Government
Sandoval, Laxalt to greet President Trump on his 1st trip to Nevada since the election
By
Megan Messerly
Riley Snyder
Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters at the Reno Ballroom on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (Courtesy/Darron Birgenheier under Creative Commons)

President Donald Trump will return to Nevada this morning for the first time since the 2016 election to speak at the American Legion’s annual convention in Reno.

Two of the state’s top Republican officials, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt, are expected to greet the president in Reno. Trump will then speak to a crowd of about 5,000 at the closed-to-the-public event which is expected to also be attended by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, American Legion National Commander Charles Schmidt and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

On trips outside of Washington, the president has typically chosen to visit states that voted for him. Trump lost Nevada to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election by about two-and-a-half points, or a little more than 27,000 votes out of more than 1 million cast.

At the event, Trump is expected to sign a bill that modifies the appeals process for benefit claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois, passed both the House and Senate with unanimous support.

Incumbent presidents have addressed the American Legion’s convention since 1925, beginning with Calvin Coolidge. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all have spoken at the convention in recent years.

On Tuesday, the group publicly reaffirmed a statement issued in 1923 denouncing any individuals or groups that foster “racial, religious or class strife among our people.” A spokesman for the group told the Reno Gazette-Journal that was in response to white nationalist protests in Charlottesville a little over a week ago.

Trump came under fire by those on both the left and the right not for not immediately condemning the hate groups responsible for the violence. Even after he called out white supremacists and neo-Nazis by name, he walked back those comments in a press conference the next day, blaming the violence in Charlottesville on “both sides” — equating white supremacists with those he referred to as the “alt-left.”

Multiple organizations are expected to protest at the event, and the Reno Police Department is blocking off many of the roads near the convention center where Trump will be speaking from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Reno Assistant Police chief Jason Soto told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the department is receiving assistance from the Sparks Police Department, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Carson City Sheriff’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies.

Officials react

Sandoval said in a statement that he will greet Air Force One at the airport and that he hopes to talk to the president about a host of veterans issues in Nevada, including federal reimbursement for the Northern Nevada Veterans home, support for two of the state’s air force bases and a naval air station and backing for the state’s veterans’ hospitals and cemeteries. Sandoval, a moderate Republican, withdrew his support from Trump a month before the election after a video of Trump talking about sexually assaulting women came to light — behavior Sandoval called “repulsive and unacceptable.”

Laxalt, a likely Republican gubernatorial candidate, said in a statement that he looks forward to greeting the president in Reno. Laxalt is also hosting Vice President Mike Pence at his annual Basque Fry event and for a private fundraising event this weekend.

“As an Iraq war veteran and former naval officer, I am grateful for his demonstrated commitment to our military communities, and look forward to greeting him alongside other elected officials,” Laxalt said.

Republican Assemblyman Jim Wheeler said he would be there to greet the president as well.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Dean Heller did not respond to a question about whether the Republican senator would attend the event. Heller has a fundraising luncheon with Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt in Las Vegas scheduled for Wednesday as well.

Businessman Danny Tarkanian, who is challenging Heller in the primary, said in a text on Tuesday that he would be at home with his son who is dealing with some health concerns and would be unable to attend the event.

Republican Congressman Mark Amodei, who chaired Trump’s Nevada campaign in 2016, attended the American Legion event on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Amodei did not respond to a follow up question as to whether or not the congressman would meet with Trump while the president is in Reno.

Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto will be in rural Nevada and will not attend the event, though she welcomed attendees via video on Tuesday, her spokesman said.

Two Democratic freshmen representatives, Jacky Rosen (who is running for the Senate) and Ruben Kihuen, said in interviews Monday that they hoped Trump would move forward from the divisive rhetoric in the days following the violence in Charlottesville and get back to talking about the issues that matter most to Americans, from education to infrastructure, during his visit.

“We can talk about our differences in policy but we need to bring people together about the anxieties — what they’re worried about around their kitchen table, education, health care, retirement — those are things that everybody worries about, their job, are they going to be able to pay their rent, so we need to get back down to basics to get our community working,” Rosen said.

Kihuen said that he hopes the president comes to Nevada and has a “constructive discussion” about how to put people back to work, improve the economy and fix the nation’s roads, bridges and infrastructure.

Several local elected officials in Reno have taken a sharper approach to the president’s visit — Mayor Hillary Schieve issued a statement last week calling on the president to “deliver a strong message rejecting racism, hate and violence during his visit to our area.” Schieve said in a text that she wouldn’t be meeting Trump at the airport and had council meetings at the same time.

Reno Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus said in a Facebook post that she was “genuinely concerned” that Trump’s visit would come in the middle of Reno’s busy summer event season and that a presidential pardon for embattled former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — since taken off the table — could inflame tensions even further.

“Cities need to acknowledge their resource constraints, and as one in a leadership position I believe that a POTUS visit this week, on top of everything else that has gone on this busy summer, is too much,” she said.

Washoe County Commission Chairman Bob Lucey, a Republican, sounded an opposite note and said in a statement that he was “pleased” to personally greet the president when he arrives in Reno and hoped to ask for an audience with Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke to discuss economic development and local infrastructure needs such as the I-11 interstate project.

