Donald Trump, addressing several thousand screaming fans at the Anaheim Convention Center, on Wednesday seized on the release of a government report critical of Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails as secretary of state and vowed to “make a big, big play for California.”
California is so heavily Democratic that no Republican has carried the state since George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Republican Party registration has fallen below 28 percent statewide.
Yet Trump, focusing on manufacturing losses in the state, told the crowd, “It’s a disaster what’s happening to you.”
He lit into Clinton, calling her as “crooked as they come.”
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“She had a little bad news today, as you know,” he said. “The inspector general’s report – not good.”
In its report, the State Department inspector general said Clinton should have preserved emails by printing and filing them and, at a minimum, “should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service.”
Because she did not do that, the inspector general wrote, “she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”
A Clinton spokesman said the report illustrated that her email practices were consistent with other officials who used personal email.
Trump’s appearance drew protests, and hundreds of law enforcement officials in riot gear surrounded the convention center. The scale of tension appeared far less than in clashes outside a Trump rally in Albuquerque, N.M., the previous night. Following the rally, a police helicopter circled over protesters, with an officer saying over the loudspeaker, “You must leave now.”
Trump, appearing in California for the first time since becoming the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, isn’t expected to compete seriously in the state in November.
A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California released Wednesday found Clinton and fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in a virtual tie two weeks ahead of the primary election in California. The same poll found both Democrats well ahead of Trump in general-election matchups.
But his other, private appearance, on Wednesday – a high-dollar fundraiser at the Los Angeles home of real estate investor Tom Barrack – suggested how critical the state still could be.
Trump largely self-financed his primary campaign, a fact he used to portray himself as not beholden to special interests. But as he prepares for a showdown with Hillary Clinton, the probable Democratic nominee, he is seeking to raise money from Republican donors who either sat out the primary or supported his rivals.
In another sign of his ongoing effort to court members of the party’s political and professional classes, Trump was preceded on stage by Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller of Bakersfield and former Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway.
We’re going to make a big, big play for California.
One protester carrying a large likeness of Trump said he was ejected from the convention grounds when supporters realized the likeness was a piñata.
As Victor Valladares, a 30-year-old Latino American from Huntington Beach, spoke with reporters on the sidewalk outside the convention hall, a man walking into the rally yelled at him to “go back to Mexico.”
Inside the convention center, Trump, who has proposed building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, joined with the crowd in chants of “Build that wall!”
Fans filed into the convention center four hours before Trump arrived, many waving American flags and wearing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats.
“I supported him from the beginning, even when there were 17 (Republican candidates),” said Steve Love, a real estate broker from Granada Hills.
Love said he supports Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border and his promise to “stop all those major companies from leaving” the United States.
“For me,” he said, “what’s not to love?”
Trump arrived in Southern California as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders continued to crisscross the region. Clinton, who is all but certain to become the Democratic nominee, has increasingly turned her attention to Trump. In the Los Angeles area on Monday, she accused Trump – based on audio clips from 2006 – of rooting for a housing market collapse from which he could profit.
Trump previously did not include California in the list of Democratic-leaning states he said he could flip in the November election, and he acknowledged difficulties for Republicans here.
“If Ted Cruz had won, they wouldn’t be competing for California. They wouldn’t even be talking about California,” Trump said.
He added, “With me, I think we’re going to.”