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Trump stays out of Senate primary in Vegas rally; pans Biden border policy as ‘bullshit’

Six attendees were transported to a hospital amid nearly triple-digit heat, while the former president promised to stop taxing tips as income.
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
Election 2024

Ahead of former President Donald Trump’s Las Vegas rally on Sunday, he reportedly planned to endorse a candidate in the state’s pivotal GOP primary on Tuesday for U.S. Senate.

But instead, the former president used his hourlong, freewheeling speech to imitate President Joe Biden, read poetry, rebut a four-year-old magazine article and lament the state of the border dozens of times, punctuated by an inaccurate statement that every job created under Biden went to an undocumented immigrant.

The rally, held amid a heat wave at Sunset Park in southern Las Vegas that resulted in six hospitalizations, marked Trump’s third visit to the Silver State this year and first since he was convicted of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, becoming the first former president to be a convicted felon. Trump only alluded to the convictions in his first campaign-sponsored rally since the jury verdict was announced, criticizing Biden for weaponizing the Department of Justice and falsely claiming that the president had 10 times more classified documents in his possession than Trump did.

Trump instead opened his speech with harsh criticism for Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who he referred to as “your Biden-loving radical left senator.” He promised to defeat her, but, notably, did not tell the crowd of thousands whom to support just two days before the state’s primary election.

Hours after the rally ended on Sunday evening, Trump formally endorsed veteran Sam Brown on his Truth Social social media website. Brown is an Army veteran who has personally appealed to Trump and who has the National Republican Senatorial Committee advocating on his behalf. 

The endorsement spells trouble for Jeff Gunter, a wealthy dermatologist and former ambassador to Iceland who is backed by one of Trump’s top donors in the state.

Brown has had significant leads in fundraising and in the limited polling conducted in the race.

At one point, Trump — in the midst of a rant about how the teleprompter stopped functioning as it had done at an Ohio rally— noted that both states’ Senate races featured a candidate with the last name Brown.

“You have a good man named Brown right here,” Trump said. “They have a man [Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)] that's not so good.”

Sam Brown, Republican candidate for Nevada U.S. Senate, during a campaign rally for former President Donald J. Trump at Sunset Park in Las Vegas on June 9, 2024. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Trump spent the weekend in Nevada, attending a high-dollar fundraising dinner Saturday night hosted by a group including Las Vegas businessman Don Ahern. Brown and Gunter attended the rally, and Gunter, whom Ahern is backing, was at the Saturday fundraiser and spoke with the former president, according to Gunter’s campaign. 

Instead, the most notable rally announcement came when Trump said he would call on Congress to end the taxation of tips as president. That pledge — likely to benefit hospitality workers and others in the service industry — was met with skepticism by the Culinary Workers Union, which represents 60,000 hospitality workers in Southern Nevada and has already committed to canvassing for Biden.

“Relief is definitely needed for tip earners, but Nevada workers are smart enough to know the difference between real solutions and wild campaign promises from a convicted felon,” the union said in a statement.

The heat

Thousands of Trump devotees descended Sunday on the more than 300-acre park , an area with limited shade on a day where temperatures later hit triple digits. The rally was part of Trump’s stretch of events in the Southwest that included an outdoor rally in Phoenix where 11 attendees were hospitalized because of the heat.

Hundreds of attendees left the main area of Trump’s rally during his speech, as the sun emerged after hours of cloud coverage. 

During the event, the Clark County Fire Department treated 24 people, and six people required transport to a hospital, according to a county spokesperson, who added that most, if not all, calls were related to heat. In addition, 97 people used cooling tents.

Trump, 77, appeared unbothered by the weather — his first line was “it’s not too hot out here, right?” — and joked that his campaign was so concerned about attendees’ well-being that they did not consider his own.

“Everybody was so worried yesterday about you, and they never mentioned me,” he said. “I’m up here sweating like a dog.”

