Trump supporters, including Bob Kunst of Miami Beach, Fla., throng around Amway Center in downtown Orlando on Tuesday for his 2020 campaign kickoff event. Photo by Paul Brinkmann/UPI
ORLANDO, Fla., June 18 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump officially launched his 2020 presidential campaign with a rally in Orlando on Thursday evening.
Trump appeared before a crowd of thousands at the Amway Center in downtown Orlando as he touched on some of the highlights and controversies of his first two years as president and recalled the 2016 race as he rallied support for his next campaign.
Trump rattled off a list of promises for the remainder of his time in office and his hopeful second term including defending Second Amendment rights, limiting access to abortions, funding the military and providing care for veterans, eradicating AIDs and landing humans on Mars.
"I can promise you I will never, ever let you down," Trump told the crowd.
He criticized Democrats for their immigration policies which he described as an advocation for open borders.
"Our immigration laws are a disgrace and the Democrats can get together with the Republicans and solve the problem quickly," Trump said.
He went on to say that anyone who supports so-called sanctuary cities that prevent local law enforcement from working with federal immigration authorities to deport undocumented immigrants should be able to run for president.
The president pledged that more than 400 miles of his proposed border wall will be completed by the end of the year, saying progress is moving along "very rapidly."
Trump also touted several international measures taken during his time as president such as moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, declaring the elimination of the Islamic State terror group and withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Trump addressed ongoing trade negotiations with China, saying he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of their planned meeting at the G20 summit saying he is seeking a "good deal and a fair deal or we're not going to have a deal at all."
"We'll see what happens," he said.
Trump was joined in Orlando by first lady Melania Trump, as well as his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. and daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who addressed the crowd as part of the pre-speech program.
Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence were also in attendance and the vice president introduced Trump to the crowd.
"Jobs are back, confidence is back and thanks to the leadership of President Donald Trump, America is back and we're just getting started," he said.
Trump also brought departing press secretary Sarah Sanders onto the stage during the speech hinting she might seek "some gubernatorial position" after announcing plans to leave the White House at the end of June.
"This has been truly the honor of a lifetime. One of the most incredible experiences anyone could ever imagine," Sanders said of her time at the White House. "And that's because I've had the chance to be on the front row of history and watch you drastically change our country for the better."
Prior to the speech thousands of people turned out to cheer on Trump, although rain drove some of the crowd away temporarily midafternoon.
A large field next to Amway Center arena in the heart of downtown was packed with Trump supporters wearing red, white and blue. Trump campaign officials said they planned to set up large TV screens to show the crowd outside.
The campaign has reported raising more than $30 million in the first quarter this year, holding a total of $40 million. On the Democratic side, there's a bumper crop of 24 declared candidates, with former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren leading most polls.
Chris Jeune, 49, drove about an hour from Ormond Beach, Fla., to volunteer and get VIP access to the indoor rally.
"I thought it was awesome when I heard he picked Orlando for this," Jeune said. "From our perspective, he's getting things done. We need the wall, to keep drugs and illegals out of our country. He's doing a great job."
Building a wall on the border with Mexico, a popular promise from Trump's 2016 campaign, was mentioned by more than a few in the crowd. Supporters also credited Trump for boosting the economy. Others cited support for Israel or anti-abortion policies as reasons they came to show support.
A few blocks away, protesters from progressive or Democratic groups in Orlando were setting up at Stonewall bar next to Orlando City Soccer Stadium, using the theme "Win with Love." Streets were closed around the arena leading toward the protest area. A huge police presence was visible. A parade of dozens of officers set out on bicycle around 1:30 p.m.
Rick Ashby, a resident of nearby Oviedo, was at the protest scene. He is running for state Senate as a Democrat.
"Trump is ruining this country with his racism, hedonism, hate and his favoring the wealthy at the expense of the working class. What kind of American president would ever embrace dictators as he has, like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin," Ashby said. "I got involved in politics in 2016 because of him."
But Trump appeals to Jose Vargas, 22, who lives in Orlando but recently moved from Venezuela. He can't vote yet but said he came to the rally to show support.
"I escaped a socialist country and I would hate to see that system take over the greatest country in the world, so I'm happy to see Trump winning," said Vargas, who works as a parking valet at a hotel. "I don't agree with everything he says, but he's politically incorrect and anti-establishment, and that's what is needed."
Bob Kunst, 77, of Miami Beach, a longtime activist who has run for office many times, camped out on a street corner with T-shirts for sale and signs with pro-Trump slogans.
As a gay Jewish man, he was once a devout Democrat.
"Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem. He went after ISIS. He appointed an openly gay ambassador to Germany. He's great and we need him," Kunst said.
Daisy Judge, 20, came from Florida State University in Tallahassee, where she's the membership chair for the Republican club.
"It's a good time to talk to people about important issues," Judge said.
She said she likes Trump's positions on abortion and free markets. Asked if she supports his decision to levy tariffs on trade with other countries, Judge said she believes those are just temporary leverage points for Trump to negotiate with.
UPI news writer Daniel Uria contributed to this report