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Trump Pivots to Health Care, Infrastructure on Eve of Comey Hearing

Trump pitched rebuilding U.S. infrastructure on Wednesday to middle America on the eve of closely watched testimony from ousted FBI Director James Comey
Image: U.S. President Trump stands with families whose insurance premiums rose under the Affordable Care Act after arriving in Cincinnat
U.S. President Donald Trump stands with families whose insurance premiums rose under the Affordable Care Act, after arriving in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., June 7, 2017.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

CINCINNATI — Continuing the White House's “infrastructure week,” President Donald Trump took his pitch for rebuilding America to the very people that elected him on Wednesday.

With the Ohio River as his backdrop, Trump marketed his plans as a crucial step to rebuilding a crumbling U.S infrastructure system.

"It's time to recapture our legacy as a nation of builders," Trump said. "And to create new lanes of travel, commerce and discovery."

The future, he predicted, was going to be "beautiful and the future's going to be bright."

"Together we will fix it," the president promised corporations and citizens gathered on the banks of the Ohio. "We will create the first class infrastructure our country and our people deserve."

Related: Both Parties Say Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Needs Repair

Trump also pushed another legislative priority: repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Obamacare, Trump said, is "crashing. It's dead, it's in a death spiral."

He blamed Democrats for obstructing the long promised Republican repeal and replace of the Democrats' signature healthcare law, calling them "obstructionists" and lamenting the lack of bipartisanship on "every single thing."

Hours earlier, Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, and Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, refused during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday to confirm or deny allegations that Trump asked them to interfere in the FBI's probe into Moscow's interference in the 2016 elections.

Trump also surprised some White House staff and Hill lawmakers alike Wednesday by tweeting news that Chris Wray, a former DOJ assistant attorney general and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's personal attorney during the "Bridgegate" scandal, to replace ousted FBI Director James Comey.

One White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told NBC News “most of us learned about it from the tweet.”

Asked soon after the president’s tweet if there would be a public announcement to come, Principle Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told NBC News “the president just did it,” referring to the tweet.

The White House released an official announcement on Wednesday afternoon.

The nature of Trump’s tweets have come under scrutiny of late, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling reporters Tuesday that the president’s tweets should be taken as “official statements.”

Wednesday's "infrastructure week" stop on the Ohio River dovetailed with a push Monday from the White House to privatize Air Traffic Control, separating the entity from the Federal Aviation Administration and making it a non-government non-profit.

“We will work directly with state and local governments to give them the freedom and flexibility they need to revitalize our nation’s infrastructure,” he said.

Trump, who is often touted by his vice president as a “builder,” will stress his campaign promises to rebuild America on Thursday when he meets with state and local leaders to discuss the need for an increased focus on roads and bridges.

That same day, Comey will testify on Capitol Hill.

As Trump wrapped his infrastructure push, Comey's prepared remarks went live online.

Some supporters in Cincinnati, however, scoff at the focus on Comey's testimony and continued media coverage of probes into whether there was improper communication between Trump officials and Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Alex Adams, 19, agreed, discarding "this fake Russian story that there was collusion" and said he was "ticked off" by attempts to discredit Trump's powered-by-the-people win.

Randy Chrisman told NBC News on Wednesday he's "disappointed" that there are "so many distractions" from the Trump is trying to do.

Trump's tweeting can sometimes do more harm than good, some supporters say.

"Sometimes it would be good if he said less, maybe, on Twitter," Chrisman said. "But that's what he chooses to do."

The concern for Chrisman and supporters like him, however, remained squarely on infrastructure.

"You know, we've built some really good things but keeping up with it and keeping the maintenance of it - some of its really hurt the system," he said, anxious to hear what Trump would propose.