President Donald Trump enlisted ‘the Beast’ – the armored presidential limousine – in his reelection efforts, taking a lap around a Wisconsin motor speedway in his bid to keep the state in his column.
Trump spoke before a few thousand cheering supporters at an outdoor rally at MotorSports Management Company in West Salem, Wisconsin – and made the most of the speedway where they gathered.
The presidential limo took a lap around the track, to cheers from the crowd, as supportive cable networks and online broadcasters scrambled to show the surprise footage.
President Donald Trump drives around the track at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway before speaking at a campaign rally Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in West Salem, Wis.
It was just the latest time Trump has used the perks and stature of the office to boost his effort. Earlier Tuesday and over the weekend he repeatedly staged airport rallies using Air Force One as the backdrop – speaking for more than 7 minutes about the plane at his New Hampshire rally.
Trump has also had Marine One, the presidential helicopter, circle the crowd before campaign speeches, as he did in the Villages in Florida – another critical state to his reelection effort.
Military-style Osprey aircraft that ferry staff and press also added to the show, and landed nearby for that event over the weekend.
At his rally, Trump started with his standard attacks on Joe Biden, although he also touted ‘law and order’ early on as he brought up protests in Kenosha.
Final lap! Trump used ‘the Beast’ to tour the Wisconsin speedway
The president immediately tore into rival Joe Biden
‘We saved Kenosha. Kenosha wouldn’t be standing right now,’ Trump said.
Of the contrast he sought to draw with Biden, Trump said: ‘It’s a choice between a Trump boom and a Biden lockdown’ on the economy.
He once again tried to connect Biden, who spent decades in the Senate, to those who practice street violence.
‘If Biden wins, the flag burning radicals on the streets …they’ll be running your government,’ Trump said.
‘This Election Day you must stop the Anti-American radicals by delivering Joe Biden and those far-left Democrats, all Democrats, a thundering defeat. This has to be a big defeat so we can end it – just end it,’ Trump said.
Trump also blasted the media for its coverage. ‘Everything is COVID, COVID, COVID. I had it. Here I am right?’
Wisconsin is experiencing a spike in infections. The Centers for Disease Control reported Sunday that Wisconsin had the third highest rate of new infections.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump cast doubt on the militia plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a campaign stop Tuesday in the state capital of Lansing.
‘Hey, hey, hey, hey I’m the one, it was our people that helped her out with her problem. And we’ll have to see if it’s a problem, right? People are entitled to say – maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn’t,’ Trump told his raucous crowd who shouted ‘lock her up!’ over the course of the rally.
Trump pointed out, ‘I don’t think she likes me much,’ while then labeling Whitmer a ‘disaster’ and asking his Michigan supporters, ‘How did you put her there?’
President Donald Trump cast doubt on militia members’ plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after she had been at odds with the president over COVID-19 lockdown orders
State and federal authorities had exposed a plot to kidnap Whitmer (pictured). Trump has taken credit for ‘our people’ helping the Democratic governor with ‘her problem’
In Lansing on Tuesday, Trump said of the plot, ‘And we’ll have to see if it’s a problem, right? People are entitled to say – maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn’t’
The president and the Democratic governor have been at odds over lockdown orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, with Trump urging Michigan to open back up.
‘Get your children back to school,’ he encouraged Tuesday.
It was Whitmer’s COVID-19 regulations that got her targeted by 13 militia members in a plot broken up by state authorities and the FBI.
‘It was our people, my people, our people that helped her out. And then she blamed me for it. She blamed me and it was our people … I don’t get it,’ Trump complained Tuesday.
As for casting doubt on the plot, the president could have been speculating that the men would be successful in using the defense that they were all talk, no action.
That defense had been used a decade ago when members of a Michigan paramilitary group were accused of trying to overthrow the U.S. government.
It worked so well that a federal judge took the rare step of dismissing most charges against the extremist group known as Hutaree, without giving the jury a say.
A defense lawyer in that case now represents Ty Garbin, one of six men accused of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer because of anger over her stay-at-home policies to contain the coronavirus.
