Trump escapes Beltway, challenges mount

NASHVILLE (AP) – President Donald Trump is returning to the road, rallying supporters to recapture the enthusiasm of his campaign and reassuring them about his tumultuous early days in the White House.

It’s a welcome distraction for a president whose first months in office have been dominated by self-inflicted controversy and roadblocks, courtesy of federal courts and a divided Congress.

“We have done far more, I think maybe more than anybody’s done in this office in 50 days, that I can tell you,” Trump said to cheers from thousands of supporters at a campaign rally in Nashville, Tennessee.

In Trump’s rally telling, things in Washington are going great. He’s been cracking down on illegal immigration, is “way ahead of schedule” on his southern border wall and is on the verge of passing a new healthcare plan that “does so much for you”.

He railed against a federal judge for once again stymieing what he called a “watered-down version” of his travel ban an hour before he took the stage, but assured supporters he’d take the case to the Supreme Court and win. The crowd roared.

In this file photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee. - AP
In this file photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee. – AP

On the trip back to Washington that night, Trump bounded back to the press section of Air Force One to share his excitement.

“Quite an event, huh?” he said, appearing without warning, with no staff in tow. “It was a big crowd. Great crowd. That was a great crowd. Great people, great spirit.”

He said he plans to continue the events, holding rallies every two weeks.

Throughout the campaign, Trump relied on his rallies to speak directly to his supporters. Networks often carried the events live, giving Trump what were essentially free 50-minute infomercials watched by millions.

The events also energised Trump, who thrives on the rush of performing to adoring crowds.

On Wednesday night, he seemed transported back to the campaign – a time of promise and fewer responsibilities. The event had all the trappings of his rallies of old: the eclectic soundtrack, the chants of “Lock her up”, aimed at former rival Hillary Clinton, who has long since faded from the headlines.

“There’s no place I’d rather be than with you here tonight, with the hard-working citizens of our country,” he told the crowd.