Trump gives freewheeling, political address to NRA

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeSantis on Florida schools reopening: 'If you can do Walmart,' then 'we absolutely can do schools' NYT editorial board calls for the reopening of schools with help from federal government's 'checkbook' Mueller pens WaPo op-ed: Roger Stone 'remains a convicted felon, and rightly so' MORE gave a red meat address Friday to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Leadership Forum, criticizing “gun-free zones,” reiterating his calls to arm teachers and school staff, and expressing confidence about this fall’s midterm elections.

Trump, who after 17 people were killed at a high school shooting in Florida appeared to be flirting with taking on the NRA, described it as a “great organization” on Friday while painting its brass as “great Americans” who are looking to stop gun violence at schools.


He then emphasized steps he’s taken to improve security at schools.

“I recently signed legislation that includes more than $2 billion to improve school safety, including the funding for training and metal detectors and security and mental health,” he said.

Trump voiced support for hardening schools by “allowing highly trained teachers to carry concealed weapons,” and claimed that the vast majority of mass public shootings occur in places where guns are not allowed.

He then said outlawing guns makes no sense when potential killers can use vans and trucks.

“There is no sign more inviting to a mass killer than a sign that declares: ‘This school is a gun free zone,' ” he said. “If we're going to outlaw guns, like so many people want to do ... we are going to have to outlaw — immediately — all vans and all trucks, which are now the new form of death for the maniac terrorists.”

Trump spent a large part of the freewheeling, 45-minute speech bouncing around between a slew of topics, including the midterm elections, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation, his poll numbers and his administration’s successes.

Trump also spoke about the 3.9 percent unemployment rate announced Friday, a topic overshadowed by the fallout from new Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s media blitz, which included his revelation that Trump repaid attorney Michael Cohen for his $130,000 payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.

The president expressed confidence in this fall’s elections, arguing the GOP will prevail.

“As a result of our massive tax cuts — and everybody is benefitting and everyone is happy — the Democrats are very concerned. You watch how well we do in '18, you watch. Get out and vote. Don’t be complacent,” he said. “We need Republicans to do it right. To get the kind of things we want, we've got to get Republicans elected. We've got to do great in '18.”

And he lobbed criticism directly at Democratic senators in states he won in 2016, a welcome sign for Republicans looking to put the pressure on vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

Trump directed his harshest rhetoric Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterInternal poll shows tight battle in Montana House race Bipartisan Senate group offers bill to strengthen watchdog law after Trump firings Senate confirms Trump's watchdog for coronavirus funds MORE (D-Mont.), who the president has repeatedly criticized for his release of allegations against Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, who withdrew his nomination to lead the Veterans Affairs Department.

“Senate Democrats like Jon Tester, you saw what happened there, what he did to one of the finest people in our country, what he did to the admiral? What he did was a disgrace,” Trump said.

Shortly after, he attacked Sens. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world MORE (Fla.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Biden hires top aides for Pennsylvania The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Cure Violence Global founder Gary Slutkin says violence and epidemics follow same patterns; Global death toll surpasses half a million MORE Jr. (Pa.) for not supporting “Kate’s Law,” legislation named for a California woman killed by a man who had been repeatedly deported from America but kept returning. The measure sharpens punishments for those who attempt to return after being deported.

Rallying the crowd of supporters, he also laid into the special counsel’s investigation by hailing recent comments by the federal judge overseeing the prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump turns to immigration; primary day delays expected GOP votes to give Graham broad subpoena power in Obama-era probe Will the 'law and order' president pardon Roger Stone? MORE.

Pulling out printed news stories from his suit jacket, Trump read the crowd about how U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III told a prosecutor in Mueller’s office that it’s clear he only cares about prosecuting Manafort to get information “that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.”

“We have the best employment numbers we’ve virtually ever had, yet all we hear about is this phony Russia witch hunt,” Trump said. “Let me tell you folks, we are all fighting battles, but I love fighting these battles. It’s really a disgrace.”