President Donald Trump said he returned to Montana for a record 4th campaign swing to defeat U.S. Senator Jon Tester. He told the crowd in Belgrade that it's personal.
Trump continued to rail against Tester, blaming him for raising questions about his former nominee to be secretary for veterans affairs Dr. Ronny Jackson, who later withdrew his nomination. Trump first put Tester in his cross-hairs last April.
“And I’ve never forgotten it. And it’s honestly one of the reasons I’ve been here so much,” Trump told the crowd gathered at an airplane hanger in Belgrade Saturday.
He said Tester destroyed the reputation of his personal physician.
“It is a disgrace what he did to that man,” he said.
The allegations came from Jackson’s colleagues who had charged he was loose in handing out prescription pain medications, was intoxicated during an overseas trip, and created a toxic work environment.
But Trump continued to defend Jackson’s reputation, as well as that of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
In recent days, Trump criss-crossed the country in key states to rally the base to vote for Republicans. Saturday was the 4th time he was in Montana campaigning on behalf of GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale since last July.
“And you need a man who’s going to vote for your agenda,” said Trump. “Your agenda is ‘Make America Great Again.’ That’s what your agenda is. It’s a simple agenda.”
After speaking for about 30 minutes, Trump called Rosendale to join him on stage.
“On Tuesday we can send Jon Tester and his lobbyist supporters a strong message, Montana is Trump country,” said Rosendale, who reminded the crowd he solidly backs Trump.
Control of both chambers of Congress are up for grabs Tuesday. Nationally, Republicans had set their sights on flipping Montana’s U.S. Senate seat. Recent polls have shown Montana’s race for both the U.S. House and Senate are a dead heat, leading to numerous Trump officials and other top Republicans to campaign hard in Montana.
This includes for Congressman Greg Gianforte.
“Greg is great on jobs,” said Trump. “He’s tough on crime. He will always support our veterans, our military, our police and our second amendment. And Greg’s opponent, Kathleen Williams is a left wing radical. I don’t get it. What’s going on in Montana? What’s happening here?”
But in Belgrade Trump did not call attention to Gianforte’s assault of a reporter last year the day before the special election like he had during recent campaign stops in Billings and Missoula. Gianforte later plead guilty to misdemeanor assault.
But it has been on the mind of Democratic House candidate Kathleen Williams. She says the president reminded voters about Gianforte’s character and it helped bolster her campaign fundraising efforts.
“I think that's what people need to realize not only the assault, but the lying to law enforcement after the assault,” said Williams. “And I keep reminding people that that not only did he commit the assault but he lied about it.”
She was frustrated Trump keeps using nationalized, fear mongering issues to scare people. The Bozeman Democrat told a “get out the vote” crowd in Billings last Thursday evening, truth and honesty are universal values and that they can make a difference with their vote.
“You tell me, how are we going to fix health care,” she asked. The crowd responded, “Vote!’”
“How are we going to foster opportunity all across Montana,” Williams continued on. “Vote,” yelled the crowd.
“How are we going to protect our environment and outdoor heritage,” she said. “Vote!” was the response.
“How are we going to return civility, dignity, and integrity and stateswomanship,” Williams said to the cheering crowd.
The Billings crowd also welcomed Clerk of the Supreme Court candidate Rex Renk and Senator Jon Tester.
Earlier, Tester said he didn’t think the president was singling him out in this campaign, but he did say it was getting personal.
“The bottom line is that this race is between myself and Matt Rosendale,” he said. “Not anybody else that might be brought into this state.” It’s a reference to the president and all of the surrogates that have been campaigning on Rosendale’s behalf.
“One of the reasons that I go around the state and I visit with people and talk to them and have town hall meetings and roundtable discussions is because I think that's what they want from their senator and representative. They don't want somebody who's doesn't meet with them. And when they do meet with them, they bring in somebody else to talk for them,” said Tester.
As for the brouhaha over Ronny Jackson:
“I think nobody brought down Ronny Jackson. Questions are asked just like they do in any other forum,” he said.
“So you’re not that powerful,” asked YPR.
“No. No. I mean, he could have answered the questions. He could read rebuffed them. He could have answered them, and moved on. Instead, he removed himself from consideration and is under investigation by the Inspector General for the Department of Defense,” he said.
Tester said for him the bottom line was making sure the next secretary will do the best job for veterans and he believed that person is Robert Wilke, who was nominated by Trump and sworn in last summer.
The candidates will continue to barnstorm the state today in advance of Tuesday’s balloting.