Returning to the campaign trail Saturday, former President Donald Trump held a rally in Perry, Georgia, where he slammed the Biden administration over the escalating border crisis and the botched Afghanistan withdrawal.
The signature-style rally was a continuation of Trump's multiple appearances in support of candidates and causes that further the Make America Great Again legacy and accomplishments of the previous Trump administration.
At the former president's first post-Labor Day political rally at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in the central part of the state, Trump blasted the Biden administration over the worsening and catastrophic crisis at America's southern border with Mexico, where thousands of Haitian migrants have camped in Democrat-led Del Rio, Texas, under the International Bridge there.
Trump said the illegal immigrants overruning the US border have been "laughing in the faces" of the embattled Border Patrol agents.
The Department of Homeland Security announced last Saturday that it will be sending an additional 400 deployed agents and officers to the Texas border town to assist in moving the migrant encampment and transfering its occupants to other processing locations. DHS noted, "If additional staff is needed, more will be sent."
Del Rio's progressive mayor has even lambasted President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the White House's point person on immigration, for the administration's absence at the border. "[W]here are you?" the city leader asked.
"One thing is certain: This would never ever be happening if I were president, Trump told the conservative crowd Saturday evening.
Chants of "build that wall" erupted at the rally after Trump called the Biden administration's ongoing border crisis "an invasion."
Trump labeled Biden's exit from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan "the most appalling display of incompetence by an American president," stating that he "humiliated" the nation. Trump honored the 13 US service members killed in Kabul with empty front-row seats of honor at the rally.
Trump also mocked Biden for admitting that soldiers in Afghanistan were safe under the Trump presidency. Trump said that Biden had bragged that there were no US casualties for 18 months. "The buck stops with me," Biden read from the teleprompter at the Aug. 16 press conference when he blamed everyone else for the current administration's mistakes. "I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision to end America's war fighting in Afghanistan."
Trump called Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley "an idiot," criticizing military leadership for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan before civilians and US allies.
"Let's get the military out, and then after that, we'll negotiate for hostages, okay?" Trump parodied the situation that left hundreds of American citizens stranded in enemy-occupied territory. "And let's leave [the Taliban] $85 billion in America's finest weapons and latest equipment," Trump quipped.
Trump went on to castigate the mainstream media for downplaying press coverage surrounding the Afghanistan withdrawal and its subsequent aftermath. "They're among the most corrupt people in this country," Trump said.
Trump also invited Lance Cpl. Hunter Clark, the Marine who went viral for saving a baby in Kabul, on stage to say a few words at the rally. "I am the guy who pulled the baby over the wall and it's probably one of the greatest things I've ever done in my entire life," Clark said. "I'm glad to be home now today."
Georgia is a vital battleground in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, which may decide whether Republicans win back control of the Senate.
"With your help, we're going to take back the House and send [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi back to San Francisco where she can work very hard to bring back the city which she has helped to very much destroy, just like they're destroying our nation!" Trump declared, followed by cheers from the attendees.
"Are you ready for my EPIC Rally in GEORGIA?" Trump wrote in a fundraising email to supporters ahead of the event. Trump emphasized that "Georgia is critical to our efforts to take back the House and Senate in 2022, and then the White House in 2024, which is why this rally is so important to me."
From the Save America podium on stage, Trump touted NFL icon and Senate candidate Herschel Walker. Trump endorsed the former football star who launched a Senate campaign late last month upon repeated urgings.
"I want to be a leader like [Trump]," the Senate hopeful said at the rally. "I want to get that Senate seat so that I could show everyone I love America."
Trump's return to Georgia is also personal. Georgia is one of handful of states where Biden gained narrow victories to win the White House last year.
The southeastern Peach State is also where Trump has attempted—and continues to try—to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
Last week, Trump sent a letter to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, asking the GOP official to consider "decertifying" Trump's defeat in the state.
"Now the people of Georgia must replace the RINOs and weak Republicans who made it all possible!" Trump said at the nighttime rally.
Trump-endorsed Rep. Jody Hice was slated to speak as well, a primary challenger running against Raffensperger, who along with fellow Republicans Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan pushed back against Trump's efforts to overturn the Georgia results. Trump has also endorsed state Sen. Burt Jones in the race to succeed Duncan, who decided against running for re-election next year.
"We are still actively engaged in finding somebody to run against Brian Kemp in the primary for next year," spokesperson Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager and longtime political adviser, told Fox News on Thursday. Trump has pledged to return to Gerogia to campaign against the governor.
Critics have argued that Trump's backing of contenders facing off with incumbent Republicans he considers traitors could come back to haunt the GOP in 2022.
Duncan charged that Trump's actions are "counterproductive and confusing to Republicans," alleging that the former commander-in-chief's voter fraud claims contributed to a suppressed GOP turnout in the January runoffs, which saw Republican sitting Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler defeated.
"We've seen the circus come to town before..." Duncan told Fox News. "We watched how 99.9% of the festivities were centered around [Trump], talking about how he was wronged in an election, it was a fraudulent deal, and just creates and sows chaos and confusion as to why people should or shouldn't show up to vote,"
Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock, who won by a razor-thin majority in Georgia's twin Senate runoff elections in January, is viewed by the GOP as one of the most vulnerable progressives running for re-election next year.
Republicans seek a net gain of one sought-after seat to win back the Senate majority that the party lost in the Georgia runoffs. Warnock's seat is one of four they're aiming to flip from blue to red in the midterms.
At the rally, Trump called Warnock "a Marxist controlled by the radical left Democrats who don't believe in borders ... and don't believe in our nation."
"Next year, Warnock and every single one of these far-left lunatics must be routinely and resoundingly and decisively defeated," Trump said. "You're not going to have a country left. If you want to have a country left, you must elect no Democrats and vote only for America First Republicans."
Two members of Congress from Georgia are on the GOP's targeted list of House Democrats running for reelection next year. Republicans need a net gain of just five seats in the 435-member chamber to recapture the majority.
Duncan said he is "grateful" for Trump's conservative leadership," but predicted that the former president is "going to come down here and throw darts at a very conservative governor [...] and my direction, and do nothing about how to help codify and coalesce a Republican majority to win these elections."
Trump suggested in a radio interview Friday that only "a bad call from a doctor" could derail another bid for the Oval Office. Trump has shied away from a formal announcement of a 2024 run, but has hinted at the possibility across appearances.
"I'll ask you a different way. Can you think of a reason not to run?" asked host David Brody of the Real America's Voice network in the exclusive interview.
"Well, I guess a bad call from a doctor or something, right?" Trump responded over the phone. "I will say, that happens with people." Trump added, "But you know, I feel so good, and I hate what's happening to our country."