VIDEO: President Trump speaks at rally in Grand Rapids

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Updates from Associated Press: 03/29/2019 at 9:00 p.m.

Presenting himself as both vindicated and vindictive, a fired-up President Donald Trump on Thursday turned the findings of the Russia investigation into a political weapon at a Michigan rally that was part victory lap, part 2020 campaign push.

Trump unleashed a fervent diatribe about the inquiry, which he deemed “the greatest hoax in the history of our country.” He warned that those behind the probe “would be held accountable,” aired his grievances about the “unfair” media coverage and seethed that the matter was an attempt “to tear up the fabric of our great democracy.”

“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is dead,” said Trump. “This was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election victory and to sabotage the will of the American people.”

The rollicking 82-minute speech unfolded before a boisterous crowd in a key state that Trump swiped from Democrats in 2016. It marked his first political event since Attorney General William Barr released a summary that said special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that his campaign “conspired or coordinated” with the Russian government to influence the 2016 campaign. With the cloud of the probe largely lifted, Trump is hoping to win re-election by keeping Michigan and several other Rust Belt states in his column.

“It’s going to be so much easier the second time: We’re one for one,” Trump boasted.

He basked in the adulation of his supporters at the Grand Rapids rally. The packed crowd, some of whom began to line up the night before, delivered a deafening roar for the president while unleashing its vitriol as he bashed the media and Democrats.

The president linked Mueller’s probe with the myriad investigations launched by House Democrats and tried to make the case that, after Mueller’s findings, further inquiries are partisan overreach.

“The Democrats now have to decide if they will continue to defraud the American public with this ridiculous bulls–t,” said Trump, who urged the opposing party to instead work with him on issues like infrastructure repair and drug pricing.

While Trump’s base has long been suspicious of Mueller, the president’s team believes independents and moderate Democrats who backed him in the last election but have since soured may return to the fold if convinced he was unfairly targeted. Trump used the moment to heighten his attacks on the media, which many Trump supporters believe unjustly fanned the flames of the special counsel’s probe in an effort to bring down the president.

Trump stood before a familiar backdrop: a giant American flag, signs reading “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” and, of course, “Make America Great Again.” Though the aftermath of the probe was at the forefront of his mind, Trump also ticked off what he portrayed as his administration’s accomplishments, including a booming stock market and victories over the Islamic State terror group.

He also framed the Democrats’ presidential candidates as “radical,” and slammed the Green New Deal, an ambitious, wide-ranging plan to combat climate change, as a “dangerous” reinvention of American society. But he spent relatively little time on his administration’s renewed push to overturn the Affordable Care Act, other than to declare that the “Republican Party will be the party of health care.” He didn’t present many details as to what the new GOP plan might be.

His eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., provided a high-energy warm-up act and, in particular, savaged family foe Michael Avenatti, the celebrity lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels, the porn star who alleged an affair with the president. Avenatti was arrested this week on charges of extortion.

“For this week only, MAGA stands for Michael Avenatti got arrested,” Trump Jr. boomed, taunting the once-rumored presidential candidate.

Loyal supporters started lining up in front of the Van Andel Arena on Wednesday evening, with some camping out in tents and sleeping bags overnight. By midafternoon, a crowd of thousands, many in red “Make America Great Again” hats, snaked for blocks around downtown Grand Rapids, just across the river from The Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.

Trump’s sojourn to the Midwest is expected to be the first of many.

His campaign is seeking to hold three key states that he swung from blue to red in 2016 — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — but that may prove difficult to hold after midterm elections showed rising Democratic energy. Still, advisers believe Trump’s core supporters remain enthusiastic heading into 2020.

With an eye on local matters, Trump touted his support for the automobile industry and announced he would reverse part of his administration’s own budget plan, which had proposed a 90 percent spending cut for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Trump said he would fully fund the cleanup program, offering the $300 million the program has typically received.

Even before Thursday’s barnburner, Grand Rapids held a special place in Trump lore.

On the eve of the 2016 election, Trump’s breakneck final blitz of rallies was meant to come to an end in Manchester, New Hampshire. But just days before, the Trump campaign tacked on one more rally in the western Michigan city after seeing data that showed a surge for their candidate. The Grand Rapids rally didn’t end until after midnight, bleeding into Election Day. Trump won Michigan by just 10,704 votes — his margins of victory in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were similarly small — and those close to the president have long pointed to the rally as a reason for his victory.

