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Trump Touts Economy, Blasts 'Failed Impeachment Hoax' In Charlotte Speech


President Donald Trump spoke Friday at the North Carolina Opportunity Now Summit at Central Piedmont Community College, briefly commenting on his impeachment acquittal two days ago and praising North Carolina representatives who supported him, but primarily focusing on the economy and his Opportunity Now initiative in a nearly hour-long speech.

"You saw what happened," Trump told the crowd at CPCC's Halton Theater. "It was the 'impeachment hoax,' and now that’s a thing of the past. They have the 'failed impeachment hoax.' They can put that on their resume. It’s a failed hoax. Every one of them have to put that right on their resume. It was a fix. Until it got up to Congress."

Trump also thanked representatives such as Dan Bishop, Richard Hudson and Greg Murphy for their support during the House impeachment inquiry, but particulary singled out Sen. Thom Tillis for the junior senator's not guilty vote in the Senate trial.

Credit Steve Harrison / WFAE
A line of people protesting President Trump's appearance in Charlotte gathers outside CPCC on Friday.

"We had a good relationship, but we sort of disagreed on a couple of minor policies," Trump said. "That’s OK. Of course, I won’t put up with it for long, Thom Tillis. He’s been a great friend. It’s true. We just had some diagreements at the beginning. But now the last year, year and a half, it’s been good."

Of note, Tillis, who is up for reelection in 2020,initially said he would not support Trump's plan to declare a national emergency to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. After Republican backlash, Tillis quickly reversed course.

After about 12 minutes introducing various supporters at the speech, Trump turned his speech to the reason he was in Charlotte: The economy and Opportunity Zones.

The president’s speech came on the same day the Department of Labor reported the nation added 225,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate stayed at 3.6%.

That strong jobs report gave the president a boost when touting his Opportunity Zones, a program that allows people to defer taxes on the sale of stocks and delay taxes – so long as they invest that money in economically depressed areas. But critics say developers are getting tax breaks for projects they would have built anyway.

There are 17 zones in Charlotte – west, north and east of uptown.

"To lift up underserved communities across the nation, our tax cuts created nearly 9,000 Opportunity Zones -- thanks (S.C. Sen.) Tim Scott -- including more than 250 right here in North Carolina," Trump said. "Longterm investment in these communities is now taxed at zero."

Trump framed the Opportunity Zones as part of his overall efforts to help African Americans. That includes The First Step Act – passed in 2018 with bi-partisan support – designed to make the criminal justice system more fair.

Trump said that he is helping minority voters.

"You’ve been with the Democrats for 100 years – 112 years – and they treat you badly," he said.

The president’s remarks Friday came just two days after the U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to acquit him in his impeachment trial.

Credit Steve Harrison / WFAE
Supporters of President Trump hold up signs also supporting Q Anon.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and the Charlotte City Council were invited to attend the event. Lyles, a Democrat, wasn't there, but the city said the council’s two Republicans – Ed Driggs and Tariq Bokhari – planned to attend.

Trump also spent time commenting on the Iowa caucus, which had so many irregularities thanks, in part, to a failed app, that The Associated Press said it could not declare a winner in the race.

"They go out and work and spend millions, hundreds of millions of dollar, the only thing they didn’t check to see whether or not the app worked," he said. "It didn’t. They fried all votes. They're all fried. So now you have all these people fighting, 'I was first!' 'No, I was first.' They’re taking samples. They’re doing the vote by a sample. 'We got 2% of the vote. Let's see, who won?'

"It turned out to be Pete Buttigieg, whoever the hell that is. Mayor Pete. Explain that one to me."

Trump added one more dig at Democratic leaders:

"They can’t count simple votes, but they want to fix your healthcare system," he said. "Think about it." 

That led to the crowd chanting, "Four more years! Four more years!"

"Now if you want to drive them crazy, go, 'Twelve more years! Sixteen more years!'" he said. "It’ll drive them crazy."

Go behind the headlines with WFAE political reporter Steve Harrison in his weekly newsletter “Inside Politics.”Steve will provide insight about and analysis of local and statewide politics. Readers will gain an understanding of political news on the horizon and why it matters. 

While you're at it, go ahead and take a listen to our companion podcast:Inside Politics: The RNC in Charlotte, hosted by Steve Harrison and Lisa Worf.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
Jodie Valade has been a Digital News and Engagement Editor for WFAE since 2019. Since moving to Charlotte in 2015, she has worked as a digital content producer for NASCAR.com and a freelance writer for publications ranging from Charlotte magazine to The Athletic to The Washington Post and New York Times. Before that, Jodie was an award-winning sports features and enterprise reporter at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. She also worked at The Dallas Morning News covering the Dallas Mavericks — where she became Mark Cuban's lifelong email pen pal — and at The Kansas City Star. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Master of Education from John Carroll University. She is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan.