Politics & Government

Live blog: Trump visits Fayetteville on eve of North Carolina congressional elections

President Donald Trump is speaking at a rally at the Crown Expo Center in Fayetteville, NC. News & Observer reporters are inside and outside the rally. We’ll post live updates from the event.

9:21 p.m.: How big was the crowd in Fayetteville, NC?

The campaign rally was held at the Crown Expo Center, which is one of five event spaces in four buildings at the Crown Complex, not far from the Fayetteville Regional Airport. While most of the buildings have a set capacity — a 10,880 seat Crown Coliseum and a 4,500-seat Crown Arena — the Expo Center has more of a flexible capacity. It has 60,000 square feet that can be used for trade shows, conventions or other events.

The News & Observer was told that the facility would be capped at 5,500 people. The Secret Service told The N&O that there were 6,500 people inside and anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people outside at various points.

Photos show a packed center, but the final number is unclear.

8:58 p.m. Trump tweets dramatic lightning photo

President Trump was expected to tour parts of North Carolina affected by Hurricane Dorian Monday before he went to a rally in Fayetteville.

But when he arrived, a decision was made for him to continue on to Fayetteville because of rain and lightning. Indeed, weather maps show severe weather along the coast, near Jacksonville, Havelock and Emerald Isle. In other words, not good weather for an aerial tour.

A supervising producer with CNN tweeted out a photo that showed just how dramatic that weather was: a lightning bolt that appeared to strike right behind Air Force One while it was on the tarmac in Havelock. He said the shot came from the “very wet pool crew” of photographers. “And for those asking, the bolt is behind the plane.”

Trump tweeted a photo of the lightning bolt photo shortly thereafter, before he landed in Fayetteville: “Departing MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina for Fayetteville, North Carolina. This is amazing!”

8:46 p.m. Who was in the audience?

Shortly after Dan Bishop spoke, Trump gave shoutouts to other prominent Republicans in attendance: N.C. Sen. Thom Tillis, S.C. Sen. Lindsey Graham, N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, N.C. Rep. Mark Meadows (District 11), Dr. Greg Murphy (3rd Congressional District candidate), California Rep. Devin Nunes as well as personalities Diamond and Silk and son, Donald Trump Jr.

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President Donald Trump, left, gives his support to Dan Bishop, right, a Republican running for the special North Carolina 9th District U.S. Congressional race as he speaks at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Chris Seward AP

8:43 p.m.: Cheers, chants and boos at Trump rally

Trump got applause for numerous topics, including when he said he would be president for another four years, saying he’ll protect the right to bear arms, but also when he praised fellow Republicans on stage.

”We are great Americans and the future belongs to us.” Trump said to cheers. “The future belongs to you.”

However, Sen. Thom Tillis got a mixture of scattered boos along with applause from the audience at least twice: when he went on stage before Trump’s arrival and later when Trump mentioned him by name.

Other boos came when Trump mentioned Former president Barack Obama, Democrats and the news media.

8:25 p.m.: Taking back the House

Trump tied special elections in the 3rd and 9th districts Tuesday to Republicans’ effort to end Democrats’ majority in the House — where they are led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi — in 2020.

“With your support, tomorrow we take the first steps to firing Speaker Pelosi and winning back the House,” Trump said.

“Get out and vote for Dan Bishop and Greg Murphy tomorrow,” Trump said.

Earlier in the rally, Trump asked: “Who voted early for Dan Bishop?” Very few hands went up, and there were almost no cheers.

”Well, the big day is tomorrow,” he says.

8:10 p.m.: Trump on Democrats

Trump said Democrats are “so far outside the mainstream” that they’re unelectable.

He joked that he could leave the stage right now, and say he’s “had enough of North Carolina ... and what are you gonna do?,” suggesting they still wouldn’t vote for Democrats.

“It’s never been so far left,” Trump said of the Democratic Party.

He referred to “Pocahontas and Sleepy Joe,” without naming Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, two Democrats trying to challenge him.

