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Trump talks Great Lakes, border, Mueller at Michigan rally

By
Daniel Uria and Clyde Hughes
President Donald Trump, shown here talking with reporters in October, will hold a rally in the critical swing state of Michigan Thursday, a state he won in 2016. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
President Donald Trump, shown here talking with reporters in October, will hold a rally in the critical swing state of Michigan Thursday, a state he won in 2016. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 28 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump pledged to financially support an initiative to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes during a rally in Michigan on Thursday.

Speaking to a crowd at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., Trump said he backed "full funding" of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, despite budget proposal for the next fiscal year proposing a $270 million cut to the program's $300 million funding.

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"I support the Great Lakes. Always have. They're beautiful. They're big. Very deep. Record deepness," Trump said. "And I'm going to get, in honor of my friends, full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative."

The declaration came after Trump announced another budget reversal earlier on Thursday, saying the Special Olympics will be funded after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' budget recommendations proposed cutting funding to the program.

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Trump stunned many political insiders in 2016 when he won Michigan along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- believed to have been at the time safely Democratic states -- paving the way for him to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

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Michigan, though, returned "blue" in the 2018 midterms as Democrats grabbed the governor's office and flipped two House seats in their favor.

During Thursday's rally, he appealed to the state's auto industry, saying he met with car executives upon arriving.

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"We took historic and dramatic action to save the American auto industry and to defend American auto workers right here in Michigan," Trump said.

He decried shipping of auto jobs to Mexico and other countries calling for Ohio and Michigan to "get the damn plants open" and said he would continue to work on fulfilling his campaign promise to repeal NAFTA.

Trump later vowed to "close the damn border" unless Mexico stops people from crossing into the United States, describing claims of asylum as a "big fat con job."

The rally was also the first since the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into whether his campaign colluded with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Trump seized on the moment early in the rally, declaring that the "collusion delusion is over" and calling the investigation "nothing more than a sinister effort" to undermine his 2016 election victory.

He also criticized Democrats for what he called "ridiculous" partisan investigations, singling out Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who has maintained there was evidence that Trump's campaign colluded with Russia and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler.

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Although the Mueller report did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice, GOP strategist John Sellek told the Detroit News that the president's followers feel like he has been vindicated.

"It's given them a huge boost of energy moving forward," Selleck said. "So certainly, you'd expect the president to celebrate while he's here in a state he needs to win again in 2020."

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