“As a County Commission, we collectively urge the President to work with county and city officials on federal issues that impact local governments,” he said in the statement.

On his last trip to Reno just days before the election, Trump was rushed off of stage by Secret Service during a campaign rally. Secret Service said that a person in front of the stage had shouted “gun,” but that no weapon was found.

During a different trip to the city, the president mispronounced “Nevada” and insisted to the crowd that his pronunciation — “Nev-AH-da” — was correct.

INDY FAST FACTS Danny Tarkanian Job: Businessman Party: Republican In current office: None Birthdate: Dec. 18, 1961 Education: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A.) University of San Diego (J.D.) Other public offices held: None Total Donations: $3,443,619 (8/18/04-5/23/18) Top Donors: Danny Tarkanian $528,440 Stations Casino $74,550 Las Vegas Sands Corp $38,900 Domain.com $26,600 Maloof family $18,000
INDY FAST FACTS Mark Amodei Job: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District Party: Republican In current office: 2011-present Birthdate: June 12, 1958 Education: University of Nevada, Reno (B.A.) University of Pacific (J.D.) Other public offices held: Nevada Republican Party chairman (2010-2011) State senator, Capital District (1998-2010) Assemblyman (1996-1999) Total donations: $3,720,285 (2009-2018) Top donors: Barrick Gold $43,000 Las Vegas Sands $42,100 Sierra Nevada Corp $39,000 American Society of Anesthesiologists $39,000 National Association of Home Builders $37,000 Last Report: 5/23/18 Credit: Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Jacky Rosen Job: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District Party: Democrat In current office: 2017-present Birthdate: August 2, 1957 Education: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (B.A.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $7,133,798 (2017-2018) Top donors: EMILY's List $178,768 League of Conservation Voters $80,270 DE Shaw & Co $69,500 University of Nevada $40,038 Omni New York $32,400 Last Report: 6/11/18 Credit: Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Ruben Kihuen Job: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Nevada’s 4th Congressional District Party: Democrat In current office: 2017-present Birhdate: April 25, 1980 Education: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A.) Other public offices held: State Senator, District 10 (2010-2016) State Assemblyman, District 11 (2007-2010) Total donations: $987,929 (2012-2018) Top donors: Naqvi Injury Law $10,800 Border Health $10,000 Jobs, Opportunities & Education PAC $10,000 Tpp Export America $10,000 UNITE HERE $10,000 Last Report: 12/31/2017 Credit:  Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Catherine Cortez Masto Job: U.S. Senator Party: Democrat In current office: 2017-present Birthdate: March 29, 1964 Education: University of Nevada, Reno (B.A.) Gonzaga University (J.D.) Other public offices held: Nevada State Attorney General (2007-2015) Total donations: $20,683,341 (2011-2018) Top donors: EMILY's List $565,735 League of Conservation Voters $401,508 J Street $185,558 University of California $77,798 University of Nevada $57,754 Last Report: 12/31/2017 Credit: Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Jim Wheeler Job: State Assembly Minority Leader Party: Republican In current office: 2012-present *Assembly Republican Leader since 2017 Birthday: November 8, 1953 Education: Attended Pierce College Attended University of Southern California Other public offices held: None Total donations: $357,821 (3/1/2010-6/4/2018) Top donors: Las Vegas Sands $12,500 Thomas Starrett $12,400 Grand Sierra Resort and Casino $7,500 MGM Resorts International $7,500 Nevada Realtors PAC $7,000
INDY FAST FACTS Dean Heller Job: U.S. Senator Party: Republican In current office: 2011-present Birthdate: May 10, 1960 Education: University of Southern California (B.A.) Other public offices held: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Nevada's 2nd Congressional District (2007-2011) Nevada Secretary of State (1995-2007) State Assemblyman (1990-1994) Total donations: $21,463,574 (2005-2018) Top donors: Station Casinos $117,900 Votesane PAC $92,000 MGM Resorts International $74,500 Blackstone Group $48,400 Capital Group $38,800 Credit: Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Adam Laxalt Job: Nevada State Attorney General Party: Republican In current office: 2015-present Birthdate: August 31, 1978 Education: Georgetown University (B.A.) Georgetown University Law Center (J.D.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $8,262,050 (1/08/14 - 6/07/18) Top donors: Station Casinos/Zuffa/Fertitta $208,500 Las Vegas Sands $75,000 Marnell Properties LLC $42,500 Starpoint Resort Group/Partners $40,000 MGM Resorts $35,000
INDY FAST FACTS Brian Sandoval Job: Nevada Governor Party: Republican In current office: 2011-present Birthdate: August 5, 1963 Education: University of Nevada, Reno (B.A.) Ohio State University (J.D.) Other public offices held: U.S. District Court Judge (2005-2009) Nevada State Attorney General (2003-2005) Nevada Gaming Commission Chair (1999-2001) Nevada Gaming Commission Member (1998-2001) State Assemblyman, District 25 (1994-1998) Total donations: $4,984,248 (1/07/11 - 7/5/17) Top donors: Caesars Entertainment $245,000 Station Casinos $158,072 MGM Resorts International $160,000 Wynn Resorts $80,000 Marnell Properties LLC $70,000
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