WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump encouraged supporters to elect the Republican candidate in Louisiana’s gubernatorial runoff at a campaign rally in Louisiana on Wednesday night, portraying the Democratic party as “totalitarian” and “willing to do illegal acts” in order to remove the president from office.
“Democrats are becoming increasingly totalitarian,” Trump said, accusing his opponents of "trying to overthrow American democracy to impose their socialism agenda” and “trying to rip our nation apart.”
"Maybe go to the Supreme Court. They got to stop it," he added.
Trump’s Wednesday night rally came just hours after House Democrats announced that public hearings in the impeachment inquiry would begin next week.
Trump, reading from what appeared to be a printed article about the whistleblower’s lawyer, attacked the whistleblower and claimed without evidence that that person had “disappeared” after the White House released a rough transcript of the president's phone call with Ukraine.
“We have a country to run and these people, in order to do things, are willing to do illegal acts. It's an illegal act, as far as I'm concerned,” Trump said, charging that when House Democrats had voted in favor of an impeachment inquiry last week, they had "voted to nullify the balance."
Trump also railed against former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Hunter’s foreign business interests led to the president's acts at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, making fun of the younger Biden’s qualifications to sit on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.
“How old is your son?” Trump said, pointing to someone in the crowd. “Eight. Let me tell you, he’s eight. He knows energy better than Joe Biden’s son.”
Trump visited Louisiana on Wednesday night in a bid to help push Republican businessman Eddie Rispone over the finish line in next Saturday’s gubernatorial runoff against incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards, one of the few Democratic governors in the South.
“You're going to fire your liberal Democrat governor,” Trump continued. “I don't know how the hell he got there … could you explain that, please?"
Trump was joined on stage throughout the event by Rispone and the state's Republican senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, as well as members of the TV show “Duck Dynasty.”
“Louisiana is Trump country, isn’t that right?” Rispone asked the cheering crowd.
“John Bel Edwards would like you to believe that he’s not one of those liberal lunatics trying to impeach the president,” he continued, arguing that the gubernatorial race could help “send a message to them.”
Edwards, a conservative Democrat who opposes abortion and supports gun rights, narrowly missed the 50 percent threshold needed for an outright win in last month’s jungle primary, earning 46 percent of the vote. Rispone, a longtime Republican donor who has aligned himself closely with Trump, received 27 percent.
Trump carried Louisiana by 20 points in 2016. Recent polls suggest a tight runoff race, with Edwards slightly leading Rispone.
Trump’s Wednesday night rally came one day after a tough loss for the president's favored candidate in the Kentucky gubernatorial race, where voters narrowly rejected Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin in favor of Democrat Andy Beshear.
Trump had framed the Kentucky race as personal, telling supporters at a rally Monday night in the Bluegrass State that a loss by the Republican governor would be portrayed as the president having suffered "the greatest defeat in the history of the world."
He left a little more wiggle room for himself in the Louisiana runoff.
“I didn't run in 2018, you know, they keep forgetting," Trump said, referring to the midterm elections when Democrats took back control of the House. "A lot of people say 'I'm not going to vote until Trump runs.'"
The president is expected to attend Saturday’s college football game between Louisiana State and the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.