Again, attorney Mark Satawa contends his client had no intention to carry out the alleged plan, whatever he might have said in recorded or online conversations.
‘Saying things like, ‘I hate the governor, the governor is tyrannical’ … is not illegal, even if you’re holding a gun and running around the woods when you do it’ Satawa told The Associated Press.
The ‘big talk’ argument likely will be a primary theme for the defense, as attorneys indicated during a preliminary hearing this month.
The verdict may turn on whether the judge or jury are convinced the plot was serious, say trial lawyers not involved with the matter.
Yet they caution that unique factors pose challenges and uncertainties for both sides – particularly as the matter unfolds against the backdrop of a pandemic, economic upheaval and a yawning political divide in the U.S.
‘The defense lawyers are going to have their work cut out for them finding fair and impartial jurors who haven’t predetermined the outcome before they hear the case,’ said Mike Rataj, another member of the defense team for the Hutaree, who were acquitted in 2012.
‘On its face it looks terrible,’ Rataj said, referring to police and news reports about the kidnap plot allegations.
A crucial difference between the Hutaree case and this one is that the Hutaree extremists were charged with sedition – rebellion against the government.
In the alleged plot against Whitmer, six men, led by Adam Fox of the Michigan III%ers, are charged in federal court with conspiracy to kidnap – a more specific allegation.
Authorities say members of a second anti-government organization also participated in the abduction scheme.
Eight other men are believed to be members or associates of a group called the Wolverine Watchmen and are charged in state court with counts including providing material support for terrorist acts.
Some of the Wolverine Watchmen are accused of planning and training for other violent crimes, including storming the Michigan Capitol building.
To win a conviction on the federal charges, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that more than one person agreed to kidnap the governor and took at least one step toward carrying out the plan.
The preliminary hearing showed the prosecution would use text messages and conversations secretly recorded by informants as evidence.
The plotters cased Whitmer’s northern Michigan vacation home in August and September and one purchased a Taser, while others agreed to buy explosives and tactical gear, FBI agent Richard Trask testified.
Defense attorneys grilled Trask about missing details, such as how the kidnapping would be done and where Whitmer would be taken.
They questioned whether infiltrators had egged on the defendants. They argued that inflammatory comments and even live-fire training exercises were constitutionally protected.
Magistrate Judge Sally Berens ruled there was enough to send the case to a grand jury, which could issue indictments.
‘The government isn’t required to show that the conspirators signed on a dotted line or had a five-step plan for exactly how it was to go,’ she said. ‘They’re required to show unity of purpose.’
But the defense likely will portray the plot as more fantasy than reality, said John Smietanka, a former federal prosecutor.
‘The tricky thing about conspiracy cases is … when you have multiple parties, whether they have the same motives and agree on a common plan,’ said Smietanka, who also has been a defense lawyer. ‘What exactly did they agree to, and how?’
Defense attorneys probably also will focus on the informants and raise the idea of entrapment, he said.
A potential wild card is the defendants’ alleged political motivation.
While polls show many Michigan residents support Whitmer’s strict handling of the coronavirus outbreak, she has drawn fierce opposition from some conservatives, including people who rallied at the state Capitol.
The jury pool in a kidnapping trial would be drawn from western Michigan, which leans Republican.
‘Some of them may be sympathetic to these guys,’ Rataj said. ‘They may not like the governor. They might be the kind of folks who think she exceeded her power.’
Prosecutors will try to weed out potential jurors who might be biased against Whitmer or the government in general, or skeptical about the pandemic, he said.
Defense attorneys, meanwhile, will be on the lookout for those who might be turned off by anti-government paramilitary activities.
‘A federal judge is going to give you a lot of leeway in asking jurors about their sympathies and thinking’ in the hope of getting an impartial panel, said Terry Dillon, another former federal prosecutor.
But at a time of bitter partisanship and overheated political rhetoric, he said, a claim that ‘this was loose talk, I was frustrated, I was just mouthing off, I never in this world intended to do anything’ might be enough to raise doubts.
‘All you need is one to hang a jury,’ Dillon said.