Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE barreled into Washington on Wednesday to lash out at the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran and to warn that the sky was falling down.
Stacks of speakers blared R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” as Trump took the stage at a Tea Party rally with a carnival-like atmosphere.
The deal was “incompetent,” Trump railed from the Capitol’s West Lawn — just a few feet from where, in 16 short months, he hopes to take the oath of office as America’s 45th president.
“I’ve been doing deals for a long time. I’ve been making lots of wonderful, great deals,” he said. “Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran.”
The GOP presidential front-runner was met with cheers, bagpipes, Captain America and a counter-protest accusing him of racism, in his biggest splash at the Capitol since announcing his White House bid.
Nearby, liberal activists from the organization CodePink staged a counter-protest to support the deal. Across the street, dozens of Orthodox Jews from a group that refuses to recognize the existence of Israel chanted backing of their own.
“We will have so much winning if I get elected, you’ll get bored of winning,” Trump added under a blistering sun before thousands of conservatives, who also heard speeches from fellow GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (R-Texas), commentator Glenn Beck and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Phil Robertson, the reality television star of “Duck Dynasty,” also showed up to offer his opposition to the deal and explain that he loved Israel because “they wrote the Bible.”
Trump bounced off after a 10-minute speech, flanked by about a dozen police officers and staffers and mobbed by reporters and supporters.
On his way up to the Capitol he stopped, turned and waved to the crowd. Then he took a picture with four police officers and bounded up the steps to meet Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who talked with him about trade and immigration, and walk through the halls of American power. He also met with Palin during the rally, Trump’s campaign said.
The business mogul took the stage shortly after a blistering speech from Cruz, who warned Senate Democrats supporting the Iran deal that they “bear direct responsibility for the murders carried out with the dollars” given to Iran as result of the lifting of sanctions.
“You cannot wash your hands of that blood,” Cruz said, the day after Senate Democrats ensured enough support to filibuster legislation opposing the deal.
Scattered throughout the crowd were the waving flags of the United States and those of Israel, Texas, the U.S. Marine Corps and the Gadsden flag, commonly associated with the Tea Party. Somewhere in the crowd, a man in a Captain America costume waved a giant American flag. Slightly beyond the fence, opponents of the rally tried to shout out the speeches.
President Obama, who has viewed the Iran deal as a legacy issue, bore the brunt of the speakers’ criticism.
Special ire, though, was reserved for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who have dwindling prospects for lodging even a symbolic blow against the nuclear deal.
“There are two men in Washington, D.C., who can defeat this deal,” Cruz said. “Their names are Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker John Boehner.”
Echoing many conservatives, he urged the leaders to demand that the 60-day window for congressional oversight had not formally begun, since the administration had failed to hand over side deals signed between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The deals outline inspections at some Iranian sites.
McConnell on Wednesday refused to cede to Cruz and delay a vote over legislation to kill the deal.
But Boehner was forced into a tighter spot, and top lieutenants were scrambling on Wednesday afternoon to suit the demands of House conservatives in league with the Texas firebrand.
While obscure legislative maneuvering took place behind the scenes, Trump shone in the bright September sun.
A pair of supporters held up a 50-foot banner bearing his name, and multiple fans wore his shirt and his trademark “Make America Great Again” hat.
The crowd of thousands started to dissipate almost immediately after he stepped off the stage.
The event was certainly a booster for Trump, who has struggled to identify top Iranian officials and has expressed a shallow knowledge of foreign policy.
During his remarks, Trump dropped a litany of complaints about the nuclear deal, including the 24-day wait time for some inspections and the vast amounts of money that will be freed up for Iran, which has been estimated to be as high as $150 billion.
It also served as a coming out party for a man who has prided himself on his long-distance relationship with Washington.
“You see the media and the cameras,” said Jeff Napkori, who had traveled down from suburban Philadelphia for the day. “I think if it was just Glenn Beck and Ted Cruz, you’d see maybe one or two cameras,” he added. “Trump coming here I think that really brings attention to the whole cause.”
The Obama administration largely dismissed the event as a sideshow.
“The people that count are the 42 senators who have made up their minds,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters after exiting a meeting with Senate lawmakers, referring to the number of Democratic supporters in the upper chamber. “That’s the count that matters right now.”
Harper Neidig contributed to this story.
This story was updated at 7:45 p.m.