Trump to escape Washington onslaught with Minneapolis rally

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By Shannon Pettypiece and Monica Alba  with NBC News Politics
President Trump Departs White House For Florida
President Donald Trump walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Oct. 3, 2019.   -   Copyright  Al Drago Bloomberg via Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — With the threat of impeachment bearing down on him at home, President Donald Trump will travel here for a rally Thursday where he will have an uninhibited platform to vent his grievances and tout his successes to thousands of cheering fans.

The rally will be Trump's first in the two weeks since House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry into his interaction with the Ukrainian president, giving him an opportunity to escape the assault he's been under in Washington.

It has been a tumultuous week for Trump, which began with even his closest allies in Congressexcoriating his decision to pull back troops in Syria. A series of polls in recent days have shown a growing number of Americans backing the impeachment inquiry. Meanwhile, despite resistance by the White House, Democrats continue to march forward with the probe.

Thursday brought its own new twist, with two associates of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani being charged with campaign finance violations over donations they made to a pro-Trump Super PAC.

During past moments of pressure in Trump's presidency, White House aides have emphasized the importance of the rallies in improving his emotional state, saying the events energize and motivate him.

But Trump won't be traveling to the friendliest of venues. Minnesota is a solidly Democratic city in a state Hillary Clinton won by 1.5 percentage points. Nearly two dozen groups are planning protests that could draw thousands of demonstrators, according to local news reports, and a giant baby Trump ballon was inflated a few blocks from where Trump will be speaking.

In the days leading up to the event, Trump and his campaign got into a feud with the Minneapolis mayorover who would cover the public safety costs for the event. The campaign threatened to sue the city for demanding a more than $500,000 safety fee for the event and indicated the mega-rally might need to be rescheduled. Eventually, the matter was resolved, but it's unclear who will ultimately foot the bill.

Still, Trump's campaign is hopeful it can flip the state. The campaign didn't invest many resources in Minnesota and he barely campaigned here in 2016, but there's a concerted effort to change that this time around, even though the state hasn't voted for a Republican for president since Richard Nixon.

Aides said the reelection effort already has two dozen paid staffers here and is planning to inject millions into the Minnesota ground game after only spending $30,000 in 2016. Trump often wistfully talks about winning the state, arguing "one more speech" could have made all the difference.

This stop — Trump's fourth visit to the state in 16 months — continues a recent trend for the campaign, flush with cash, of holding events in places they lost in 2016 that they hope to expand the map on next year.

New Hampshire, where the president campaigned in August, is considered a battleground he could win back, but other places like New Mexico — where he held a rally last month — are thought to be far more of a long shot.

Senior campaign officials indicated the president will continue his attacks on House Democrats and the impeachment inquiry at large, maintaining that they are orchestrating a "coup" to oust him from office for purely political reasons.

But there are also some familiar adversaries — some new, some old — whom the president will likely seize on. In recent weeks, Trump has homed in on a new Minnesota nemesis, Minneapolis' Democratic mayor, Jacob Frey, whom the president called "lightweight" and "radical left" in a Twitter battle over the security bills.

Apart from the Democratic stronghold of Minneapolis itself, the president is also expected to renew his attacks against the so-called "Squad" of four first-term liberal congresswomen of color, and specifically Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents the district Trump will travel to tonight.

Omar, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, have become favorite foils for the president, even including them in new impeachment-focused campaign ads.

Another added twist to the event: Off-duty officers were barred from wearing their uniforms, so they will instead be wearing special red "Cops for Trump" shirts. The president and campaign have amplified this tension in the lead-up to the rally and will likely make mention of it Thursday night.