to chants of “USA,” “Trump,” “Drain the Swamp” and “Lock her (Hillary Clinton) up.”
Possibly the biggest moment of the night came when Trump introduced West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, bringing the elected Democrat to the stage.
“We have a very, very large announcement. Do you understand? Large. So I would like to invite my good friend and your governor, Jim Justice up to the stage to share this news with all of you,” said Trump. “These words have not been spoken by a major political figure, meaning governor or senator in our country for a long time.”
Justice began his remarks by talking about two recent trips to the Oval Office to present ideas on coal and manufacturing in the state. He then talked about similarities between himself and the President, saying neither were “politicians.”
“We ran to get something done…we ran and gave up part of lives,” he said. “We ran as our founding fathers did, to serve.”
Justice then said “no one loves West Virginia more than I,” before talking about the last session of the legislature. He said though some progress was made, mentioning road projects, he added: “We hurt a lot of people. We hurt our vets, and our teachers, and our disabled, and our weak, and we walked away from the old.”
Justice’s speech was briefly overpowered by an incident behind but well beyond the podium, where a person appeared to be holding an anti-Trump sign. Security arrived in the area and several members of the crowd started shouting “get him out” and “drag them out” in reference to the protester.
After a few moments, the focus was back on Justice.
“The democrats walked away from me,” he said. “Today, I will tell you, with lots of prayers and lots of thinking, today I tell you as West Virginians, I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor.”
The arena then exploded into applause.
Justice explained the next day, he would be changing his registration to Republican.
“As a coach I will tell you, it’s time to run another play,” he explained.
He then recalled his late parents whom he described as “staunch Republicans,” saying he could hear his mother saying: “Jimmy, it’s about damn time you came to your senses.”
Justice then went on to add his take on the Russia questions, saying “What in the world is wrong with us as people…have we not heard enough about the Russians? I mean..the stock market is at 22,000 and this country has hope and we’re on our way.”
Before departing the stage, Justice said about the President: “This man is a good man. He’s got a backbone, he’s got real ideas. He cares about America. He cares about us in West Virginia. And most importantly of all…he has made us as common, everyday Americans feel good and be proud of who we are.”
“I want to thank your great governor,” said Trump. “Having Big Jim as a Republican is such an honor.”
“Jim came to the Oval Office a couple of weeks ago. We talked about how we are working together to open up the coal mines in this state and also very importantly to create jobs in furniture manufacturing, and other forms of manufacturing…But Governor Justice did something else very important tonight. He showed the country that our agenda rises above left or right it is an agenda for all of the people, especially for the tens of millions of forgotten Americans. They are not so forgotten anymore,” said Trump.
Trump spoke of the the accomplishments since he took office, as well things to be worked on and focused on moving forward.
“As president, we are putting our coal miners back to work. We’ve ended the war on beautiful, clean coal. We’ve stopped the EPA intrusion,” said Trump. “American coal exports are already up….. American exports of coal are already up more than 60 percent this year. Did you ever hear of anything like that?”
Among the achievements in the nation since taking office, Trump noted that the stock market has reached an all-time high, economic growth in the nation is at 2.6 percent, with it being at 3 percent in West Virginia, and the unemployment rate is at a 16 year low.
“Three percent growth. West Virginia, you are leading the average. When was the last time you heard that, West Virginia? You are leading the country’s average,” said Trump.
“I’ll never forget the millions and millions of people out there that want jobs that don’t register on the unemployment rolls, because they gave up looking for jobs,” said Trump. “So I accept the number, but honestly, we all know there are millions of people out there that we love — the forgotten men and women — and they are looking for jobs. They are going to have them. I have factories coming back into the country. You’ve seen that. They are coming back.”
While touting the accomplishments of the administration in its first seven months, Trump also rallied his supporters to come together to “Make America Great Again.”
“Everyone in the arena is united by shared values. We believe in God; We believe in team; We believe in country. We support the Constitution of the United States of America. We cherish and defend the second amendment. We believe school should teach students to love our country, to have pride in our history, and to respect our great American Flag. We stand with the incredible men and women of law enforcement. Thank you. We believe strongly that a nation must defend and protect its borders. And above all else, we believe we must take care of our own citizens, and put America first,” said Trump, drawing a large round of applause.
Trump acknowledged former Marine Woody Williams who spoke prior to the president’s arrival and led the arena in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Woody received a Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman for his actions in Iwo Jima. We honor you and salute you and thank you for what you’ve done for all of us. Thank you, Woody,” stated Trump.
Earlier in the day on Thursday, the Trump administration announced new TeleHealth services for the nation’s veterans to allow them to receive medical care “when and where they need it.”
“Countless citizens — Democrats, and Republicans, Independents — have been neglected and ignored by Washington….We are fighting for every American who has been overlooked, pushed aside, or told to put their dreams on hold but we will win and we are winning now,” Trump said.
“We don’t need advice from the Washington swamp. We need to drain the swamp,” said Trump, leading to the crowd chanting “drain the swamp.”
“Washington is full of people who are only looking out for themselves. You know it better than most. I didn’t come to Washington for me. I came to Washington for all of you,” said the President. “Your dreams are my dreams. Your hopes are my hopes. And your future is what I’m fighting for each and every day.”
Trump questioned Democrats as to whether they are “on the side of the voters or are they on the side of the special interests.”
Making reference to the ongoing Russia investigation, Trump stated “The reason why Democrats only talk about the totally made up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda, and no vision. They don’t talk about the all time high stock market. They don’t talk about reforms to the VA or about manufacturing jobs we’re bringing back to America by the hundreds of thousands… Russia story is a total fabrication. It is just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That’s all it is,” said Trump.
He went on to reference the 33,000 deleted emails of Hillary Clinton, nothing that that is what the prosecutor should be looking at, leading a portion of the crowd to chant “Lock her up.”
“Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign. There never were. We didn’t win because of Russia. We won because of you. That I can tell you. We won because we totally out worked the other side. We won because millions of patriotic Americans voted to take back their country,” Trump said of his victory in the November election. “I just hope the final determination is a truly honest one. Which is what at the the millions of people who gave us our big win in November deserve and what all Americans who want a better future want and deserve.”
“My administration is committed to rebuilding the depleted infrastructure of the United States. Think of it. We’ve spent $6 trillion dollars in the Middle East… That’s why we are pushing a $1 trillion new infrastructure investment bill. We’re going to fix our roads, we’re going to fix our bridges, we’re going to fix our highways and our schools and our airports we will create amazing monuments that inspire awe and wonder in our people,” said Trump.
“We are the nation that put a man on the moon that; dug out the panama canal; and that won two world wars. We can do anything, we can build anything and we can dream anything,” said Trump.
We share one home and one glorious destination. Where we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood. We all salute that same great American flag. And we are all made by the same almighty God. As long as we remember these truths and who we are and what we are fighting for, we will never fail. America will triumph. Freedom will prevail. Our values will endure, our citizens will process, and our nation will thrive as never before. With patriotism in our soul and with love for West Virginia in our hearts, we say these words again tonight,” said Trump as the arena joined in for the closing remarks.
“We will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again,” said Trump and many of the 8,000-plus in the arena.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing, Sarah Hawley is managing editor of The Daily Sentinel