By Darlene Superville, Associated Press
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump opened his final sprint to next week’s midterm elections on Friday by defending his decision to tweet a video warning of people crossing into the U.S. illegally at the border with Mexico. Democrats and Republicans blasted the video as “racist.”
At an airport rally in West Virginia, Trump said critics had given him a “hard time” about the video, which featured a Mexican migrant in a courtroom, smiling and boasting about having killed police officers.
But Trump said, “All I’m doing is just telling the truth.”
The video alleges without evidence that Democrats were responsible for allowing Luis Bracamontes into the U.S. The twice-deported immigrant from Mexico was sentenced to death in California for the 2014 killings of two police officers.
The video also includes scenes of a migrant caravan that moving toward the U.S., but that is still hundreds of miles away from the border. It ominously warns, “Who else would Democrats let in?” and suggests that more violence will soon penetrate the border.
Trump is set to hold nine rallies in the four days before polls close Nov. 6, beginning Friday with West Virginia and Indiana. His aggressive travel schedule is aimed at boosting GOP Senate candidates as the party tries to increase its slim 51-49 majority in the chamber, rather than working to defend embattled Republicans in the House, where the party’s control appears in doubt.
In West Virginia, Trump campaigned for Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is in a tight race against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Trump told several hundred people cheering him from inside a hangar at Huntington’s airport that a vote for Manchin is a vote for Sen. Chuck Schumer, the leader of Senate Democrats and Trump’s fellow New Yorker.
“Joe will never be with us,” Trump said. “He’s never going to vote for us.”
In fact, while Manchin joined Democrats in voting against tax cuts that Trump signed into law last year, he broke with Democrats and voted for both of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Later Friday, Trump was teaming with Vice President Mike Pence in Pence’s home state of Indiana to stump for Republican Mike Braun, who is running in a close race against Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.
Trump will have help in Indiana from Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Knight, who coached the Indiana University Hoosiers.
Trump teased Knight’s appearance on Twitter, saying: “Don’t tell anyone (big secret), but I will be bringing Coach Bobby Knight to Indiana. He’s been a supporter right from the beginning of the Greatest Political Movement in American History!”
Trump has been using his campaign rallies to warn his Republican base of what he argues are the negative consequences of Democratic control of Congress. He has been stoking GOP anger over the Democrats’ handling of Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings and fears of illegal immigration as the migrant caravan slowly advances toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
The final push comes as more than 30 million Americans have already cast ballots for Tuesday’s midterm elections. The White House revealed Friday that Trump and first lady Melania Trump have already voted.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that the pair voted by absentee ballot “a few weeks ago” in New York, where their primary residence is located.
The White House did not reveal for whom the Trumps cast ballots. New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing Republican Marc Molinaro in the governor’s race. Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney is opposed by Republican Eliot Rabin in the heavily Democratic 12th Congressional District in New York City.
New York law allows absentee voting only under particular circumstances, including absence on Election Day or illness.
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.
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