After a disastrous week that brought him criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, Donald Trump traveled to Phoenix, AZ for a rally. Back in campaign mode, he resorted to his usual talking points and lashed out at the media, Obama, Democrats, and Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and John McCain. The tone was a notable contrast from the president's address on Afghanistan last night, in which he stuck to the teleprompter.
Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix with a call for unity, saying, "What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America and tonight, this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs that perpetrated hatred and violence."
Democrats and fellow Republicans had denounced Trump for placing blame for the Charlottesville violence on "both sides." Trump omitted that part of his reaction from his recap Tuesday night.
"You know where my heart is," Trump said. "I'm only doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are."
After the rally, a day of noisy but largely peaceful protests outside the Phoenix convention center turned unruly as police fired pepper spray at crowds after someone apparently lobbed rocks and bottles at officers.
Trump spoke after Vice President Mike Pence and others called repeatedly for unity.
Housing Secretary Ben Carson and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., were among the openers. Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham, led the rally-goers in prayer, saying, "We're divided racially, and we're adrift morally."
Trump teased a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio, asking the crowd what they thought of him. Loud cheers erupted. The former Maricopa County sheriff is awaiting sentencing after his conviction in federal court for disobeying court orders to stop his immigration patrols.
"So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?" Trump asked. "I'll make a prediction: I think he's going to be just fine."
Trump said at the rally that the only reason he wouldn't pardon Arpaio from the stage was to avoid controversy for the moment.
In the comfort of his most fervent fans, Trump often resurrects his free-wheeling 2016 campaign style, pinging insults at perceived enemies such as the media and meandering from topic to topic without a clear theme. Although Trump's high-profile warm-up acts suggested the president's speech would be about unity, the president was more intent on settling scores.
He skewered both of Arizona's Republican senators — but coyly refused to mention their names, describing his own restraint as "very presidential."
Trump called another unnamed senator "weak on borders, weak on crime." Trump has lashed out at Sen. Jeff Flake, a frequent critic, using the same language in the past.
The president tweeted last week: "Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!" Flake has been on tour promoting his book that says the Republican Party's embrace of Trump has left conservatism withering.
Ward attended Trump's rally, but did not appear onstage.
In a modest but telling swipe at Ward — and, by extension, at Trump — the Senate Leadership Fund, a political committee closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is spending $10,000 on digital ads that say of her, "Not conservative, just crazy ideas."