WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he is pressuring General Motors CEO Mary Barra to reinvest soon in Ohio's Mahoning Valley, one of locations where the company announced earlier in the day that it is closing car plants.
"I spoke with her when I heard they were closing, and I said: 'You know, this country’s done a lot for General Motors, you better get back in there soon. That’s Ohio,'" Trump said before departing the White House for a pair of campaign rallies on behalf of Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi.
"I have no doubt, but in the not-too-distant future, they’ll put something else. They better put something else in," he added.
But the president stopped short of offering details after GM said Monday that it would slash nearly 15,000 jobs in North America.
The plant in Lordstown, Ohio, has particular political significance to the president because he promised workers at a rally in nearby Youngstown last year that he would revitalize the region with jobs.
"They're all coming back," he said. "Don't move. Don't sell your house."
Trump's critics jumped on those remarks Monday to accuse him of failing to live up to his vow.
"So far, President Trump has been asleep at the switch and owes this community an explanation. We tried to get his attention on this issue two years ago," said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who represents the GM facility, which makes the Chevy Cruze. "He promised us that his massive corporate tax cut would lead to dramatic reinvestments in our communities. That clearly is not happening."
Trump addressed a series of topics with reporters before boarding Marine One, including the use of tear gas at the U.S.-Mexico border, a recent federal report on the economic effects of climate change and Hyde-Smith's comments on being willing to witness a public hanging.
Trump dismissed the report from 13 federal agencies, which found that the effects could cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century.
"It's fine," Trump said. "I don't believe it."
He also defended U.S. authorities' use of tear gas against migrants at the San Ysidro border crossing.
"They had to use it because they were being rushed by some very tough people and they used tear gas," he said. "Here’s the bottom line: Nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally."
And Trump said he had spoken to Hyde-Smith about her comments.
"She felt very badly. She certainly didn’t mean that," Trump said of the echoes critics heard of Mississippi's history of white mobs lynching black people. "And people could always take it a certain way, but she certainly didn’t mean it. And as I understand it, she’s already apologized very strongly."
Hyde-Smith offered a qualified apology at a debate last Tuesday, offering her contrition to anyone who was offended.
"I’ve known her for a pretty long time now as a senator," Trump said. "She’s been an excellent senator, she’s done a great job. She’s somebody that’s respected in the Senate."