President Donald Trump delivered remarks to a dinner crowd Tuesday in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, just ahead of the Fourth of July holiday and a golf tournament at a resort owned by Gov. Jim Justice.
In a half-hour speech delivered to active-service military, veterans and state Republican Party notables, Trump’s remarks were relatively subdued compared to past visits to West Virginia, touching mostly on military issues but veering occasionally to other subjects.
Among the military personnel, Trump acknowledged, was World War II veteran Woody Williams.
“In the face of bullets and bayonets, he risked his life for his brothers-in-arms, and he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor,” Trump said.
“He has dedicated his life to supporting Gold Star families and building memorials to honor our fallen servicemembers. In 2016, thousands were moved by Woody’s patriotic words when he spoke at one of our rallies in West Virginia. He was incredible. I still remember it. And of course, we all remember that wonderful moment when Woody flipped the coin at this year’s Super Bowl,” the president added.
In another part of his military-focused remarks, Trump touted his idea for a “space force” to become the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. He said the branch would be the “greatest force for peace and justice in the history of the world.”
The president remained non-specific on the would-be function of such a military branch. Congress, which has remained lukewarm on the idea, would have to authorize any additional branch of the Armed Forces and allocate funding for it.
“We are thinking very seriously about it because space is becoming very important militarily as well as other reasons,” Trump said.
The president also noted increases in military spending, as well as federal legislation passed to increase health care options for veterans, while decreasing wait times at Veterans Affairs facilities — known as the VA Choice program.
In addition to discussing various aspects of the military, Trump touched on immigration and his U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
The vacancy on the bench follows Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, which was announced last week. Conservatives see Kennedy’s retirement as an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade in an attempt to limit abortion rights.
Trump acknowledged the state’s congressional delegation in attendance at the event, notable military personnel and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
“He is a tough, strong guy and he ran an incredible race against some very talented people —and he won,” Trump said of Morrisey’s current bid for U.S. Senate. “And now he has got another race. I see the polls have it very close.”
Morrisey, the Republican nominee, will square off in November against incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin.
Manchin — who has a 7-point lead over Morrisey in a recent Public Policy Polling survey — is seen as a potentially key vote for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Manchin, Morrisey and Justice all garnered low favorability numbers in the same poll.
At an April stop — which also took place in White Sulphur Springs — Trump took aim at Manchin on immigration and a no vote on a federal tax reform package.
Later on during the Tuesday event, Trump also made note of reporters working in the back of the room as he touted economic numbers, including unemployment claims, African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates.
“The fake news — they are all back there,” he said, referring to the back of the banquet room where local and national media were gathered to cover the event.
The president’s pointed comments on the news media come just days after a gunman entered the newsroom of The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, MD, and killed five people, including four journalists and a salesperson.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump issued a proclamation calling for all U.S. flags on public grounds to be flown at half-staff until sunset as “a mark of solemn respect” for those killed.
Tuesday marked Trump’s fifth trip to the state since taking office in January 2017.
This article was originally published by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.