After Mueller report, Trump turning to politics


WASHINGTON | With the special counsel’s investigation largely behind him, President Donald Trump is turning his attention to 2020.

Trump left the White House Thursday on his way to Grand Rapids for a rally — his first political event since the Justice Department said that special counsel Robert Mueller did not find that his campaign colluded with Russia’s election meddling. The president is expected to celebrate the conclusion of the probe in a key Midwestern state that helped deliver him to the White House.

“Michigan is booming,” Trump declared as he left the White House.

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, March 28, 2019, to attend a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Loyal supporters started lining up in front of the Van Andel Arena on Wednesday evening, with some camping out in tents and sleeping bags overnight. By mid-afternoon, a crowd of thousands, many in red “Make America Great Again” hats, snaked for blocks around downtown Grand Rapids, just across the river from The Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.

Many said they expected a victory lap. Saundra Kiczenski, who was among the first in line, said she’d never felt the same kind of enthusiasm from the crowd as she awaited her 25th Trump rally. Said the 40-year-old Kiczenski, who works in retail in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan: “He’s just going to be on fire.”

Trump’s sojourn to the Midwest is expected to be the first of many. His campaign is seeking to hold three key states that he swung from blue to red in 2016 — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But they know this will be a battle after midterm elections that showed rising Democratic energy. Still, advisers believe that Trump’s core supporters remain enthusiastic heading into 2020.

Waiting for the rally, many of those backers made their excitement known.

Kathy Tyson, 45, of Grand Rapids, said she’s been to every rally Trump has held locally, but that Thursday’s event “absolutely” had extra significance because of the Mueller timing.

She said she expected him to deliver a message “that’s going to invigorate his whole entire campaign.”

Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary of the Russia probe said Mueller’s investigation “did not establish” that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. It also said that Mueller reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed the federal investigation, instead setting out “evidence on both sides” of the question.