He mentioned former President Barack Obama and the crowd booed.

Trump suggested that Europeans like Obama more than him, and added: “The day that I’m more popular than him, I’m not doing my job.”

8 p.m.: Medical help

At one point while both Bishop and Trump were on stage, Bishop said someone in the crowd was overheated and Trump called for a “doctor in the house.”

The speeches paused for about five minutes while the person received medical attention.

“I guess Dan’s speech wasn’t so good,” Trump said after the person with medical needs left the area. Bishop had been talking when they paused their speech.

Outside, someone was taken out of the venue and into an ambulance.

When Bishop retook the stage, he asked the crowd to pray for the person who got overheated. ”That’s what we do: we pray,” Bishop says.

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Medical personnel tend to a person who collapsed while President Donald Trump and Congressional candidate Dan Bishop were speaking at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Chris Seward AP

7:45 p.m.: Dan Bishop

Dan Bishop, the Republican candidate in the 9th district election Tuesday, told the crowd to use their phones to watch a video of Trump telling them to vote for him at votedanbishop.com.

“Tomorrow’s our chance. Let’s show em,” Bishop said. He asks them to “vote for the right Dan,” a reference to his Democratic opponent, Dan Bishop.

7:40 p.m.: Trump supporters

Kathy Rogers, who’s retired, came to the rally from South Carolina with her father, Wilton Rogers, who fought in Vietnam. But they didn’t get into the venue before it filled up.

While Wilton Rogers voted for Trump in 2016, Kathy Rogers said she used to be a Democrat and voted for Hillary Clinton. She plans to vote for Trump in 2020, though.

“He’s kept his campaign promises — the economy, the wall, fair trade with China, everything he’s doing, the judges he’s chosen,” she said.

She said he just needs more time and support to build the wall.

Her father said he was fine with part of the military budget going towards the wall because it formed part of the country’s defense.

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Kathy Rogers came to President Donald Trump’s Sept. 9, 2019, rally in Fayetteville, NC, from South Carolina with her father, Wilton Rogers. Ashad Hajela ahajela@newsobserver.com

7:25 p.m.: Trump on stage

When Trump took the stage, hundreds of phones were lifted in the air, taking photos and video with their smartphones.

The majority of the crowd is in an area facing Trump. At back of that area are risers with videographers, and then tables behind that for the rest of the press. On the sides of that press area, there are a few hundred more people.

Signs were passed out earlier in the evening to the crowd, who are waving them off and on: “Keep America Great!” and “Women for Trump.”

“Four more years” has been the most repeated chant so far tonight.

Trump mentioned the “special, great people” of the Franklin Graham family, and touted the work of Graham’s organization, Samaritan’s Purse.

7:15 p.m.: Protesters were moved away

Representatives of a local Democratic group and another Fayetteville-area group, Latinos United for Progress, came to the rally to protest. They said they were protesting children being put in cages and funds being taken out of the military budget to go towards the border wall.

“Lock him up! Lock him up!” they chanted.

At about 5:50 p.m., roughly 30 minutes after they started, authorities from the Cumberland County sheriff’s office told them to move away from the entrance. A deputy said they were not allowed to protest without a permit.

7:10 p.m.: VP touts Trump’s accomplishments

Vice President Mike Pence spoke before Trump. Pence campaigned in the district earlier in the day before joining the president in Fayetteville. Pence repeatedly name-checked Bishop, saying “North Carolina and America need Dan Bishop in the U.S. Congress.”

Pence went through a list of accomplishments, citing the strong economy, increased military spending, appointing conservative judges, cutting taxes and working to curb illegal immigration.

“Build that wall,” the crowd chanted.

“We’re building it,” Pence replied.

Pence said Bishop supports lower taxes and a more secure border and stands for the right to life.

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Supporters of President Donald Trump cheer as he arrives on stage at the Crown Expo for a campaign rally, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, in Fayetteville, N.C. Evan Vucci AP

Why is Trump in North Carolina?

