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Donald Trump charged up a crowd of supporters in Texas on Saturday night in a wide-ranging speech complete with anecdotes from his time in the White House and well-known gripes about the media and his Democrat rivals.
He touted himself as the ‘King of MAGA’ at the all-day conservative American Freedom Tour in Austin, led by a host of prominent Trump allies including his eldest child Donald Trump Jr.
In recounting a story about arriving in Iraq under cover of darkness, the former president praised Air Force One’s pilots as ‘better looking than Tom Cruise’ in a reference to the actor’s character in the film Top Gun.
He also asked the crowd if he should have awarded himself the Congressional medal of honor for being ‘so brave’ during the landing.
The ex-president then compared his story to the infamous incidents of MSNBC anchor Brian Williams and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both being found to have embellished details in their respective accounts of flying in Iraq and Bosnia while under fire.
‘Lyin’ Brian, remember that son of a gun? Lyin’ Brian – the plane was shot’ Trump told the crowd of Williams. ‘Hillary had the same thing, right? Crooked Hillary. There were bullets all over her helicopter. Turned out to be a false story.’
While running for president in 2008, Clinton had claimed to have arrived in Bosnia ‘under sniper fire’ in March 1996. However, footage from the day shows her being greeted in relative peace in a pre-planned welcoming ceremony.
The former president gave an hour-long speech to supporters at the American Freedom Tour in Austin, Texas
Williams’ story of being hit by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003 cost him his job as the anchor of NBC Nightly News. He has publicly apologized for the matter and since went on to lead a show on the left-wing network MSNBC, though the veteran journalist recently retired after decades on air.
Taking a swing at the network Williams joined, Trump said: ‘Lyin’ Brian lost his job over it. He went to MS-DNC, right? Then I guess he got fired.’
‘He’ll show up someplace. They never – you know, cockroaches you can never kill them,’ the ex-president remarked to the audience’s laughter.
Trump’s own story of flying to Iraq did not feature any exchange of bullets, though the ex-president gave no detail about the time and place of his trip.
However, he notably visited US troops stationed in Iraq during a surprise trip in December 2018.
The trip sparked a diplomatic outcry after the Trump administration reportedly failed to notify the Iraqi government – with the exception of its prime minister, who was informed two hours before Trump’s arrival.
‘We landed in Air Force One, the windows were all dark. The pilots are great – you know they say the greatest pilots are the ones that fly Air Force One and all of the different things having to do with presidential including the helicopters,’ Trump told supporters on Saturday.
He mocked veteran journalist Brian Williams for telling a false story about getting shot at while in a helicopter in Iraq, which Williams has apologized for
Trump also heaped praise on his former pilots aboard Air Force One, particularly during his December 2018 trip to Iraq
‘They said “Sir, you’re going to have to close your windows now and all lights are going off on Air Force One.” I said, “Wow, why? We just spent $2 trillion in this area, we have to turn our lights off when we go in?” What the hell kind of a job did we do?’
He continued, ‘I never saw anything like it, this thing. They had it closed, they had every light off, you couldn’t see anything but I went up with the pilots. These pilots – better looking than Tom Cruise.’
The crowd laughed again as Trump repeated the line again and added that his presidential pilots were ‘much stronger’ than the Top Gun actor.
‘So I’m with the captain and all the people up there, we’re flying – we’re flying blind,’ he said.
Trump said his pilot landed in the desert ‘cool as cucumber’ before jokingly asking, ‘Do I get a Congressional medal of honor for this trip?’
‘Am I allowed to give myself a Congressional medal of honor for being so brave to sit up there and watch us land in the middle of a desert with no runway?’ he questioned.
The ex-president used some time during his speech to respond to President Joe Biden painting GOP candidates in November’s midterms as ‘ultra MAGA.’
The president espoused the term several times over the last week in an apparent new strategy to link Republicans running for office this year to Trump’s divisive White House tenure.
He even called Trump ‘the great MAGA king’ during a Wednesday speech in Chicago.
Referring to himself and his base in Austin on Saturday, Trump told them: ‘Together we were “ultra MAGA.” They gave us that name the other day.’
‘Biden did. You know, we’re the ultra MAGA. The ultra MAGA. I said, “Boy, that sounds good.” So he said that I’m ultra-Make America Great Again. That’s good, I like that better. I think let’s change the name – we’ll use ultra,’ he said.
‘Then they call me “The great king of MAGA.”‘
Trump added, ‘That’s a good thing, isn’t it?’
He also hit his Democratic rival over the months-long surge in consumer prices, hitting record increases not seen since the 1980s until April, when the most recently available data show inflation rising by 8.3 percent. It’s a slight decrease from the 8.5 percent jump seen in March.
‘The Biden disasters are too numerous to count, but inflation is the highest in nearly 50 years. Gas prices have reached the highest price ever in the history of our country, destroying families,’ Trump said.