President-elect Donald Trump held what appeared to be more of a campaign rally during his transition as he launched his “thank you” tour in Ohio.
Although Mr Trump has remained in the news by sending out early morning tweets falsely claiming he won the election in a landslide if not for three million illegal votes, falsely claiming to have saved jobs in Kentucky, or falsely accusing the press of dishonesty, he has been otherwise elusive since winning the election.
The President-elect returned to form Thursday night on Cincinatti, where he spoke before a stadium with far more empty seats than his previous appearance in the venue in October. Granted, there were still a fair amount of attendees to see the unlikely head of state revel in victory.
“We had a lot of fun fighting Hillary Clinton,” he said to the crowd. It was a moment of call and response, as the audience chanted “Lock her up”.
Mr Trump broke from his script numerous times, glorifying his win. In the case of Ohio, a state he claimed to have won by 10 points, he inflated the numbers by two.
“How about North Carolina – how well did we do in North Carolina? Remember when they said ‘he cannot win North Carolina’?” Mr Trump said, rebuking the “dishonest press”. The crowd booed when he pointed to the press pool in the back of the arena. “Donald Trump can’t break the blue wall, right? We didn’t break it, we shattered that sucker.
“We shattered it, man. That poor wall is busted up.”
He also took the opportunity to confirmed that he had chosen retired Marine Gen James Mattis as Secretary of Defence – a break from his spokesperson, Jason Miller, who denied earlier reports from the Washington Post and CNN.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our Secretary of Defence,” he said after a lengthy preamble about how he did not want to tell the audience. “But we’re not announcing it until Monday, so don’t tell anybody.”
In his return to the teleprompter, Mr Trump attempted to denounce the wave of hundreds of reported hate crimes that spiked since his election. Claiming to represent inclusivity with hopes to unite the nation, he condemned “bigotry and hatred in all its forms”. He did not specifically speak out against the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups who have openly celebrated his victory and appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist, however.
Still, he repeated alienating promises to bar refugees from the Middle East. He blamed the Monday knife attack at the Ohio State campus on lax refugee policies “created by our very, very stupid politicians”.
“People are pouring in from regions of the Middle East,” he falsely insisted, skirting the fact that the OSU attacker immigrated from Somalia when he was a child. “We have no idea who they are, where they come from, what they’re thinking and we’re going to stop that dead, cold flat.”
Mr Trump’s return to the stump is unprecedented in US politics. Presidents-elect do not generally return to the trail to deliver their promises while they are supposed to be filling critical Cabinet positions. The move is especially unusual given reports of Mr Trump’s rejection of intelligence briefings.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump took a “victory lap” in Indiana for a deal reached with the Carrier heating and air-conditioning company. In the agreement reached with Carrier and their parent company, United Technologies,800 factory, as well as 300 research and technology jobs, will remain in Indiana rather than going to Mexico.
Still, despite Mr Trump’s boast of saving almost 1,000 jobs in the US, some 1,300 jobs will be outsourced. The Wall Street Journal reported that 600 jobs from the Indianapolis plant are still expected to move to Mexico. While a United Technology factory in Huntington, Indiana, will close and send 700 jobs to Mexico.
In his speech celebrating that deal, Mr Trump warned companies that outsourced jobs during his presidency.
“Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences,” he said. “It’s simply not going to happen.”
Mr Trump did not disclose whether he would penalise Carrier and United Technologies come January.