GETTYSBURG, Pennsylvania (CNN) — Donald Trump on Saturday offered what his senior campaign aides billed as his “closing argument” in the presidential race just 17 days from its conclusion, rehashing his campaign’s key policy planks to give voters a sense of his top priorities as president.
Trump began his remarks here near the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” by urging the country to follow Lincoln’s example to “heal the divisions” the US now faces. But he quickly slipped into his combative rhetoric, slamming a “totally rigged” system and raging against establishment politicians and the media for seeking to sink his campaign.
He slammed Hillary Clinton as an insider politician and accused her of “running against change” and “all of the American people.
“Hillary Clinton is not running against me, she’s running against change. And she’s running against all of the American people and all of the American voters,” Trump said.
And before getting to what he would seek to accomplish in the first 100 days of his presidency — which campaign aides said Friday evening would be the focus of his speech — Trump went on to again attack women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct, saying, “every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign” and vowing to sue them after the election is over.
Finally, 15 minutes later, Trump pivoted to his plan for the first 100 days of his presidency should he be elected in terms of “measures,” “actions” and legislative bills — terms that gave his policies a more concrete and realistic flair.
“I am asking the American people to dream big once again. What follows is my 100-day action plan to make America great again,” he finally said, calling it “a contract between Donald J. Trump and the American people.”
Trump offered no new major policy announcements, instead mostly reiterating key plans of his presidential campaign and offering sparse new details.
He promised to propose a constitutional amendment to impose congressional term limits, vowed again to begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement of the 90s and announce his intention to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and promised to take a tough approach to countries like China that he believes are abusing free trade laws.
He promised to cancel out every “unconstitutional executive action” enacted by President Barack Obama, cut federal funding to “sanctuary cities,” begin deporting undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes in the US and “suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur.”
And that litany of proposals — and several more — is only what Trump vowed to accomplish on his first day in office, raising questions about the number of executive orders he would need to sign in order to uphold his promises.
Trump said his priorities would be to tackle corruption in Washington, protect American workers through protectionist trade measures and prevent illegal immigration and terrorism. He proposed up to 10 bills addressing those issues that he said he would work to pass in this first 100 days in office.
As he laid out a bill to “end illegal immigration,” Trump offered up new details on how he would look to disincentive undocumented immigrants from crossing into the US, calling for a two-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for those who illegally re-enter the US and a five-year minimum sentence for those with prior felony convictions, multiple misdemeanors or two or more previous deportations.
Currently, there is no mandatory minimum sentence, but undocumented immigrants who seek to re-enter the US can face up to two years in prison and those with felonies can face up to 10 years in prison.
Trump also called for a hiring freeze on all federal employees — except military and public health and safety officials — as part of his “six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington,” though he did not say how long the freeze would last. The Republican nominee has also previously called for a freeze on new federal regulations and repeated Saturday that he would require federal agencies eliminate two federal regulations for every new one.
‘A time of division’
While Trump opened his remarks by recognizing a former Republican president Lincoln’s leadership “at a time of division like we’ve never seen before,” Trump quickly abandoned that hopeful tone in favor of blistering attacks on the media and establishment politicians in Washington, and once again cast doubt on the US democratic system by arguing that there could be rampant voter fraud on Election Day, despite evidence to the contrary.
Trump accused the FBI and Department of Justice of having “covered up” Clinton’s “crimes” given the Justice Department’s decision not to pursue criminal charges after investigating Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.
Christina Reynolds, a Clinton campaign spokeswoman, said Trump’s speech presented a “troubling view.”
“Today, in what was billed as a major closing argument speech, Trump’s major new policy was to promise political and legal retribution against the women who have accused him of groping them,” Reynolds said in a statement. “Like Trump’s campaign, this speech gave us a troubling view as to what a Trump State of the Union would sound like—rambling, unfocused, full of conspiracy theories and attacks on the media, and lacking in any real answers for American families.”
Trump also accused the “dishonest mainstream media” of being “a major part of this corruption,” accusing the press of fabricating stories to make him look “as bad and even as dangerous as possible,” before complaining about the media’s insufficient coverage of the crowd sizes at his rallies.
Trump took his complaints further, promising action to prevent AT&T from buying Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, which he argued would concentrate too much power in one company. And he also slammed Comcast’s purchase of NBC.
“We’ll look at breaking that deal up and other deals like it,” he vowed. “They’re trying to poison the mind of the American voter.”
As he sought to draw a heavy contrast with Clinton, who is leading Trump in most recent national and battleground state polls just over two weeks from the election, the Republican nominee urge voters to “dream big once again” and take a chance on his unconventional — and controversial — candidacy.
“I’m asking the American people to rise above the noise and the clutter of our broken politics and to embrace that great faith and optimism that has always been that central ingredient in the American character,” he said.