Trump, in Michigan, bashes EVs, claims he ‘saved the U.S. auto industry’
- Trump speaks to Oakland GOP, which honors him as ‘man of the decade’
- Former president calls criminal indictments an attempt to keep him from returning to White House
- Trump predicts electric vehicles will mean ‘decimation’ for Michigan jobs
NOVI — Donald Trump bashed unprecedented criminal charges against him as an attempt to keep him from the White House and predicted Joe Biden’s push for electric vehicles will mean “decimation” for Michigan jobs.
The former president, who is again seeking the GOP nomination, used an hour-long speech at an Oakland County Republican Party dinner to predict an auto industry doomsday, returning to a theme that helped him woo blue-collar workers in his winning 2016 campaign.
Trump railed on Biden, the Democratic president, for moving to toughen fuel economy standards for new vehicle sales and lambasted what he called a "ridiculous crusade to force everyone into electric cars."
“Biden is a catastrophe for Michigan, and his environmental extremism is heartless and disloyal and horrible for the American worker," Trump said, predicting the shift toward electric vehicles will ultimately kill blue-collar jobs.
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Michigan automakers are already in the process of electrifying their fleets. With the help of state incentives, Ford plans to build a $3.5 billion battery factory in Marshall and General Motors is retooling an Orion Township factory to build full-size electric pickup trucks, a $4 billion project.
But some estimates claim as many as 80,000 autoworkers worldwide have been laid off to support the transition to electric vehicles, and the United Auto Workers — one of the staunchest Democratic allies — has withheld its endorsement of Biden over EV policies.
Speaking to an audience of more than 2,200 in suburban Detroit, Trump touted his decision to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement and negotiate a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that he claimed "saved the U.S. auto industry from total destruction.”
The Oakland County GOP dinner was a return trip for Trump, who spoke at the same event in 2013 and later claimed he had received a “man of the year” award, an assertion former party officials called false.
But Oakland County’s new GOP leadership helped Trump make good on that previously false claim Sunday by honoring him as “man of the decade.”
"It's really an honor” to win the award “for the second time,” Trump said during the county party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.
The symbolic award comes at a pivotal moment for Trump, who is running to return to the White House despite becoming the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges after two separate grand jury indictments.
Trump has pleaded not guilty to falsifying business records in an effort to cover up hush money to a former adult film star, and to federal charges for allegedly hoarding classified documents, obstructing justice and making false statements.
Speaking Sunday, the former president argued the criminal charges are a politically motivated form of “election interference” designed to keep him from returning to the White House.
“If I wasn't running or if I was doing badly in the polls, all of this investigation bullshit would stop immediately,” Trump said to applause.
“They want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom.”
Tickets to the Oakland GOP’s annual fundraiser started at $250. Attendees paid to see Trump after dining on pasta alle puttanesca or roast chicken breast in a grain mustard demi-glace sauce.
In an opening speech, U.S. Rep. Lisa McLain promised Trump her "unwavering endorsement" in the presidential race.
"He is the leader this country needs, and he can turn the United States around,” said McLain of Bruce Township in Macomb County.
Oakland County GOP Chair R. Vance Patrick also appeared to endorse the former president over more than 10 rivals who have declared in the contested primary, telling fellow Republicans to “vote red for Donald Trump.”
Oakland County, the state's second largest, helped doom Trump's re-election bid in 2020, as the region’s educated and relatively affluent voters flocked to Democrat Joe Biden.
In Rochester, Trump lost to Biden by 2 points after winning the city by 9 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016. He lost Rochester Hills by 3 points after carrying it by nearly 6 points four years prior.
All told, Biden won Oakland County by 108,177 votes — more than double Clinton’s margin — en route to a 154,188 vote statewide win.
Despite high inflation across the state, Oakland turned even bluer in 2022, as incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer carried the county by 145,447 votes.
Trump made no mention of his suburban struggles on Sunday night, instead using the forum to give Republicans red meat.
He bashed Biden and repeatedly mocked fellow GOP presidential hopeful and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by calling him “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
The former president received a series of standing ovations as he vowed to fight schools that cater to transgender students, ban transgender girls from competing in girls sports and promising to withhold funding from schools with COVID-19 mask or vaccine mandates.
Michigan Democrats blasted Trump’s return to the state.
“Trump’s MAGA agenda that Michigan Republicans are trying and failing to carry out here is deeply out of touch with the values of Michiganders,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said in a statement.
“Whether it’s attacking abortion rights, undermining our elections, or advocating for policies that hurt the middle class, Trump and his radical agenda have no place in our great state.”
In a recent newsletter, Oakland County Democratic Party Chair Nancy Quarles criticized her Republican counterparts for hosting Trump, who she called an "insurrection leader, election denier, twice criminally indicted, radical extremist candidate backer" with a record of "misery and despair."
I’ll ‘visit him in jail’
Indictments don't bother Trump super fan Mary Hamilton, who drove from Alpena to tonight's Oakland Co dinner: "I'll even go visit him in jail." pic.twitter.com/Ao8TM62ky3— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) June 25, 2023
Trump’s recent criminal indictments don't matter to Mary Hamilton, 65, who predicted prosecutors will "dump" most of the charges because they are "not constitutional."
"You can't change my mind," Hamilton told Bridge as she walked into the Suburban Collection Showplace, where she wore an oversized “Make America Great Again” hat.
"As long as he's running, I'm voting for him. I'll even go visit him in jail,” she said with a laugh.
Trump's White House tenure was "one of the best four years for me," added Hamilton, who drove three hours from her home near Alpena to see Trump. "I'm retired, but it seemed like I was able to keep more of (my money).”
Trump’s legal troubles may not matter to loyalists, but they aren’t helping him with moderates he will need to win a general election, said former Michigan GOP official Wayne Bradley of Southfield, who told Bridge he has soured on Trump after voting for him in 2016 and 2020.
Trump’s big loss in Oakland County last cycle was "all about the suburban soccer mom, and he's not picking up any of those" as he fights criminal charges and continues to claim the 2020 election was rigged, Bradley said.
DeSantis, the Florida governor, has garnered endorsements from more than 20 Michigan lawmakers and is the "best hope" to defeat Trump in the GOP primary, Bradley said. But Trump continues to dominate national polls.
"If I had to put money on it right now, Trump will be our candidate, and he will lose again to Biden," Bradley predicted. "Unequivocally, we will lose."
Bill Rauwerdink, who chairs the 11th Congressional District, told Bridge he thinks the former president needs “to just be Trump" to reverse trends in the vote-rich but increasingly Democratic Oakland County.
The dinner was a "huge fundraising opportunity" for the local GOP and signals that Oakland County remains a "big deal" for the presidential campaign, Rauwerdink said.
"It's one of the biggest counties in the state, and it's one of the richest counties in the country, so why would you ignore it?"
Perry Johnson, a local businessman and long shot presidential candidate, said he had paid to sponsor Sunday's Oakland County GOP dinner and arranged to park his campaign bus in the parking lot to greet voters.
But Johnson’s campaign bus was "turned away" and organizers "threatened to call the police," he said in an afternoon tweet. "What is @realDonaldTrump scared of?"
Oakland County GOP officials said they had authorized Johnson’s campaign to hand out bottled water to attendees but had never agreed to let his bus park outside the venue.
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