KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As his administration prepares to give $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers hurt by trade disputes with China and other countries, President Donald Trump on Tuesday implored Americans to be patient and trust his policies.
“Stick with us,” Trump said during a campaign-style speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ national convention in Kansas City.
“Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” he said, spurring boos from the crowd aimed at reporters in attendance.
In a late afternoon tweet, the VFW National Headquarters said it was “disappointed” to hear its members boo the press, saying organizations were invited guests.
“We were happy to have them there,” the tweet says.
The 4,000 veterans who gathered for the speech remained energetic from the time Trump took the stage to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and chants of “U.S.A.” Throughout the speech, they cheered as he touted goals he said his administration had met, promised to cut trade deficits and took aim at Democrats, whom he called “disciples of a very low-IQ person, Maxine Waters,” a California congresswoman.
The Trump administration has implemented tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods, as well as on imported steel and aluminum. Trump has threatened to place penalty taxes on up to $500 billion worth of products imported from China.
The European Union, Canada, Mexico, China and other countries have responded to his tariffs by imposing taxes of their own on agriculture products such as soybeans and pork.
Economists have warned that the tariffs could lead to trade wars that will raise prices for consumers worldwide and directly hurt farmers in Missouri, Kansas and other Midwestern states.
Trump declared on Twitter earlier Tuesday that “Tariffs are the greatest!” and threatened to impose additional penalties on U.S. trading partners as he prepared for negotiations with European officials at the White House.
The president has faced withering criticism from many in his own party over the tariffs. Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said Tuesday that the trade war is “cutting the legs out from under farmers and White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches. This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again.”
But Trump doubled down on the policy during his speech Tuesday afternoon to the VFW.
“You’ve gotta stick it out,” he said. “We’ve gotta fight it. ... The farmers are going to be the biggest beneficiaries. Just be a little patient.”
As for reports of the negative impact his trade war is having on American farmers, Trump was dismissive.
“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who is running for re-election, called recent trade tensions a “self-inflicted wound that borrowing $12 billion won’t solve.”
“Picking winners and losers is not sound policy and this money won’t help many of the Missourians hurt by this trade war, including the laid-off employees at Mid Continent Nail” in Poplar Bluff, McCaskill said. “We should get back to opening markets for our farmers and aggressively enforcing our trade laws.”
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is the Republican frontrunner to challenge McCaskill in the fall, defended Trump’s actions.
“President Trump is right to stand up for American farmers and he is right to demand better deals,” Hawley said in a statement. “It’s important that we support our farmers so they are not harmed as the negotiations continue.”
Kansas’ two Republican senators, Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, were skeptical of the $12 billion deal for farmers. Roberts said he had yet to hear details.
“I think it’s obvious in farm country there’s a lot of concern, and those are the folks who brought the president home,” Roberts said.
Moran said farmers would see the deal as a “short-term fix to a long-term issue.” He worried that other countries might sell to normal U.S. trading partners and that when tariff escalation and trade negotiations end, those countries might no longer be buying from U.S. farmers.
“When we don’t sell soybeans to China, then that means that Argentina and Brazil are,” Moran said. “If there’s an agreement on reducing the tariffs and the Chinese tariff against soybeans from the United States goes away, then what’s going to happen when China is already buying from Argentina and Brazil? How do we get that market back?”
Other businesses also are affected by tariff escalation, Moran said.
Trump’s speech made numerous references to a possible re-election campaign in 2020. The speech read like a campaign rally as he ran through a laundry list of his administration’s wins and hit common refrains, including standing for the national anthem.
“We don’t apologize for America anymore,” Trump said. “We stand up for America. We stand up for the patriots that defend America. And we stand up for our national anthem.”
When he told the crowd of veterans that the Senate on Monday confirmed his pick to lead the VA with little opposition, he said those who voted against Robert Wilkie’s confirmation were “the super left running against me in two and a half years.”
“If you want to know who’s running, just take a look at Wilkie’s score,” Trump said.
McCaskill and Missouri’s other senator, Roy Blunt, a Republican, voted for Wilkie.
Trump also railed against some Democrats who have proposed abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, saying, “We’re going to have a lot of fun in 2020 running against that.”
Crowd members lobbed sporadic shouts of “Build the wall!” as Trump pushed for a crackdown on undocumented immigration.
Early in his speech, Trump welcomed Hawley to the stage. Hawley heaped praise on Trump, saying the word that comes to mind when he thinks of the president is “courage.”
“The president always says we’re at a turning-point moment as a country,” Hawley said. “He’s providing leadership this country needs as we lead the world into a new century.”
Later on, Trump took aim at McCaskill for voting against the Republican tax cut passed late last year.
Trump ticked through his foreign policy resume, including withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He talked about investments in various kinds of military equipment and legislation aimed at the VA system.
He also said he hoped to create another branch of the military focused on space.
“A lot of important things are going to be taking place in space,” he said.
Trump was greeted at Kansas City International Airport by about 100 friends and family who cheered his arrival. Hawley’s was the first hand he shook at the bottom of the stairs.
Trump went on to greet Kansas City Police Chief Richard Smith, former Kansas City Royals baseball player and Hall of Fame member George Brett and the three Kansas City police officers wounded in a shootout earlier this month: Mike Delaney, Matthew “Buck” Williams and Brent Cartwright.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, who had joined Trump on the plane from Washington, came down the steps behind him. Moments later, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Yoder was “all in” on Trump and his “embrace” would be a political liability in the fall midterm election.
After the speech, Trump made his way to the Kansas City Marriott Downtown for a fundraiser benefiting Hawley’s campaign. According to an invitation posted on the Cass County GOP’s website, basic tickets for the luncheon fundraiser started at $1,000.