At National Rifle Association annual meeting on Friday, President Trump trained his fire on Democrats and the Mueller investigation for what he called a failed ‘coup’ attempt—one he boasted of having defeated without a gun.
“They tried for a coup, didn’t work out so well. And I didn’t need a gun for that one, did I?” he said to the Indianapolis crowd. “All was taking place at the highest levels in Washington, D.C. You’ve been watching, you’ve been seeing.”
He continued: “You’ve been looking at things that you wouldn’t have believed possible in our country. Corruption at the highest level. A disgrace. Spying, surveillance, trying for an overthrow. And we caught them. We caught them.”
The speech to the pro-gun group, held at at Lucas Oil Stadium, demonstrated Trump’s view of the NRA as core to his base. He repeatedly emphasized how he is a “champion for the Second Amendment,” and promised to continue to defend “America’s future” from his political enemies.
“America’s future has never been brighter and yet Democrats have never been angrier,” he said. “Especially now that their collusion delusion has been exposed to the world as a complete and total fraud.”
As his fifth consecutive speech to the annual meeting, Trump’s speech marked his need for a continued close relationship with the gun lobby and its activists—who spent more than $30 million in his 2016 election. In turn, Trump has tirelessly pushed for the NRA’s agenda, often rejecting gun reform proposals in the wake of high-profile mass shootings. He used Friday’s speech as a platform to push NRA members to vote in droves.
“Far-left radicals in Congress want to take away your voice, your jobs, your rights, and they especially want to take away your guns. You know that,” he said. “They want to take away your guns. You better get out there and vote.”
The president’s speech seemed to piggyback off Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action spoke, who called for the gun group to unite around Trump while simultaneously warning that Democrats “hate us. They hate our trucks, they hate our plastic straws, and yes, they hate our guns.” He added: “But what they fail to understand is we don’t give a damn what they think.”
Before departing for the Indiana speech, Trump addressed a slew of similar issues on the White House South Lawn, calling out Mueller’s probe into the 2016 election, slamming ex-veep Joe Biden for his age, and doubled down on his 2017 claim there were “very fine people on both sides” at a Charlottesville white-supremacist rally.
In another attempt to clarify those comments, which were highlighted in Biden’s campaign announcement video, Trump responded: “I’ve answered that question and I was talking about people who went because they felt very strongly about the statue of Robert E. Lee. Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals.”
Vice President Mike Pence also spoke at the Indianapolis meeting, introducing Trump and solidifying their administration’s “first-day promise” that gun rights will not be touched. “I’ll make you a promise: under this president, and this vice-president, no one is taking your guns,” he said.
“The National Rifle Association stands for freedom,” he said. “It won’t be enough to win the next election. We’ve got to win the next generation.”
The NRA has had a rough few months. The group’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, fretted in a March fundraising letter that the NRA could shut down “very soon.” And as The Daily Beast previously reported, the gun-rights org has been caught up in a scandal involving Maria Butina, a Russian national who pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as a covert Kremlin agent. She courted NRA leaders as part of that effort.