CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Donald Trump turned a Tuesday morning speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars into a political referendum on “crooked Hillary Clinton,” alleging his Democratic rival is “trying to sweep” the problems with the VA system “under the rug.”
Trump told the more than 6,000 in Charlotte that Clinton has already shown “how she takes care of the veterans” during her tenure as secretary of state. "The other candidate in this race, you know her name, Crooked Hillary Clinton. And believe me folks, she is crooked," Trump said.
Clinton, he continued, "has a much different view. She recently said of the VA scandal that it's not as widespread as it's been purported to be. It's like she's trying to sweep it under the rug." He added, "it's going to be four more years of the same if she ever got in. Well, that's not gonna happen."
“Just look at her invasion of Libya and her handling of Benghazi – a disaster,” he told the crowd. “Or look at her emails, which put America’s entire national security at risk.”
At that point, someone in the audience yelled out what has become a go-to rallying cry at each of his recent rallies: “Lock her up!”
The convention hall bubbled with roars, repeating the line, before Trump responded to the chant: “And to think she was here yesterday – I guess she didn’t do very well.”
Clinton addressed the same audience on Monday. Though she never mentioned her counterpart by name, the former secretary of state knocked Trump for his “praise for dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.”
The Republican nominee has spoken over the last year in friendly terms about Russia and Vladimir Putin, and Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, has come under scrutiny for his extensive ties to pro-Russian politicos inside of Ukraine over the last decade.
Just a half hour prior to Trump taking the stage, current VA Sec. Bob McDonald also spoke and alluded to the Republican nominee who would soon follow him. “We can’t fire our way to excellence,” McDonald said.
Trump outlined his 10-point plan to reform the VA, suggesting veterans should have the right to seek care from a private doctor or from within the VA system. However, he noted – despite many conservatives pushing for the privatization of VA care – that the VA system “will remain a public system because it’s a public trust.”
Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, continued on the campaign trail for the duo’s second stop in the swing state of North Carolina after a rally in Winston-Salem on Monday night. Pence introduced Trump to the VFW gatherers.
“Our [veterans affairs system] is broken, and this builder will fix it!” Pence declared.
Trump has previously committed his administration to a 24-hour veterans’ concerns hotline. The nominee went so far on Tuesday as to personally handle the complaints that are never properly addressed, joking that it’d be something other than Twitter he’d have to tend to at night.
“I will instruct my staff that if a valid complaint is not acted upon, then the issuer who brought it, [goes] directly to me,” Trump laid out. “I will pick up the phone, personally, and get it completed and get it taken care of – that’s a lot of work.”
On Tuesday, Trump also backed up his call from this weekend for an “expansion” of the Muslim ban, telling the VFW convention that the suspension of refugees entering the U.S. should include those “from Syria and other dangerous countries.”