As President Donald Trump wades into uncharted territory in Washington — possibly becoming the first president to be impeached while running for re-election — he is also coming back to a familiar place: Florida.
The onslaught of news about whistleblower complaints, cover-up allegations, subpoenas, foreign dealings and a formal impeachment inquiry provide a dramatic backdrop to Trump’s planned visit Thursday to The Villages, a deep red retirement community in Central Florida. There, he’s likely to receive a warm welcome despite the firestorm.
The event is billed as an official White House visit, not a campaign rally. Trump is expected to sign an executive order related to Medicare and speak about health care policy.
Alex Azar, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, spoke with the Times/Herald on Wednesday to promote the administration’s health care agenda. Such rare access perhaps signals Thursday’s visit will be more scripted than usual.
But Trump is Trump, which means there’s no telling if he’ll stay on message. Known for rarely sticking to the script and engaging with crowds that chant “Send her back,” this event could be an early window into how the impeachment proceedings will play into Trump’s political strategy feeding off his rage against his “presidential harassment.”
A May Trump rally in Panama City Beach, for instance, made headlines when Trump lamented what could be done about people illegally crossing the U.S.'s southern border.
“Shoot them!” someone in the crowd shouted. Trump then smiled and replied: “Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis are expected to join him in The Villages, which is not a surprise given DeSantis’ close political ties with the president. However, it does signify DeSantis’ willingness to stick close to Trump during this period, even after DeSantis recently tried to distance himself from the issue by responding to questions about impeachment by decrying Washington politics as a whole.
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But DeSantis’ political rise has long been intertwined with Trump, as the president endorsed his candidacy for governor and even flew to Tampa to hold a last-minute rally before the primary in Florida’s 2018 midterms. There, he shared a stage with DeSantis and called him a “tough, brilliant cookie.”
When Trump officially launched his re-election in Orlando in June, he warned his supporters that those who oppose his reelection “want to destroy you.”
If Trump’s recent tweets are any indication of the rhetoric to be expected, it will be even a notch above what he’s said in the past.
Sunday night, he tweeted an apparent quote from a Fox News segment, saying that “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they never will be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”
On Monday, he tweeted about House Intelligent Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., saying he “illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement (and) pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President.”
He then suggested: “Arrest for Treason?”
Wednesday, he tweeted a profanity, saying: “The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLS**T.”