Trump begins S.C. campaign by talking gun rights and attacking Biden – USA TODAY
WASHINGTON − Coming off an expected win in Nevada, former President Donald Trump began his South Carolina campaign Friday at a gun rights event in Pennsylvania − and spent much of his time attacking President Joe Biden over classified documents.
Trump, riffing on special counsel Robert Hur’s decision to clear President Joe Biden over his handling of classified documents, called his own documents-related criminal case “nothing more than selective prosecution of Biden’s political opponent: me.”
“Trump was peanuts by comparison,” he said Friday night at a National Rifle Association event in Harrisburg, Pa., that veered into complaints about immigration and Biden. A separate special counsel, Jack Smith, has charged Trump with hoarding classified documents at his private Florida club and defying a grand jury subpoena for their return.
It was Trump’s eighth speech before the NRA. “You have a right to self-defense,” Trump told the crowd.
More:Did special counsel cross the line in bashing Biden’s memory? Even some Republicans think so
Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide
While pledging fidelity to the NRA and gun rights, Trump also criticized Hur’s decision this week refusing to prosecute Biden for retaining classified documents from his years as vice president; Trump faces a criminal trial in Florida later this year in his documents case.
Trump also made references to Biden’s age and mental acuity, issues that Special Counsel Hur cited in deciding not to prosecute Biden.
In his NRA speech, Trump did not discuss his remaining Republican opponent, Nikki Haley, who is seeking to derail his drive to the nomination her home state primary on Feb. 24.
In the wake of criticism over Biden’s age, Democrats and some Republicans − including Haley − reminded Trump of his own cognitive lapses in recent months.
“I have long said the first party to retire its 80-year-old candidate will win the White House,” Haley said in a statement on the Hur report. Biden is 81 and Trump is 77.
Sen. John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said voters will stick with Biden’s steady leadership over Trump’s chaotic approach.
“Do we want order over chaos?” Fetterman said. “Do we want the truth over lies?”
Trump told NRA members his administration “didn’t yield” on gun rights during his one-term presidency, while the Biden administration seeks to put the firearms industry “out of business.”
“Your Second Amendment will always be safe with me as your President,” Trump said.
In terms of politics, Trump all but demanded that the NRA help him, saying “they better endorse me.”
More:NRA Executive Wayne LaPierre survived years of criticism. Now he’s stepping down.
Democrats who participated in a conference call set up by the Biden campaign said they support “common sense” gun regulations that can help prevent mass shootings − proposals that Trump blocked when he was president.
“He’s bought and paid for by the NRA,” Fetterman said.
As for the classified documents flap, Fetterman denounced the special counsel’s report as a “smear” filled with “cheap shots” about Biden’s memory and mental ability.
Democrats − and Haley − pointed out that Trump has confused the names of foreign leaders and their countries, and once mixed up Haley with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a rant over pre-insurrection security at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
During Trump’s NRA speech, the Biden campaign noted in a social media post that Trump had slurred some of his words.
Trump’s other campaign opponent, Haley, compared Biden’s age problems to those of Trump.
“Donald Trump has his own mental deficiencies,” Haley said in her statement, and “is prone to temper tantrums and wild rants, and confuses countries and who was in charge of Capitol security on January 6th.”
More:Biden turns confrontational over alleged memory loss in DOJ report: ‘How in the hell dare he’
Trump said he plans to ask a federal judge to dismiss the classified documents case against him, saying the decision in the Biden matter demonstrates “selective prosecution.”
There are differences between the Trump and Biden cases, however.
For one thing, the former president is also accused of obstructing grand jury subpoenas for his documents, while Biden cooperated with the special counsel investigation.
Related:More trials than Al Capone? Trump dominates the GOP primary field, but his legal battles are intensifying
Trump picked up all 26 Republican convention delegates available in Nevada, winning caucuses organized by his supporters and in which he was the only major candidate.
Trump has said he wants to end Haley’s campaign in her home state of South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary two weeks from Saturday. The former president enjoys big leads in polls in the Palmetto State.
Trump travels to South Carolina on Saturday for a campaign event at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, near Myrtle Beach.
Haley, meanwhile, is spending the weekend on a bus tour of the state she once governed.
In his NRA speech, Trump said: “We’re going to do great in South Carolina.”
Related:Kamala Harris slams DOJ report on Biden documents as White House works to control damage
More:‘We have sharp elbows’: Nikki Haley braces for home-state dirty tricks in Trump fight