In friendly Florida, Trump dreams of victory in 2020
Panama City Beach (United States) (AFP)
"We had some great times here you remember? Before that great election, that great, great election, '16 right. And now we have '20 coming up!"
Far from the bitter fight with Democrats in Washington and the Mueller investigation, President Donald Trump revelled with obvious pleasure at speaking before a friendly campaign crowd in Florida Wednesday evening.
"lt's going to be just as special," he told the crowd at Panama City Beach, in a part of Florida where he recorded spectacular results in the 2016 race.
At sunset, in the open air in front of a sea of red caps and under a huge "Make America Great Again" sign, Trump enjoys himself, by turns mocking his political opponents and boasting about his achievements and the health of the economy.
The crowd chants "Four more years!" and a feisty Trump says he's ready for battle.
"I want to run so badly. I want this race to start immediately!"
Basking in the adulation of the friendly crowd in the "Sunshine State", some 800 miles (1,200 kilometers) from Washington, he reels off the names of his potential Democratic opponents in the 2020 race.
"If you had the choice between Sleepy Joe and Crazy Bernie," Trump said, using his nicknames for former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, who are both candidates for the Democratic nomination.
"Let's just pick somebody please and let's start this thing," he said, affecting indifference to the choice of political opponent.
"And Beto. What the hell happened to Beto?" Trump shouts, mocking Texan Beto O'Rourke, who is also vying for the Democratic nomination.
- 'See, he is a despot!' -
After insulting his political opponents, Trump turned to his favorite bete noire: the media.
"Those people back there, I call them the fakers, fake news media," the president said.
"You know, in six years, they are all going to be out of business," Trump said, referring to when he would leave the White House if he triumphs in 2020.
"Now if we want to drive them crazy, I will say in 10 years, they'll go crazy," he said, adding journalists would immediately say "See, he is a despot! He is a despot."
"Well, 10 or 14, watch: it'll be headlines tomorrow," he said to laughter from the crowd in a region he comfortably won in 2016.
Turning to another familiar subject, the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the vote, he again portrayed himself as the victim of a "witch hunt" by angry Democrats.
The Republican billionaire hopes to finally close the chapter on the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Attorney General Bill Barr declared Trump cleared of conspiracy with Russia and obstruction of justice shortly after Mueller presented his 448-page report to the Justice Department.
But Democrats have protested that Barr has sought to protect the president by refusing to present the full report or underlying evidence to Congress.
"Did you see what just happened by the way? No collusion. No obstruction. No anything. Two years on a witch hunt," said Trump.
And now, he said, the Democrats want to start again.
"They want to do investigations instead of investments... I think it drives us onto victory in 2020."
Earlier Trump had traveled to Tyndall Air Force Base, located between Panama City Beach and Mexico Beach.
This area of Florida was devastated seven months ago by powerful category five Hurricane Michael which left a trail of destruction in its wake.
Residents are still waiting for federal help with reconstruction.
But discussion is bogged down in Congress amid disagreements between Republicans and the Democrats, who want substantial funds also released for Puerto Rico which was hit by two hurricanes in 2017.
? 2019 AFP