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Trump Embattled in Washington, President recharges among fans in Kentucky

“This place is packed,” he exulted. “We’re in the heartland of America, and there is no place I would rather be.”

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An audience member holds up a Make America Great Again sign in a crowd waiting to hear President Donald Trump speak at a campaign-style rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, March 20, 2017. Trump delivered a rollicking populist and nationalist appeal on Monday, promising to renegotiate trade agreements, clamp down on illegal immigration, keep terrorists out of the country – all in the service of putting "America First." play

An audience member holds up a Make America Great Again sign in a crowd waiting to hear President Donald Trump speak at a campaign-style rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, March 20, 2017. Trump delivered a rollicking populist and nationalist appeal on Monday, promising to renegotiate trade agreements, clamp down on illegal immigration, keep terrorists out of the country – all in the service of putting "America First."

(Al Drago/The New York Times)

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President Donald Trump, embattled in Washington, traveled here on Monday to deliver a rollicking populist and nationalist appeal, promising to rewrite trade agreements, clamp down on illegal immigration and keep terrorists out of the country — all in the service of putting “America first.”

In a speech ostensibly timed to push the Republican health care law through Congress, Trump drew deeply on the themes that animated his 2016 campaign, whipping up a rapturous crowd with promises to reopen shuttered coal mines and throw lawless immigrants out of the country.

Trump promised that health care legislation would undo the “disaster” of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. But he presented it less as a cornerstone of his legislative agenda than as a necessary prerequisite to finance deep tax cuts.

We have to get this done to do the other,” Trump declared.

For Trump, who is enduring one of the most difficult stretches of his young presidency, the rally was a chance to bathe in the adulation of a campaign crowd, a sea of people waving placards that said: “Buy American. Hire American” and “Promises Made. Promises Kept.”

“This place is packed,” he exulted. “We’re in the heartland of America, and there is no place I would rather be.”

In the packed stands of Freedom Hall in Louisville, the swirl of questions back in Washington — about the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia or the president’s debunked assertions that he had been wiretapped by his predecessor — seemed a million miles away.

That was exactly the point. Trump’s aides have used these campaign-style events to buoy their boss and provide a respite from the pileup of pressures in Washington. Trump recycled many of his favorite lines from the aftermath of his election victory in November.

On the legislative business at hand, repealing the Affordable Care Act, Trump acknowledged that the Republican bill would have to be changed to make it through Congress. But he offered no details and appeared unconcerned about the ultimate outcome.

We’re going to negotiate; it’s going to go back and forth,” Trump said. “In the end, it’s going to be great.”

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