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In Las Vegas, Donald Trump urges GOP support

Updated June 24, 2018 - 12:09 am

President Donald Trump acknowledged an initially “shaky” relationship with Sen. Dean Heller on Saturday during a speech at the Nevada Republican Party State Convention, but urged supporters and delegates to back him and other Republicans on the ballot.

Trump also reiterated his positions on immigration, foreign trade and health care.

The president landed in Las Vegas close to 11 a.m. Saturday, smiling widely as he departed Air Force One and shook hands with a line of senior Nevada elected officials including Heller and Attorney General Adam Laxalt and congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian.

Trump was ushered to the Suncoast casino for the state convention and to headline a private fundraiser for Heller, who is widely considered the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for re-election. Trump delivered a 30-minute keynote address to several hundred supporters.

“It was a little bit shaky at the beginning, but that was when there were a lot of people running,” Trump told the crowd about his relationship with Heller. “But once we got in there, he’s been rock solid and he’s been great.”

Trump blasted Heller’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, calling her “Wacky Jacky” and telling attendees that she will raise taxes and open the borders if she’s elected to the Senate.

He also taunted Rosen for campaigning with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“Wacky Jacky is campaigning with Pocahontas. Do you believe this? In your state. And they don’t know how to say Nevada,” Trump said as the room erupted in cheers and applause. Warren spoke in Reno Saturday at the Nevada Democratic Party’s state convention.

Rosen responded to the president’s name-calling Saturday afternoon.

“The President is attacking me with lies and petty insults because I’m not afraid to stand up to him,” Rosen said. “Dean Heller has been a rubber stamp for Donald Trump in Washington, caving to the President’s divisive agenda at Nevada’s expense. This was Senator Heller’s reward for his loyalty.”

Trump also urged attendees to support Laxalt and Danny Tarkanian, who, at Trump’s request dropped his challenge of Heller to run in the 3rd Congressional District.

The president briefly discussed immigration policies after facing scrutiny over a “zero-tolerance” policy that separated migrant children from their families. Trump blamed Democrats for obstructing immigration reform because it’s a “good issue” for their campaigns and reiterated plans to build a border wall.

“If they see any weakness, they would come by the millions,” Trump said.

Trump told convention attendees that he’s working on renegotiating trade agreements with China, Mexico, the European Union and Canada. He said the United States is losing hundreds of billions of dollars ever year in trade deals with other countries.

“We’re the piggy bank that everybody likes to rob from,” Trump said. “In so many ways our country is taken advantage of, and we’re settling it up.”

On the topic of health care, Trump said he got rid of Obamacare’s “disastrous” individual mandate and that Democrats are to blame if costs go up.

He said 3.4 million new jobs have been created since his election and unemployment claims are at a 44-year-low. Heller credited the Trump’s tax plan for creating thousands of jobs in Nevada.

“I fought for it and I’m so pleased the president signed it,” Heller said. “My opponent is going to reverse everything this president has achieved over the last 17 months. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Earlier in the day, Laxalt fired up supporters by saying Democrats are trying to turn Nevada into California.

“We’re not going to let that happen, are we?” Laxalt asked the crowd, who emphatically shouted “No!” Laxalt then took a few shots at his Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

“Shady Steve is a career politician who has spent decades complaining about problems and little time getting to work on the solutions,” Laxalt said.

Protests outside casino

Hundreds of activists ignored the triple-digit heat to line the sidewalks of South Rampart Boulevard outside the casino to protest Trump, holding signs and chanting hours before the president arrived.

Organizers from Battle Born Progress, NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada and other local advocacy groups began stocking ice chests and cases of water bottles on the sidewalk beneath the Suncoast marquee about 8:30 a.m.

“It’s inhumane to keep people in detention camps while they await any type of recourse on their immigration status and cases,” said Cyndy Hernandez, an organizer for NARAL. “This is an issue that affects us in our community in Nevada.”

On the corner of Rampart Boulevard and Alta Drive sat a stack of six metal cages, filled with stuffed animals. In the center cage was a cardboard cutout of Heller.

Several signs bore versions of the phrase “I really do care,” referencing the words on the jacket Melania Trump wore Thursday as she boarded a flight to a facility housing migrant children.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Kihuen also joined protesters.

“I am here with literally thousands of Nevadans who are here to send a message to Donald Trump that what he’s doing to these innocent families, separating children from their mothers and fathers, is inhumane, it is cruel and it goes against all American values,” Kihuen said in a video posted on Twitter, adding that Trump is not welcome in Nevada “so long as he continues to separate innocent families.”

It didn’t take long for altercations between Trump supporters and protestors to occur.

Around 10 a.m., Nichole Riley and partner Shawn, who declined to provide his last name, didn’t know there would be a protest, but after seeing the anti-Trump group, they taunted the protesters.

“Trump 2020, Trump 2020,” Sean shouted out at passing traffic, taking a spot next to protesters and shouting insults at them.

“I totally believe in your protest and you have the right,” Shawn told a protester. ‘But I also have the right to stand on public property and have an anti-protest.”

“I sit with men in suits every day and I make a lot of money,” Riley said. “A lot of money I make on my own and I’m not going to give that to other people because they choose to come here illegally.”

Shortly after a man clad in black with a black handkerchief on his face approached several protesters and began pushing and shoving them. Metro police officers quickly intervened, placed the man in handcuffs and escorted him off the property.

Police blocked traffic in both directions on Rampart Boulevard around 11:15 a.m. as they prepared for the arrival of Trump’s motorcade. Protesters hopeful to show their signs to the president were disappointed: Just before noon, the escort entered a side entrance to Suncoast that was blocked off from the public.

Excitement at the airport

Among the several dozen guests who were invited to Trump’s arrival was Molly Wood, 33, a military wife from Virginia who moved to Nevada last August. She huddled with her three children inside a warehouse at the airport waiting for the president.

“I’m seeing Donald Trump!” announced 3-year-old Cordelia, donning an American flag dress.

Tax reform roundtable

Following his keynote address, Trump went to the South Point for a roundtable discussion about tax reform and shortly after 3 p.m. he was back on Air Force One to return to Washington.

Contact Ramona Giwargis at rgiwargis@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4538. Follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter. Staff writers Rio Lacanlale and Madelyn Reese contributed to this report.

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