Trump officially kicked off his 2020 campaign and it was a mess

A blast from the past.

Trump's 2020 campaign kick-off was a parade of his favorite lies and dog whistles
Trump's 2020 campaign kick-off was a parade of his favorite lies and dog whistles. (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump filed for reelection the day he was inaugurated and has held countless campaign rallies in the two and a half year since. On Tuesday night, he “officially” kicked off his 2020 campaign.

In a rambling speech in Orlando, Trump confirmed that this campaign will look quite similar to the last — in no small part because he spoke as if he was still campaigning against his former rival, Hillary Clinton.

“The only collusion was committed by the Democrats, the fake news media, and their operatives, and the people who funded the phony dossier, crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,” Trump said Tuesday night, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year long investigation into Russian interference efforts and the Trump campaign in 2016.

Trump also made several references to “acid-washed” emails, and chants of “Lock her up!” from the crowd quickly followed.


“We now have a great attorney general. Let’s see what happens,” he offered, suggesting prosecuting Clinton was still on his to-do list.

Trump also talked about a variety of policies he supported and changes he was proud of. He described few of them accurately, contradicting himself at times in the same breath, while at other times taking credit for improvements he wasn’t responsible for.

Though nothing actually changed in terms of Trump’s campaign status on Tuesday, the rally gave a glimpse at the kind of rhetoric Americans can expect over the next 17 months.

Attacking the fake news

Trump wasted no time in lambasting the “fake news,” with his supporters eagerly taking up the chant “CNN sucks” of their own accord. He accused the “fake news” media of participating in “collusion” with the Democrats and Clinton campaign and suggested that the “fake news media” would lie about everything from how full the arena is to whether China will pay for his tariffs (it won’t).


The rally didn’t last one hour before one of Trump’s supporters was arrested for trying to smack a reporter’s phone out of his hand.

Lying about later abortions

“Late-term abortions” is not a medical term but a phrase made popular by abortion opponents to refer to abortions late in the second trimester. In reality, medical experts consider a “late term” pregnancy to refer to 41 or 42 weeks gestation, past someone’s due date. Individuals rarely seek abortions later in pregnancy, and when they do, it’s often because they face serious medical risks to following through on the pregnancy. But anti-choice lawmakers and activists have manufactured a controversy around infanticide, and the president has argued before that Democrats want to murder babies after they are born.

When introducing Trump on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence claimed that “leading voices in the Democratic Party advocate late-term abortion and even defend infanticide,” lauding Trump for standing “for the sanctity of human life.” Trump then claimed that Democrats support “taxpayer-funded abortion right up to the moment of birth, ripping babies straight from the mother’s womb,” adding, “Leading Democrats have even opposed measures to prevent the execution of children after birth.”

This notion is completely manufactured.

Taking credit for a veterans law Obama passed

Both Pence and Trump boasted that “Veterans’ Choice is now the law.” Twice, Trump said, “We passed V.A. Choice,” bragging about how it makes it easier for veterans to find a doctor without having to navigate administrative hurdles and waitlists.


But the Veterans’ Choice Program was first passed in 2014 and signed into law by former President Barack Obama. Trump did expand eligibility for the program, slightly decreasing the wait time and driving distance thresholds so that more veterans can take advantage of it. But he did nothing to originate the concept, as he boasted on Tuesday.

Distorting health care access

Another of Trump’s brags was his removal of the “individual mandate” from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which fined people who did not have health insurance to help prevent insurance costs from entering a death spiral.

How many people are happy they no longer have to pay for the privilege of not paying for bad health insurance?” Trump asked. “This is the only country, you pay for the very distinct privilege of not having to pay.”

As CNN’s Daniel Dale pointed out, “In most industrialized countries, of course, you’re simply given health insurance.”

Ignoring the consequences of fossil fuels

The word “climate” was not uttered during the Orlando rally, but Trump did insist that the United States has the “cleanest and sharpest” air and water “anywhere on Earth.” That’s untrue, as a recent report from the American Lung Association found that the country’s air quality is actually the worst it’s been in the better part of a decade — a direct result of climate change.

It’s telling that Trump’s claim about clean air and water came just one sentence after he boasted that the United States “is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world,” another claim that is true but was also true before he took office.

Lying about how tariffs work

Trump has been criticized for months for claiming falsely that China will pay for the tariffs he has imposed on imports, when in reality U.S. companies pay the tariffs and traditionally pass the costs onto U.S. consumers. He seemed to have caught on to this Tuesday night, but instead of admitting that he was wrong, he doubled down on his claim and blamed the “fake news” for contradicting him.

“And by the way, when the fake news tells you you are paying, in the case of China, they’ve devalued their currency; that helps them,” he claimed, even though the U.S. has not designated China a currency manipulator. “And you are not paying very much if you are paying anything at all, in the case of China. And we are taking billions and billions of dollars in.”

Flaming war on socialism

Pence and Trump both decried the evils of “socialism” that Democrats allegedly support Tuesday night. “It was freedom, not socialism, that gave us the most prosperous economy in the history of the world,” Pence said. “It was freedom, not socialism, that ended slavery, won two world wars, and stands today as a beacon of hope for all the world.”

“A vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism, and the destruction of the American dream,” Trump said.

At another point, Trump ironically contradicted himself. “Republicans do not believe in socialism, we believe in freedom, and so do you,” he claimed, adding, “We will defend Medicare and Social Security for our great seniors.”

Medicare and Social Security are two of the country’s biggest socialized medicine programs.

Building that wall

Of course, Trump’s speech was laced with the same xenophobia and racism that have been the hallmarks of his candidacy since he first rode down that golden escalator. “We believe our country should be a sanctuary for law-abiding citizens, not for criminal aliens,” he said, creating a false comparison given undocumented immigrants commit crimes at far lower rates than natural-born citizens.

Trump suggested that Democrats only support expanding immigration for political purposes. “They would strip Americans of their constitutional rights while flooding the country with illegal immigrants in the hopes it will expand their political base and they will get votes someplace in the future,” he claimed. “That’s what it is about.”

The crowd then erupted into chants of “Build that wall!” and Trump falsely bragged about how “very rapidly” it was being built.