At a Republican campaign rally in Ohio on Saturday, accused sexual predator Donald Trump hugged and lavished praise on Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, who is accused of ignoring the sexual assault of dozens of athletes by a former physician at Ohio State University, when Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
And Trump supporters loved it.
“Jim Jordan, how great is he?” Trump asked, before Jordan walked on stage at a sweltering high school gymnasium with no air conditioning in Lewis Center, in central Ohio.
As Jordan took the stage, the crowd shouted “Speaker of the House,” a reference to the congressman’s ongoing efforts to replace Paul Ryan, despite the scandal surrounding him, which include allegations of possible witness tampering via former wrestling coach Russ Hellickson. Jordan continues to deny that he was aware of the sexual abuse that occurred at the university by the late doctor Richard Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005.
“What a great defender he’s been, what courage. I’ll tell you what, there’s a brave, tough cookie, along with some of his friends. They are, you know, I just looked. I didn’t know he was gonna be here,” Trump said about Jordan. “I don’t wanna wrestle him. He’s tough.”
In order for Jordan to have a shot at the congressional leadership role, Republicans will have to fight off a so-called “Blue Wave” of Democratic challengers hoping to take back control of the House and Senate in upcoming midterm elections. Trump’s appearance on Saturday night aimed to boost the campaign of Republican Troy Balderson, who will face Democratic challenger Danny O’Connor in a special election for Ohio’s 12th Congressional District on Tuesday. Balderson leads O’Connor in polls by only 1%, with about 11% of voters still undecided.
The rest of Trump’s speech was filled with his usual talking points, false claims, and attacks on the media and Democrats. The Ohio event was Trump’s third campaign rally in a week, following speeches in Pennsylvania and Florida.
What Trump didn’t repeat was a racist attack he waged the night before against NBA star and philanthropist LeBron James, a hometown hero in Ohio. On Friday night, Trump insulted the intelligence of both James and CNN host Don Lemon on Twitter. A spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump countered Trump’s statement by defending James, apparently aware that it might not make good political sense to attack an NBA legend the night before appearing in his home state.
Trump did, however, find a way to attack the intelligence of another prominent African American leader, California Rep. Maxine Waters.
“You know, they’re talking about this Blue Wave—I don’t think so…Maxine Waters is leading the charge. Maxine. She’s a real beauty. Maxine. A seriously low IQ person. Seriously,” Trump said, to the jeers and applause of his crowd.
One other interesting detail happened during Trump’s latest rally trip: Former White House communications director Hope Hicks was seen boarding Air Force One before it departed New Jersey en route to Ohio.
Hicks resigned last February after admitting to Congress that she frequently lied on behalf of the president. Hicks, who was incredibly close to Trump, is thought to be either a witness or a potential co-conspirator in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation of the president. Her presence with Trump aboard Air Force One Saturday night prompted a flurry of questions on social media, including comments that ranged from calling the move “reckless” to speculation that Hicks may have been wearing a wire.
We will see.