Trump is in North Carolina on the eve of Tuesday’s special elections in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District and 9th Congressional District.

The 9th Congressional District contest, a state elections board-ordered redo of the 2018 contest, is expected to be very tight between Republican Dan Bishop and Democrat Dan McCready. Trump has endorsed Bishop.

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Fayetteville, part of which is in the 9th District, is next to Fort Bragg, one of the military bases that will see project cuts in order to build Trump’s border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Trump campaigned extensively in 2016 on the border wall issue, saying that Mexico would pay for it.

Trump was scheduled to visit an area hit by Hurricane Dorian, but he was not able to take helicopters or a motorcade to tour the area, according to White House spokesman Judd Deere. Trump received a hurricane briefing on Air Force One from Gov. Roy Cooper, according to the governor’s office.

Cooper requested an expedited federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Dorian and pushed for several changes to the way states get money from the federal government after disasters, according to the governor’s office.

President Donald Trump participates in a briefing with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, left, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., standing center, about Hurricane Dorian at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, in Havelock, N.C., aboard Air Force One. Evan Vucci AP

Donald Trump Jr. in Fayetteville

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son and one of his fiercest surrogates, spoke at the rally before the president. Trump Jr. attacked Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist from Vermont.

Trump Jr. said Sanders thinks “bread lines are wonderful,” a reference to long lines for food stuffs in Communist countries.

Trump Jr. also highlighted the passage of a criminal justice reform package earlier late last year. Trump signed the First Step Act in December. The president attacked several prominent African-Americans, including commentator Van Jones and singer John Legend, earlier Monday on Twitter for not giving him enough credit for getting criminal justice reform passed.

“If Trump is so racist, why’d he do prison reform?” Trump Jr. said.

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Sen. Tillis, Diamond and Silk at NC rally

Around 5 p.m., the event started with a prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star-Spangled Banner.

Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, also came out to a mixture of applause and boos. He talked about his support for Dan Bishop and Trump. Tillis is running for re-election in 2020.

Social media personalities Diamond and Silk have come out to speak twice. They criticized Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris’ justice policy as attorney general.

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Bob Graczyk of Buffalo, NY, said the rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina is the first time he’ll see Trump in person. He is in Fayetteville for business and said he came because “he’s our president.” Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com

Trump supporters in Fayetteville

Bob Graczyk of Buffalo, NY, said the North Carolina rally is the first time he’ll see Trump in person. He is in Fayetteville for business and said he came because “he’s our president.”

Graczyk said he’ll vote for Trump again because, as his T-shirt says, “He’s made promises and kept them.” The biggest issue for him is the workforce and Trump’s “America First” policy.

“I see what he’s doing for America. It should be America first — it shouldn’t be any other country before America,” Graczyk said as the crowd waited for the rally to start.

Graczyk also said if members of Congress reached across the aisle, they could work together to get more things done, like lowering taxes and encouraging more people to enter the workforce.

Joe Disney of Raleigh was also among those waiting in the arena for the rally to start. He’s a Trump supporter, he said, because Trump “supports our military. He needs to get the immigrants out.”

Asked about military base funding being diverted for the wall, Disney said, “It could be both good and bad.”

He said it’s good to build the border wall, but bad for schools not to be built. A proposed but previously canceled elementary school at Fort Bragg is among the projects whose funding is listed as being diverted to the wall. (Updated to clarify that the school project that is listed as losing funding was previously canceled.)

Brian Murphy of McClatchy DC contributed to this report.
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Joe Disney, left, and Justice Bevan at the Trump rally in Fayetteville, NC, on Sept. 9, 2019. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@newsobserver.com
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Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan covers North Carolina state government and politics at The News & Observer. She previously covered Durham for 13 years, and has received six North Carolina Press Association awards, including a 2018 award for investigative reporting.
Ashad Hajela reports on public safety for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He studied journalism at New York University.