The rally setting prompted fierce condemnation from the environmental group Climate Power, an organization focused on electing politicians who support policies to address the effects of climate change. In a statement, Alex Glass, a spokesperson for the group said Trump is “making promises to Big Oil executives who are fueling the climate crisis while people are passing out at his rallies from very real, very dangerous heatwaves that he says are caused by a hoax.”

Brenda Reeves, a 69-year-old Las Vegas wedding officiant, spent some time in the medical tent and said she is prone to overheating. 

But she said seeing Trump was worth it. This was her first time attending a Trump rally out of safety concerns for herself after the Jan. 6 insurrection, where she said Trump supporters “were framed.”

Kris Waugh, 72, also retreated to a limited shade area during Trump’s speech. She arrived at the event at around 9 a.m. It was also her first time at a Trump event but said she was willing to go out in the heat for him.

“He is the most honest man I’ve ever met,” she said.


Between digressions about ISIS, sharks and a reading of The Snake, a poem he has used since 2016, the bulk of Trump’s speech focused on immigration. The issue was top of mind for Trump in the same week that Biden signed an executive order shutting down new asylum requests if border crossings reach a certain threshold, a move that progressive groups panned as too extreme. 

Promising to “close the border” on the first day of his presidency, Trump drew contrasts between his and Biden’s border policies. Border crossing figures have been significantly higher throughout Biden’s administration than Trump’s, though Trump incorrectly asserted that he presided over the “most secure border in the history of our country.”

Calling the new policy “bullshit,” Trump said Biden’s action was little more than a “PR ploy” when he could reinstate Trump-era border policies if he were serious about the issue. The Biden administration does plan to use the same legal defense that the Trump administration frequently deployed to defend many of his border-focused executive orders.

“Crooked Joe signed an executive order that is pro-invasion, pro child-trafficking, pro-woman trafficking, pro-human trafficking and pro-drug dealers,” Trump said. “It's weak. It's ineffective.”

In a statement, Maca Casado, a Biden spokesperson for Hispanic media, criticized Trump’s remarks as disparaging against the immigrant community.

Democrats have hammered Trump in recent days, with the Democratic National Committee launching billboards in Las Vegas on Saturday, calling Trump a “convicted white-collar crook” and a “disaster for Nevada’s economy.” The progressive group Battle Born Progress also released two mobile billboards on Trump’s conviction and efforts to curtain abortion access.

Rest of the speech

Without a teleprompter — an absence he complained about frequently — Trump’s speech was full of long asides and anecdotes, including an extended refutation of a 2020 article in The Atlantic asserting that he called Marines who died in World War I “losers” and “suckers,” a discussion of disliking the commercials on Fox News and a live poll of attendees on whether they preferred “Crooked Joe” or “Sleepy Joe” as a nickname for Biden (“Crooked” won handily).

Trump spent much of his time launching personal attacks on Biden, painting him as an incompetent leader who frequently embarrasses the country and making fun of his gait and speech patterns through imitations. Trump, whose 78th birthday is next week and who told attendees singing him “Happy Birthday” that by a certain age “you just want to pretend the day doesn’t exist,” was careful not to ding Biden, 81, on his age. 

The president’s problem, he said, is unconnected to being an octogenarian.

“He’s a corrupt, very dumb person,” Trump said of Biden. “He’s a low-IQ individual. If you go back 30 years ago, he was considered the dumbest person in the Senate.”

Trump also suggested Biden should take a drug test before their scheduled televised debate on June 27, repeating a conspiracy theory that the president’s performance at the State of the Union was artificially enhanced.

Campaign surrogates speaking at the rally earlier in the day spoke of Trump in zealous terms. Firebrand right-wing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) compared Trump’s conviction to the persecution of Jesus Christ, while Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald, who was indicted by a grand jury over his role as a fake elector in 2020, framed the event in sacred terminology.

“What more can be said than thank God we’re here, at Sunset Park, to worship and bring back the greatest president we’ve ever known in our generation,” McDonald said.

Updated on 6/9/24 at 7:21 p.m. to include Trump's endorsement of Brown after the rally.


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