LAS VEGAS — President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed intelligence reports that Russia is attempting to interfere in the 2020 election, writing it off without evidence as a continuation of a Democratic “disinformation” campaign against him.
“They said today that Putin wants to be sure that Trump gets elected, here we go again. Here we go again. Did you see it? Aren't people bored?” Trump said at a campaign rally here in Las Vegas.
“I was told a week ago, they said, 'you know, they are trying to start a rumor,' it's disinformation. That's the only thing they're good at. They're not good at anything else, the do-nothing Democrats,” he continued.
Intelligence officials warned members of Congress in a briefing earlier this month that Russia was interfering with the 2020 campaign in an effort to help Trump win re-election. The president was reportedly angered by the briefing, and worried that Democrats would use it against him.
This week, Trump pushed aside his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, following that briefing, announcing Wednesday he would be replaced in that role by Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany. The New York Times first reported the story.
As Trump addressed the crowd, The Washington Post reported that Russia was also attempting to help Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in his campaign for the Democratic nomination. Sanders and Trump, along with other lawmakers, had been briefed on Russia’s efforts.
“Doesn't he want to see who the Democrat's going to be?” Trump said at the rally before the story was made public, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Wouldn't he rather have, let's say, Bernie? Wouldn't he rather have Bernie who honeymooned in Moscow?"
Trump’s campaign event here comes just one day before Nevada Democrats hold their caucuses. The president’s Las Vegas event is the most recent example of his counterprogramming strategy to hold large rallies in the same areas Democrats are holding debates or their final campaign events ahead of nominating contests, competing with them for media attention.
"They have a big election tomorrow,” Trump said. “They say they're going to have a lot of problems tomorrow, I hate to tell you this. I don't know. Have you heard? I hear their computers are all messed up just like they were in Iowa. They're not going to be able to count their votes."
The Nevada Republican Party voted last year to cancel its caucuses, and plans to hold no nominating contests.
Trump dedicated part of his nearly two-hour speech to going after the Democratic candidates, reveling in the pugnacious debate that they held in Las Vegas earlier this week when multiple candidates clashed with each other on stage.
"How about that Pocahontas screaming at him?” Trump said, referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s clashes with former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. “Pocahontas, she won that debate because Mike could not respond.”
“Mini Mike so far has spent almost $500 million in order to get embarrassed by Pocahontas — and she is mean, isn't she? Do you see the anger on her face, that nervous energy, she's all jumping up and down, she's a mess,” he continued.
Trump also attacked former Vice President Joe Biden for his debate performance, calling him “angry.”
"Biden is angry. Everything's anger. That's what happens when you can't get the words out,” Trump said, appearing to make fun of Biden’s stutter. “You can't get the words out, you get angry.”
As for former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Trump said he ought to “worry about his own city, it's going to hell” but complimented his debate performance, saying “he's not a bad debater, I will say. He is probably the best up there."
Trump was joined in Nevada by Vice President Mike Pence.
"If you become president, the first thing you have to do is choose a really horrible, horrible vice president," Trump said, as he thanked Pence for joining him at the event. "So if the idiots ever want to impeach you, they have to say, 'I can't impeach him, we got — look who we have.' I have the perfect vice president. I have the greatest in the world."
Billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson was also in attendance at the rally and received plaudits from Trump. “He’s got so much money he doesn't know what the hell to do with it.”
Although Trump spoke to an energized and friendly crowd at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Friday, he faces tough odds here in his re-election. Trump lost Nevada to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by roughly 2.4 percentage points. In 2018, Trump endorsed and campaigned for Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who lost his re-election to Democrat Jacky Rosen by 5 percentage points.
A Morning Consult poll in January showed Trump’s approval rating in Nevada at 41 percent, compared to 56 percent disapproval — a 25 percent decrease in his net approval here since he took office.
Trump’s midday Las Vegas rally comes at the end of a four-day visit through Western states, including stops in Arizona and Colorado. The extended visit is unusual for Trump, who has not had overnight visits in any other early primary states this year and typically prefers to fly back to Washington after campaign rallies. The president stayed at his Trump International Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, returning there each night after campaigning in nearby states.
As Trump made his way from his hotel to the rally Friday morning, billboards placed by Bloomberg trolling the president peppered the Strip, with slogans such as “Donald Trump lost the popular vote,” and “Donald Trump eats burnt steak. Mike Bloomberg likes his medium rare.”
Trump is expected to continue to hold campaign events ahead of major Democratic campaign dates. He will headline a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, the night before the Democratic primary in that state, as well as a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, the night before Super Tuesday.