UPDATE: 8:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is trying to win over Michigan voters by saying the automobile industry “was decimated and going down” before he took office.

He says his administration has taken “historic and dramatic action to save the American auto industry and defend American auto workers right here in Michigan.”

Since Trump took office in 2017, auto manufacturing employment has risen by about 51,000 jobs to just over 1 million, according to the Labor Department. That’s a 5 percent increase over two years.

However, GM in November announced plans to shut four U.S. auto factories and one in Canada. Two of those plants are in Michigan.

The company said the moves are necessary to stay financially healthy as GM faces large capital expenditures to shift to electric and autonomous vehicles.

UPDATE: 8:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is announcing that he will fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative after his administration proposed a 90 percent spending cut.

Trump is telling supporters at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that he will be providing $300 million for the cleanup program, framing the announcement as “breaking news.”

Trump says “it’s time,” though it’s unclear what he means.

Trump’s 2020 budget offered just $30 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which receives $300 million most years to remove toxic pollution, prevent algae blooms and species invasions and restore wildlife habitat.

Governors of five states had warned the move would cost jobs, hurt tourism and jeopardize public health.

Trump says he “supports the Great Lakes,” noting “they’re big” and “very deep.”

UPDATE: 8 p.m.

President Donald Trump is using the case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett to rile supporters at a campaign rally in Michigan.

Smollett, who is black and gay, claimed that two men attacked him and yelled he was in “MAGA country.”

Prosecutors charged him with making a false police report, but abruptly dropped those charges this week, infuriating Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Trump says it’s “maybe the only time I’ve ever agreed with the mayor of Chicago.”

Trump calls the dropped charges “an embarrassment not only to Chicago. That is an embarrassment to our country, what took place there.”

Smollett has maintained his innocence and insisted the attack was real. Trump’s comments Thursday night are the second time he addressed the case in a matter of hours.

UPDATE: 7:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump is attacking Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California as he speaks to supporters in Michigan, calling the Democratic lawmaker a “little pencil-neck.”

The president is running through a list of grievances as he revels in his attorney general’s summary that Special Counsel Robert Mueller could not establish that President Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Earlier in the event, his son Donald Trump Jr., issued similar insults incorporating Schiff’s last name.

Trump says the Democratic Party, the “fake news media” and the “deep state” failed to overturn the result of the 2016 election.

He says “many people were badly hurt by this scam, but more importantly our country was hurt.”

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m.

A fired-up President Donald Trump is turning the end of the special counsel’s Russia investigation into a political weapon at a boisterous rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Trump is telling a crowd of thousands that: “After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over.”

He’s also calling the investigation “nothing more than a sinister effort” to undermine his 2016 election victory and “sabotage the will of the American people.”

The rally is Trump’s first political event since news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of his campaign colluding with Russians.

Mueller did not, however, come to a conclusion on obstruction of justice, leaving that up to his new attorney general.

Trump is calling the report “total exoneration” and “complete vindication” nonetheless.

UPDATE: 7:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s supporters are taking a victory lap at his first political rally since the end of the Mueller investigation was announced.

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is telling a crowd of thousands in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on America” is now “out the window.”

And he’s thanking his father’s supporters for sticking with him, saying “it’s not just our vindication, it’s your vindication” too.

The Justice Department announced Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia — but that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction.

Trump Jr. is also taking repeated shots at Trump antagonist Michael Avenatti, who was arrested this week, saying the lawyer went from “Avenatti 2020 to Avenatti 20-25. Maybe 50.”

UPDATE: 5:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is turning his attention to 2020 now that the special counsel’s investigation is largely behind him.

Trump is heading to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a rally Thursday night — his first political event since the Justice Department said Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find that his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia’s election meddling.

As he left the White House, Trump said, “Michigan is booming.”

Loyal supporters started lining up in front of the Van Andel Arena on Wednesday evening, with some camping out in tents and sleeping bags overnight. By midafternoon, a crowd of thousands, many in red “Make America Great Again” hats, snaked for blocks around downtown Grand Rapids, just across the river from The Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.

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