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Trump vows “border is going to be just as tough as it’s been” at Minnesota rally

Trump glossed over family separation but touted his tough immigration policies.

Donald Trump Holds Rally In Duluth, Minnesota Scott Olson/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

President Donald Trump backed away from his controversial policy that led to the separation of families at the US-Mexico border — but if the president faced a public setback, it didn’t surface in a packed and raucous arena in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday.

Trump was in familiar form at his campaign rally, running through his usual hits blasting the “fake news media,” the Democrats, the Russia “witch hunt,” and Hillary Clinton, and boasting about the economy, jobs, and how America is finally respected again.

With the still-swirling controversy around Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, Trump quickly mentioned family separation but didn’t stick with the topic for long.

“By the way, I signed an executive order, we’re going to keep families together,” Trump said. “But the border is going to be just as tough as it’s been.”

“Democrats don’t care about the impact of uncontrolled migration on your communities, your schools, your hospitals, your jobs, or your safety,” he added. “Democrats put illegal immigrants before American citizens. What the hell is going on?”

At one point, the crowd burst into familiar “build that wall, build that wall” chants.

Trump also returned, for the second time this week, to the inflammatory immigration comments he made to kick off his campaign in 2015.

“They’re not sending their finest,” he bellowed. “And we’re sending them the hell back.”

Trump was in his comfort zone — and the crowd obliged

Trump blasted open borders and Democrats and the MS-13 gang, but he only briefly brought up his “zero tolerance” immigration policy — a sign, perhaps, that even he recognizes the toxicity of the issue.

Reporters spoke to rally attendees ahead of the campaign event, and the reactions ranged from outright support to Trump’s favorite comeback of “fake news” to opposition to family separation. But most absolved Trump of any blame, a reflection of the administration’s spin.

“President Trump is a sensitive person, and he does not like that the children are being taken,” Louis Bergeron, an 80-year-old from Wisconsin told WCCO, a radio station based in Minneapolis. “But actually, they’re coming here illegally, and in this country, anyone who breaks the law has to go to jail and the kids are separated. He’s actually trying to make Congress do their job and pass a law and eliminate loopholes, eliminate these people coming here expecting freebies.”

Trump was clearly on his home turf Wednesday night. Even when protesters interrupted him (“Go home to your mom, darling,” Trump said to one), the crowd quickly drowned them out.