At a Battle Creek rally on Wednesday night, during which he was impeached by the U.S. House, President Donald Trump seemed to suggest that deceased U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) was in hell.
“Maybe he’s looking up,” Trump said, reviving an attack from over the weekend on Dingell’s widow, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn). He again claimed that he helped grant honors to John Dingell for his funeral in February, adding that he gave Debbie Dingell “A-plus treatment.”
John Dingell, a World War II-era veteran, was interred at Arlington Cemetery, as is custom. The longest-serving member of Congress had two large memorials, one in Michigan and one in Washington, D.C.
This was the second time that Trump blasted Debbie Dingell over her husband’s funeral, having launched a tweet over the weekend when she was on cable news talking about impeachment, which she did vote for on Wednesday. Dingell said afterward that Trump’s attacks “really hurt,” noting she’s still “having a hard time” after her husband’s passing.
On Wednesday, she quickly responded to Trump’s new diatribe against her husband.
“Mr. President, let’s set politics aside,” Dingell wrote in a tweet. “My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.”
Trump took the stage at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek for his “Merry Christmas” rally about two minutes before the U.S. House began its formal vote of impeachment.
Minutes later, lawmakers voted on mostly party lines to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, setting up a likely acquittal in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate. He is just the third president to be impeached.
But Trump sought to portray that he was unfazed by the vote.
“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” Trump said early on in his almost two-hour speech, later adding that he was “having a great time.”
Trump’s reelection campaign was blunter in its condemnation of Congress’ actions on Wednesday night.
“The contrast between President Trump and the Democrats couldn’t be more clear,” Trump campaign Manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “While the President rallied with tens of thousands of citizens in Michigan and celebrated the greatness and success of America, Democrats in D.C. completed their cold, calculated, and concocted 3-year impeachment sham and voted against 63 million Americans. And the only part of the vote that was bipartisan was in opposition.”
Serving as warmup acts before Trump were state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), state GOP Chair Laura Cox, GOP U.S. Senate candidate John James, Vice President Mike Pence and others.
Pence made earlier stops in Saginaw and Frankenmuth, where he hit tourism spots Zehnder’s restaurant and Bronner’s Christmas store.
Throughout the rest of Trump’s rambling speech before a sell-out crowd of more than 5,000 people, Trump ran through several familiar riffs including attacks on the media, bragging and exaggerating about the number of people at his rallies.
Trump also spent several minutes making fun of South Bend, Ind., Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttiegieg’s name.
The president also spent considerable time on Wednesday telling the story of the Grand Rapids rally on election day morning on in November 2016, sharing that then-state GOP Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, now national chair, insisted multiple times that Trump come to rally in Michigan.
The Battle Creek rally was Trump’s first visit to Michigan, a key battleground state next year, since March, when he rallied in Grand Rapids.
Calhoun County, where Battle Creek is located, was won by former President Barack Obama in 2012, but flipped for Trump in 2016. The county was one of just 206 nationwide to do so, according to Ballotpedia.
The region is very much on the radar of the Trump campaign as 2020 draws closer, according to Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.
“The Battle Creek area is going to be key,” Murtaugh told the Advance. “The president has a lot of strong support here and in the surrounding areas. Everything this campaign does is driven by data. And so we want to make sure that there’s a good base of Trump support within a reasonable drive of a rally location.”
Trump appeared to agree, saying, “This area has supported me so much.”
Trump voters saw the president’s visit to Michigan on the night of the impeachment vote as strong proof that Trump remains dedicated to those who support him.
“I think it’s a wonderful testament to him that he’s not worried about it,” Trump voter and Plymouth resident Amy Southwick told the Advance ahead of the rally. “I think it’s wonderful that he’s traveling instead of sitting at home watching [the impeachment vote].”
Trump also reiterated that the impeachment vote would lead to a voter rebellion against Democrats next November.
“With the partisan impeachment … [the Democrats] are declaring their deep hatred and disdain for the American voter,” Trump said. “This partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democrats.”
Democrats protested Trump outside the arena before the event, focusing on the economy and health care, not impeachment.
“We’re standing out here today in the freezing cold for one reason: Because Donald Trump has come here to Michigan in a desperate attempt to cover for his broken promises and rally his dwindling supporters in a state he sees slipping through his fingers,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes.
“When it comes to skyrocketing health care costs and slow job growth, Trump has broken promise after promise. And the Michigan Democratic Party is fighting to make these failures some of his last.”