What Trump supporters think of impeachment

What Trump supporters think of impeachment 11 October 2019 Share this with Facebook Share this with Messenger Share this with Twitter Share this with Email Share this with Facebook Share this with WhatsApp Share this with Messenger Share this with Twitter Share Share this with These are external links and will open in a new…

What Trump supporters think of impeachment

Trump in Minneapolis Image copyright Getty Images

President Trump is fighting back against an impeachment inquiry by taking his counterpunching style on the road. What do fans at one of his rallies make of the scandal?

“It’s the first time I’ve worn my cap downtown,” confesses Jacob Biehn as he waits for President Donald Trump’s rally to start in Minneapolis, a city currently run by Democrats.

If he worried about standing out in his Make America Great Again baseball cap, he needn’t have been.

The centre of the city is a bobbing sea of red and white. The slogan is on t-shirts – along with Women for Trump, Pilots for Trump, Cops for Trump. There are Star Spangled suits, a MAGA onesie, badges proclaiming Magasota, with Mr Trump’s profile (and coiffed mane) imposed over the outline of the state of Minnesota.

You wouldn’t think all this was for a president at the centre of an impeachment inquiry, holding a rally for the first time since it was launched.

If anything, it has galvanised the thousands of supporters (the president claims to have set a record, with 20,000 inside and 25,000 watching outside) some of whom queued for days to be at the front of the Target Center crowd when he stepped out to a rock star’s welcome.

Dan Nelson, 36, says he was the first in line to get into the venue after waiting for three days – and was right at the front for Mr Trump’s appearance.

“They’re just making stuff up,” he says of the Democrats. “He’s starting to fight back.”

And it was fighting talk he and others got from the president, who was greeted with rapturous applause and deafening cheers that filled the arena.

To boos (when Democrats were mentioned) and cheers (when he delivered a line they approved of), Mr Trump tells the crowd: “They want to erase your vote like it never existed. They want to erase your voice and they want to erase your future.

“But they will fail because in America, the people rule again.”

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Media captionTrump rally’s new hate figures – the Bidens

The inquiry is looking at whether the president pressurised Ukraine’s leader to dig up information on Democratic candidate, and former vice-president, Joe Biden, by holding back military aid.

Mr Trump and his supporters allege that Mr Biden abused his power to persuade Ukraine to back away from a criminal investigation that could implicate his son, Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian energy company.

The White House has refused to cooperate, saying the investigation is “baseless” and “constitutionally invalid”.

The allegations against the Bidens have been widely discredited. But President Trump claims there is an “insane impeachment witch hunt” that he’s been going through “for more time than I’ve been in office” – and his supporters are right behind him, echoing his language.

“I think it’s a witch hunt,” agrees Tyler Ganley, 29. “I don’t think Donald Trump has done any impeachable offence that’s a high crime or misdemeanour. There was nothing wrong with their conversation. It seems to me they’re turning a Biden scandal into a Trump scandal.

“I think the phone call has been taken out of context. They’re making it sound like he was trying to take down a political rival. If Biden was using his position to further his son’s career, then that in itself is corrupt.”

He thinks next year there’ll be an “exciting upset” in his state when it comes to the November 2020 elections.

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Media captionWhat we know about Biden-Ukraine corruption claims

The president’s supporters don’t believe there is any substance to the allegations against him. Many of them have read the transcript of the call at the centre of the row for themselves, and come to their own conclusions.

“It’s a joke,” says Eric Radziej, of impeachment. “It really is. It’s not an official inquiry. It’s Pelosi, having her own private poll. She’s only asking the people she wants to ask.”

Trump himself would later mention the “crooked polls” – this time in relation to statistics on how many Americans back impeachment.

Eric continues: “They produced the transcript. That’s the whole story. Trump never said he was going to withhold money. They’ve tried to impeach Trump since before he was in office. It’s not really the Democratic Party – it’s just anti-Republican. If they want an official investigation, they should just go to the courts and do it.”

“We wanted to do our little bit,” says Veronica Diaz, 43, explaining why she travelled the four hours from her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “We wanted to show our support for the president we love and support our free country.”

Image caption Alex Ledezma and Veronic Diaz are proud to show their support for the president

She calls the impeachment inquiry “horrible”, adding: “We know what they’re investigating. But we know what we know. I’ve read the transcript and I didn’t find anything illegal in it.

“And the Ukrainian prime minister didn’t show any sense of alarm, didn’t say, ‘Oh, let me investigate this further’. We believe him [Trump]. He’s doing a heck of a job. All these people like Pelosi and Schiff want to point the finger. They’re so mad – I don’t understand.”

