President Donald Trump on Tuesday slammed the "fake news" media and defended his comments on the Charlottesville violence Tuesday — even re-reading his earlier statements at a rally in Arizona "to show you how damned dishonest these people are."
"For the most part, honestly, these are really, really dishonest people," Trump told a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center. "They are bad people.
"I really think they don't like our country. I really believe that.
"I don't believe they are going to change and that's why I do this," Trump said. "The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news.
"If you want to discover the source of the division and our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media — which would rather get ratings and clicks than tell the truth," Trump said.
Trump's rally came after Monday's national speech on Afghanistan and last week's comments that blamed "both sides" for the Charlottesville violence killed a local woman and injured 19 other people.
Arizona's two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, boycotted the rally — and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton had asked Trump to postpone the event to allow time for national healing after the Virginia clashes.
Vice President Mike Pence introduced Trump at the rally.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Dr. Alveda King, niece of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., also spoke — and the Rev. Franklin Graham offered the invocation.
Trump's also spoke in Phoenix amid concerns he would pardon Joe Arpaio, the tough-talking former Maricopa County sheriff, of federal criminal contempt charges for violating an order to stop his crackdown on illegal immigrants.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Arizona that Trump would not pardon Arpaio at the rally.
However, President Trump asked the crowd: "I am just curious: Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?"
The question sparked loud cheers and chants of "pardon Sheriff Joe."
"So, was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?" Trump asked. "He should have had a jury.
"But you know what? I will make a prediction," Trump said. "I think he's going to be just fine, OK?
"But I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy.
"Is that OK? All right? But Sheriff Joe can feel good."
Trump also took swipes at Flake and McCain, without naming them, encouraging supporters to lobby them to support repealing and replacing Obamacare.
McCain sealed the death of legislation for a bare-bones repeal of the Affordable Care Act, casting the critical vote to bring the final count to 51-49 against.
"One vote away," Trump said, hinting at McCain. "I won't mention any names. Very presidential.
"And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who is weak on borders, weak on crime," he added, in an apparent reference to Flake. "So, I won't talk about him."
He also bashed "the obstructionist Democrats" and vowed if "we have to close down our government, we are building that wall" on the southern U.S. border with Mexico. "Let me be very clear.
"The Democrats in Congress, who oppose the border wall and stand in the way of border security, you are putting all of America's safety at risk."
In standard Trump-rally fashion, the president lauded his accomplishments but also noted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un might have renewed respect for the U.S. in light of their oral showdown over Guam in recent weeks.
"I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us," Trump told the crowd. "I respect that fact very much.
"And maybe — probably not, but maybe — something positive can come about.
"They won't tell you that," he added, referring to the media. "Maybe something positive can come about."
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