WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is heading to Iowa on Thursday for a campaign rally while the Senate inches closer to a critical vote that will decide the scope of his ongoing impeachment trial and whether lawmakers will hear from witnesses.
Trump is rallying in Iowa four days before Democrats there hold the nation’s first presidential nominating caucus, and the president’s campaign has described the event as a “good workout for our ground game” ahead of the November general election.
The rally is the president’s fourth in 2020, and it marks his first return to Iowa since he traveled there in June to tout his efforts to promote gasoline with higher blends of ethanol – a popular position with many Iowa farmers. The president has scheduled a rally in New Hampshire early next month ahead of that state’s primary.
Thursday’s rally could be especially compelling as it sets up a split-screen moment between the president and the ongoing trial, where senators lobbed questions at White House lawyers and Democratic impeachment managers for a second day. The Senate could vote as soon as Friday on whether to extend that trial by calling witnesses.
Trump’s visit to Iowa initially appeared to offer the president an opportunity to take a victory lap. Senate Republican leaders had signaled the impeachment trial could wind down as soon as Friday, potentially yielding the long-expected acquittal on charges that Trump abused his power by withholding military aid to Ukraine.
But that timeline was thrown into question earlier this week when The New York Times reported that a forthcoming memoir by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton alleges the president demanded Ukraine officials open an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. foreign aid.
The allegation was at the center of Trump’s impeachment, and the bombshell revelation left some centrist senators open to extending the trial by calling Bolton and potentially other witnesses. It’s not clear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the votes to block the calling of witnesses.
Supporters began lining up at the Knapp Center at Drake University more than a day before the president was set to touch down in the state, according to the Des Moines Register. Trump made a stop in Michigan earlier Thursday to highlight his new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, a rare bipartisan win for the president that will have implications for Iowa farmers and manufacturers.
“It’s the best agreement we’ve ever made,” said Trump, speaking to a cheering crowd of workers at an axle plant near Detroit. “We’re bringing jobs back to America, and they’re coming back fast. They’re coming back right here to Michigan.”
Days after the rally, as Iowans caucus, the Trump campaign is expected to send an unusually long list of GOP heavyweight surrogates to the state, including Cabinet officials, congressional leaders and members of Trump’s family.
Contributing: Detroit Free Press, Des Moines Register