“Even the Ukrainian leader said no one was pressurising him,” adds her friend Alex Ledezma.

Doug Shinler, 55, says: “I don’t think he’s done anything wrong. He’s nothing to hide. If there’s corruption, we need to know about it. It’s all a big scam and the Bidens are trying to cover their tracks.”

He’s one of several who say they get their information on the inquiry from Fox News – which is highlighted by the president in his rally speech – as well as social media.

Mike Mullen says he finds it helpful to read the president’s tweets as well. And in his view, “it’s not impeachment – it’s been proven”.

“All these channels except Fox – it’s the only one that speaks the truth – they’re trying to come up with whistleblowers that don’t exist. They try to change people’s minds with misinformation.”

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Media captionHow are Republicans responding to impeachment?

Rachelle Rosini, who describes herself as a home schooling mom of eight, is impressed by the president’s comments in Minneapolis. Asked if the scandal will damage Trump at the polls, she replies: “No. Because there’s absolutely nothing to it. They won’t even take a vote on it.”

Before the rally started, the atmosphere on the skywalk – a series of bridges linking buildings in Minneapolis, where people have been queuing to get into the building – is like a big party.

There are mass singalongs of I’m Proud to be an American, cheers whenever police officers walk by (which is often), and sporadic chants calling Trump’s name. People have brought fold up seats and ordered in pizza.

If Trump treats his rallies like a rock concert, these are the devoted hardcore fans, buying merchandise as vendors walk past with badges and t-shirts. There’s a cardboard cut out Trump people are posing for pictures with.

Speaking there before the rally began, Melissa Erra says: “As a president, he’s supposed to be looking for corruption. He didn’t do a quid pro quo. He didn’t say ‘I’m going to withdraw funds’. He didn’t withhold anything at all.”

She also says only “high crimes and misdemeanours” are impeachable offences.

“I don’t know, like sneaking off with a billion dollars in cash, that might be something,” she says, alluding to another unsubstantiated allegation of corruption against Biden. “It’s not even a crime, what [Trump] did.

“I wish they would take it to a vote. Then both sides would have full disclosure. But Democrats don’t want that to happen.”

Image caption Jacob Biehn is wearing his MAGA hat downtown for the first time

Basketball coach Matt Meyer stands out in the skyway, with his stars and stripe suit that many stop to complement him on.

“I’ve been on the Trump express ever since he got going,” he says proudly.

He’s one of many who feels the Democrats are “out to get” the president.

“If you read the transcript, which I have done, there’s nothing there which was bad. If Democrats want to impeach him, that’s their loss. What did he do that broke the law? The Democrats can’t answer that.

“If Obama had that same conversation would any of this be coming up? The answer is 100% no. That’s all it is. They’re out to get him. The Russian election thing failed on them massively. And when this one fails they’ll move into the next thing. They’re going to have four more years trying to get rid of him.”

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Media captionTrump impeachment: What happened this week?

But there are some notes of caution from those waiting in line.

Jake Nelson, 35, says he likes some of Trump’s policies, but wishes he would “tone the rhetoric down a bit”.

He says he finds the impeachment debate “interesting”.

“I’m still waiting to see all the facts that come out and if there’s any credibility to them. We don’t know the full story. Only bits and pieces have come out.”

Image caption Christine Bowers is one of the few in the crowd who is not a hardcore Trump supporter

Christina Bowers, 50, says she voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. But she’s at the rally with her daughter Ella, nine, and mother Jeannie.

Why? “I want to be the most informed citizen,” she says. “I’m usually a Democrat. But I think it’s important to listen.”

On impeachment, she adds: “I think it’s really wrong. And I think it’s going to come down to who has the best attorney. But I want to know if he really did hold back assistance. I think maybe we will never know.”

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption A Trump supporter leaves the rally with a police cordon nearby

Outside the venue that evening it’s a different picture. Hundreds of protesters gather, some burning MAGA hats, and riot police are called.

While those inside the centre in their uniform of red and white may know all the words to their hero’s hits, the protesters are noisy making it clear that some are singing a different tune.

But Jacob, wearing his hat for the first time in his city, has this to say: “If people were open minded about what he’s doing, and put aside what they think of him anyway, I think they’d find his views are a lot closer to theirs than they think.”

He will have to wait 13 months to find out exactly what the people of Minneapolis do think when they vote. But perhaps less for the impeachment inquiry he and fellow Republicans so hate to play itself out.

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