Trump claims he’s least racist person, says Biden is Democrat favorite
WASHINGTON – After 2½ weeks of racially polarizing shots at his opponents, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is looking forward to two nights of Democratic debates at which his tweets on Baltimore and minority members of Congress will likely be addressed.
“I think I’m helping myself,” Trump told reporters while defending his recent attacks on African-American and Hispanic lawmakers, claiming he is pointing out “the tremendous corruption” in cities like Baltimore.
“I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” Trump claimed during a morning session with reporters.
Later in the day, Trump denied that his series of attacks on minority lawmakers are part of a political plan: “I have no strategy … Zero strategy.”
Democratic presidential candidates gathering in Detroit argue Trump is stoking racial resentments in a bid to build support within his political base. They are likely to assail his views during debates on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
On Saturday, Trump targeted Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., when he described Baltimore, part of which is in Cummings’ district, as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” He also claimed that “no human would want to live there” and that the district is “far worse and more dangerous” than conditions on the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
Telling reporters “I am watching” the debates, Trump said he sees former Vice President Joe Biden as the favorite for the nomination to oppose him in the fall of 2020.
“I think he’ll limp across the line,” he said.
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On Monday, Biden said “the fact that President Trump continues to use the power of the presidency to unleash racist attacks on the people he serves is despicable.”
Trump spoke with reporters at the White House both en route and after returning from a speech in Jamestown, Va., to mark the 400th Anniversary of the first elected representative legislative assembly.
On both occasions, Trump maintained his attacks on Cummings and his home base of Baltimore, saying at one point it has “been very badly mishandled for many years … The people are living in hell in Baltimore.” He also claimed he would visit Baltimore “at the right time.”
Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young described Trump’s attacks on his city, including a series of tweets in recent days, as “racist” bids for votes.
“We do have our problems, but we are no different than any other American city,” Young, a Democrat, told USA TODAY. “I just think the president should focus more on America as a place where we can live as one nation, not divided by race.”
‘Help us’:Baltimore Mayor Jack Young fires back at Donald Trump over tweets, blames feds
The Democratic debates in Detroit come amid weeks of racial tensions sparked by Trump.
First came a July 14 tweet attacking members of the “Squad,” a group of four women lawmakers of color who have criticized Trump on various issues. He said they should “go back” to where they came from, although all are U.S. citizens.
More: ‘Put the tweet down, brother, and just show up.’ Baltimore responds to Trump calling city rat infested
At a July 17 rally in Greenville, N.C., Trump supporters chanted “send her back” in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who came to the United States as a child refugee from Somalia.
This past weekend, Trump expanded his attack to include Cummings, an African-American and a committee chairman who is seeking financial records from Trump and members of his family. Trump said the Maryland congressman “should start doing some oversight on Baltimore.”
Trump won 12% of the black vote in 2016, according to exit polls, and 11% of the Latino vote. A recent Quinnipiac survey gave Trump a 7% approval rating among African-Americans. Another 79% of African-American respondents said they “strongly” disapproved of Trump’s performance.
In other comments, Trump:
– Defended his new nominee for director of national intelligence, Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas. Democrats say Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney, is not qualified for the job and has claimed experience in terrorism prosecutions that he actually lacks.
Trump said that Ratcliffe, who would replace Dan Coats if confirmed by the Senate, is “a very talented guy.”
– Assailed a Washington Post column that described Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as a “Russian asset” for opposing federal election security legislation.
“I think the Washington Post is a Russian asset,” Trump said.
– Again criticized the Federal Reserve, saying its expected interest rate cut this week is too little, too late.
“The Fed is often wrong,” Trump said.
– Expressed skepticism about renewed negotiations with China on a new trade agreement with the United States. He also said the Chinese are balking at concessions because they hope Trump will lose to the Democratic nominee in the 2020 election.
“They would just love if I got defeated,” the president said. “They’ll pray that Trump loses.”