(WASHINGTON) — After facing backlash for saying immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country,” former President Donald Trump reiterated his hard-line views in a speech on Sunday — calling for a “clean up” of the country and, without detailing how, promising to shift “massive portions” of law enforcement to handle migrants at the border, including by recalling soldiers currently stationed overseas.
“We have to clean up our country,” Trump said before thousands of supporters gathered at a “commit to caucus” campaign event in Reno, Nevada. “We have to get all the criminals.”
At what was his third visit to the state so far this year, Trump dedicated nearly 20 minutes of his 80-minute speech talking about border security and immigration, repeating his frequent and hyperbolic claims that “drug dealers,” “gang members,” “criminals” and people from mental institutions are “invading” the country.
As he ramps up his third bid for the White House, Trump is again making his opposition to immigration and pledge to militarize the border central to his campaign, at the same time that polling shows the public sharply disapproves of President Joe Biden’s handling of the issue.
His speech in Reno was also reflective of his consistently extremist rhetoric about immigrants, which has long drawn vocal outcry.
Just one day earlier, at a rally in Durham, New Hampshire, Trump sparked an onslaught of criticism for praising multiple authoritarian leaders and repeating anti-immigration sentiment that echoed fascist leaders like Adolf Hitler with his remark that immigrants were “poisoning the blood of our country.”
Hitler wrote about “blood poisoning” in his book Mein Kampf.
Last month, Trump faced a similar backlash after he compared his political opponents to “vermin” that he must “root out,” similarly alarming detractors and historians alike that said those comments echoed past fascist leaders. Trump’s campaign denied that and pushed back against that criticism.
In Reno on Sunday, “Safer with Trump” was the campaign slogan of the day, the catchphrase shown on two screens by Trump as he made his claims about immigrants and how the Biden administration had failed to keep America safe.
“Under our leadership, you were safer, your family was safer, your communities were safer, your children were safer, your borders were safer and your whole country was safer, a lot safer,” Trump said on Sunday.
Repeating his stump speech promise to implement the “largest deportation operation in America” in a potential second term, Trump also claimed he would “shift massive portions of federal law enforcement to immigration enforcement,” saying, “We must use any and all resources needed.”
Trump said that would include moving “thousands of troops currently stationed overseas in countries that don’t like us” to the border — one of many sweeping promises and claims made at campaign events without providing the specifics of how he plans to implement those policies.
“We have to protect our own borders first before we defend the borders of foreign countries,” Trump said in Reno as he again promised to “terminate every open border policy of the Biden administration” as well as “restore and expand the Trump travel ban,” referring to a controversial prohibition he put in place as president on some mostly Muslim countries.
He again proposed further restrictions, including implementing a “strong ideological screen” for all immigrants, and repeated conspiratorial beliefs about Chinese nationals of “the perfect age of an army” coming into the country.
While event attendees seemed to embrace Trump’s ideas, some other Republican voters, like Patrick Sekarski of Oskaloosa, Iowa, said they were turned off by Trump’s harsh anti-immigration rhetoric in comparison to his 2024 GOP rival Ron DeSantis.
“This is part of the drama we’re trying to get away from. There’s no reason for it,” Sekarski told ABC News at a DeSantis campaign event in Iowa on Sunday.
But many Trump supporters said they are unswayed, like Tracy Valdez of Sacramento, California, who said “he speaks the truth” about migrants.
“He’s not afraid to hurt people’s feelings,” Valdez, who attended Trump’s Reno event on Sunday, told ABC News. “And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
The Biden White House denounced Trump’s continued comments, with a spokesman saying in a statement that he was “echoing the grotesque rhetoric of fascists and violent white supremacists.”
At the Reno event, Trump also again called President Joe Biden a “threat to democracy” while claiming his political opponents are “willing to violate the Constitution” — reversing a frequent attack of Biden on him.
Trump called his political opponents within the country “far worse” than outside opponents, labeling them as “vicious” and “dangerous” people and saying, “This nation does not belong to them.”
He also praised and defended those who gathered for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and the so-called “false electors” who were recently indicted by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford for falsely portraying themselves as the state’s presidential electors in 2020, including Nevada Republican Chairman Michael McDonald, Nevada GOP Vice Chairman Jim Hindle and Clark County GOP Chairman Jesse Law, who were at the Reno event.
(Law, McDonald and Hindle could not be reached for comment.)
Trump, who maintains a large polling lead in Nevada over his Republican primary rivals like Florida Gov. DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, spent most of his time at the Reno event going after Biden, giving a glimpse into what his line of attacks against his potential Democratic rival in the general election would be.
He blamed the president for “failures, disasters, heartless betrayals and a thing called inflation.”
As he has been doing at recent events in Iowa, Trump asked his supporters to “pretend” he’s down a few points in the primary race to motivate them to come out to vote in Nevada on Feb. 8.
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