• 79°

Trump rallies in Huntington

West Virginia Gov. Jim West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice speaks at the Donald Trump rally at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena on Thursday.

 

More than 9,000 hear president speak

HUNTINGTON — Just after 7 p.m. on Thursday night, President Donald Trump took the stage at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in downtown Huntington to the cheers of some 9,000 supporters.

He spoke for a bit before bringing a Democrat, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, to the stage.

Reports had been circulating in the afternoon that Justice was leaving the Democrat Party to become a Republican. Although when he announced his candidacy in May 2015, he admitted that he had changed party registration numerous times.

Trump made the announcement official around 7:22 p.m.

Justice thanked Trump and said it was an honor to be there.

“This man and myself are not politicians, we ran to get things done,” he said. “This man is a good man. He’s got a backbone. He’s got real ideas. He cares about America. He cares about us in West Virginia.”

He said his parents loved President Ronald Reagan and although they were deceased, would love that he had switched parties.

“I am much more suited to be a Democrat because I truly want to be the person who is trying to take up for the little guy,” he said. “Today I tell you as West Virginians I can’t help you any more being a Democrat governor,” he said.

Trump overwhelmingly won West Virginia in the November election, partly due to his promises to revive a slumping coal industry.

The president spoke on the involvement of Russia in the election and his supposed contacts with Russian officials, saying it was a narrative put forth by the Democrats as “an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics.”

“The Russia story is a total fabrication. It’s just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics,” he said, referring to his victory over Hillary Clinton. “It just makes them feel better when they have nothing else to talk about.”

Trump maintains there were no ties between his campaign and Russia and says no wrongdoing was committed.

He called it a fake story that is demeaning  to all of us and most of all demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.”

He commented hours after news broke that Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation, had empaneled a grand jury in the case.

“I just hope the final determination is a truly honest one, which is what the millions of people who gave us our big win in November deserve and what all Americans who want a better future want and deserve.”

The president finished speaking around 7:55 p.m.

This was the president’s second trip to West Virginia in two weeks. On July 24, he made a personal appearance at the Boy Scout’s national jamboree. Every sitting president since 1937 has been invited to visit the jamboree.

— Tribune reporter Mark Shaffer contributed to this story.