Trump Goes Back To Campaign Mode In Florida After a week of controversy, President Trump sought to energize himself and his supporters at a rally in Florida on Saturday, staged by his campaign operation.
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Trump Goes Back To Campaign Mode In Florida

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Trump Goes Back To Campaign Mode In Florida

Trump Goes Back To Campaign Mode In Florida

Trump Goes Back To Campaign Mode In Florida

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After a week of controversy, President Trump sought to energize himself and his supporters at a rally in Florida on Saturday, staged by his campaign operation.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

President Trump is spending this President's Day weekend at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Florida. He's meeting today with several candidates to replace national security adviser Mike Flynn who was fired this past week. Yesterday, Trump took time out from the affairs of state to attend a campaign-style rally with his supporters in Melbourne, Fla. As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, it was a chance for Trump to relive his election victory after a rocky few weeks in the White House.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Rocky isn't just a figure of speech here. Someone actually threw a rock - or something - at the president's motorcade as he made his way to Mar-a-Lago Friday afternoon. Trump found a warmer welcome Saturday after a 25-minute flight up the coast. Air Force One taxied to a cavernous airport hangar where thousands of people were waiting to cheer the president on.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm here because I want to be among my friends and among the people.

(APPLAUSE)

HORSLEY: During the presidential campaign, Trump often bragged about - and sometimes exaggerated - the size of his rally crowds. The packed house last night was another vindication for Trump after four sometimes isolated weeks in the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Look at that. All the way outside of this - this is as big a hangar as you get - all the way outside, way back to the fences. Amazing.

HORSLEY: These supporters, many of whom waited hours in the Florida sun to see the president, are unfazed by Trump's setbacks - the firing of his national security adviser, the withdrawal of his nominee for labor secretary, the court battle that's temporarily suspended his travel ban. Alvina Pitches, who came to the rally draped in an American flag, says Trump is doing just what he said he would.

ALVINA PITCHES: Oh, I think he's doing terrific. I think he - they - you know, the press isn't giving him an honest assessment. But I think he's doing a really good job of trying to keep his promises and make our country great again.

HORSLEY: Patrick McWallace, who taped a Trump bumper sticker to his straw hat, also likes what he's seen so far, though McWallace says Trump might have been a little more cautious in the way he rolled out the travel ban.

PATRICK MCWALLACE: But other than that, I mean, I think it's beautiful. Man, it's exactly what the silent majority wanted.

HORSLEY: Trump won this county last fall with 57 percent of the vote. But a not-so-silent minority was also on hand to protest the president's visit. Kathy McGraw-Davids stood across the street from the airport with a hand-lettered sign saying this is not who we are.

KATHY MCGRAW-DAVIDS: I can't sit by. I have to stand up when I see my country disappearing. He's not what I grew up believing America is. America is diverse and inclusive and kind. And the immigration raids and the travel ban - I just can't sit quietly back and act like that's OK.

HORSLEY: Trump made no apologies at the rally. He promised to rewrite the travel ban in the coming days to address concerns of the federal courts. But he also chastised the judges who ruled against him. And he defended a crackdown on criminal immigrants.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Get them the hell out of here. Bring them back to where they came from.

(APPLAUSE)

HORSLEY: Trump says immigration enforcement officers are simply targeting drug dealers and gang members, though others have also been caught up in the dragnet. As he did during the campaign, Trump dismissed negative news accounts of his administration, saying supporters can draw their own conclusions. Andrea Colson, who carried a sign saying redheads for Trump, thinks the president was likely encouraged by the big turnout last night. She says his supporters will be too.

ANDREA COLSON: So much of the time, the narrative sounds like - oh, it's so bad - he's done this wrong; he's done that wrong; he's a failure. I think he wanted to give everybody a chance to actually see - no, the truth is he does have this much support. And he does have this many people that love him.

HORSLEY: That could be a tonic for the president as he returns to the hard work of governing next week.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Melbourne, Fla.

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At Florida Rally, Trump Restates Campaign Promises

President Trump pumps his fist to supporters at the conclusion of a campaign rally Saturday in Melbourne, Fla. Chris O'Meara/AP hide caption

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Chris O'Meara/AP

President Trump pumps his fist to supporters at the conclusion of a campaign rally Saturday in Melbourne, Fla.

Chris O'Meara/AP

A month into his term, President Donald Trump hit the trail Saturday for what a White House spokeswoman called a "campaign rally for America." At Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Florida, Trump addressed a hangar packed with supporters in an event organized not by the White House but by Trump's own campaign committee.

"I'm here because I want to be among my friends and among the people," Trump told the enthusiastic crowd before running through a long list of campaign promises and what he said were his administration's early accomplishments.

"Jobs are already starting to pour back in," Trump told the cheering crowd. On Obamacare, he promised a plan to repeal and replace it in "a few weeks." Of the U.S.' participation in the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, he said, "just terminated."

Talk of Air Force One cost-saving? Check. Reviving the Keystone pipeline? Check. Criticizing violence in America's inner cities? Check. Singling out Chicago for its rising murder rate, Trump declared that "safety is a civil right, and we will fight to make America totally safe again."

On his executive order temporarily banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries that was put on hold by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Trump promised "we never give up" and that "we will do something next week. I think you'll be impressed." In one of his biggest applause lines, the president talked of doing what it takes "to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country."

The Florida rally stood in stark contrast to the difficult week Trump had in Washington. On Monday, he fired his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, after reports that Flynn had discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador before Trump's inauguration. On Wednesday, Trump's choice to lead the Department of Labor, fast food executive Andrew Puzder, withdrew his name from consideration after it became clear he lacked the support to survive a Senate confirmation vote.

While the rally may have seemed like an attempt at a fresh start, "I wouldn't call it a reset," White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told The Washington Post on Saturday, "because we're quite proud of a lot of the achievements over the past four weeks."

So, not a reset — but a rousing stump speech meant to take his message directly to the people. Supporter James Evert, who turned out for the rally, also saw it as a chance for Trump's supporters to give the President a boost.

"Living in Washington and dealing with all the bureaucracy and all the media and a lot of the bias," Evert told NPR, "you know you probably get berated by all the negativity. And then you come to one of these things, and it's probably a refreshing moment [for Trump]. He says, 'Okay, these are the grassroots people. These are hardworking Americans, and they're here to see me and root me on and encourage me and kind of revive my momentum.' "

A smaller group protesting Trump gathered across the road from the hangar, waving signs and chanting.

Trump began the rally by continuing his attacks on the media, telling the crowd he wanted to speak "without the filter of the fake news. The dishonest media which has published one false story after another, with no sources — even though they pretend they have them — they make them up in many cases. They just don't want to report the truth."

Trump has stepped up his criticism of the media in the past week. On Thursday, he repeatedly berated reporters and decried their coverage as "fake news" in a contentious, 77-minute news conference. He then tweeted Friday that "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!"

Trump's suspicion of and animosity toward the press clearly resonated with many in the crowd, including Jim Sava.

"The news media has this concept that they can take Donald Trump down," Sava said. "There's nothing they can do to take him down. There's nothing. The only person that could take Donald Trump down is Donald Trump. If he does not do what he said he was gonna do, that would be what has to happen to lose support from the people. The people are fed up and we just want America to be great again."