GREENVILLE, N.C. – Amid chants of "Send her back!" from a North Carolina crowd, President Donald Trump went on the offensive Wednesday in a campaign rally in which he called Democratic congresswomen un-American, saying they should leave this country.
Three days ago, Trump tweeted that U.S. Reps. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Abdullahi Omar should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
"I think in some cases they hate our country," Trump said to the crowd at East Carolina University, in a swing state he won in 2016.
Boos erupted throughout the 8,000-packed coliseum as he said Omar blames the United States on the terrorist attacks of 9/11. They continued to boo as they looked to the right of the stage where security approached a protester who ran behind a "Keep America Great" sign. Security escorted the protester out.
“Great thing about live television is you can’t cut it,” Trump said.
He turned his focus on North Carolina by praising women, which he said filled 60 percent of American jobs in 2018.
“Three years ago – time is flying,” Trump said. “I want to thank you. Donald Trump has won the great state of North Carolina.”
Trump supporters chanted, “Four more years, four more years.”
His speech was filled with Trump's trademark criticisms about the news media, which he says sides with liberals, and special prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Mueller had been scheduled to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill, but it was postponed. Trump brought him up anyway. "What happened to me with this witch hunt should never be allowed to happen to another president," he said.
He spoke of the “Russian hoax” by thanking Republican leadership for stopping it, and he talked about former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for president in 2020.
“Sleepy Joe wasn’t prepared during a debate,” he said. “Could you imagine if I said, ‘I’m not prepared.’”
PHOTO GALLERY: President Trump holds rally in Greenville, N.C.
Earlier in the day, Vice President Mike Pence visited troops at Fort Bragg, the largest and one of the most important Army installation in the country, and campaigned in Fayetteville for a Republican running in a congressional district race that is a redo of 2018 because of election fraud. He joined Trump at the Greenville rally.
The president also talked about illegal immigration, a main theme of his first bid that is taking center stage in his reelection campaign. He brushed off the criticism he has gotten for saying that the congresswomen should go back home. "So controversial," he said sarcastically.
The four freshmen have portrayed the president as a bully who wants to "vilify" not only immigrants, but all people of color. They say they are fighting for their priorities to lower health care costs and pass a Green New Deal addressing climate change, while his thundering attacks are a distraction and tear at the core of America vales.
The Democratic-led U.S. House voted Tuesday to condemn Trump for what they considered "racist comments," despite near-solid GOP opposition and the president's own insistence that he doesn't have a "racist bone" in his body.
Trump hasn't shown signs of being rattled by the House rebuke, and called an impeachment resolution that failed in Congress earlier in the day "ridiculous." The condemnation carries no legal repercussions and his latest harangues struck a chord with his die-hard conservative base. Trump's comments about it in Greenville only fired up the crowd, whose chants of "Four more years!" and "Build that wall!" bounced off the rafters.
It was Trump's sixth visit to North Carolina as president and his first 2020 campaign event here, where he defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Before Trump arrived, Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, spoke at a rally in Greenville and called Trump "just another corrupt snake oil salesman."
"From sparking a harmful trade war that puts our farmers in the crosshairs, to giving corporations a billion-dollar giveaway at the expense of our middle class, to repeatedly pushing to end protections for pre-existing conditions and raise health care costs, his broken promises have hurt hard-working families across North Carolina," Goodwin said.
Trump ended his rally by saying, "Keep America Great. Thank you, North Carolina, thank you!"
Paul Woolverton of GateHouse Media and The Associated Press contributed to this story.