World / Politics

Trump tries to get back on track with Detroit economic speech amid protests

Reuters, AP

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Monday sought to regain momentum with an economic speech in which he floated new tax breaks and cuts to regulation, as protesters repeatedly interrupted him.

Trump said his plan would include imposing a temporary moratorium on new federal regulations, reducing rates for income and corporate taxes, and establishing new provisions for working parents dealing with childcare costs.

He told the Detroit Economic Club, a traditional venue for political candidates to discuss their economic vision, that policies supported by Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, had hurt Michigan’s economy.

“She is the candidate of the past,” Trump said. “Ours is the campaign of the future.”

Clinton will offer her own economic vision in a speech in Michigan on Thursday. In a statement ahead of Trump’s speech, her campaign said his plan would give tax breaks to the wealthy and big companies, and would hurt working families and trigger a recession.

The Detroit speech was Trump’s first on the economy since announcing a 13-man team of economic advisers last week, which held its first conference call on Sunday. It also came after what was widely seen as his worst week as a presidential candidate for the Nov. 8 election.

“He’s trying to rebuild momentum after his serious stumbles over the past 10 days,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist in Washington. “This is to target voters in general that he’s not just live-tweeting his candidacy, that there is some deeper thought behind his efforts.”

Trump got entangled in days of dispute with the parents of a Muslim American soldier who was killed in the Iraq war, and sparred with party leaders. Frustrated Republicans plan to put forth a conservative alternative to Trump, former top House aide and former CIA officer Evan McMullin.

Trump’s rough ride last week took its toll in opinion polls. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Sunday gave his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, an 8-point lead, 50 percent to 42 percent.

His effort to move to a new phase of the campaign on Monday was marred by frequent outbursts from protesters. Trump waited for the interruptions to end, refraining from his practice at campaign rallies of asking security to “get them out of here.”

Trump on Monday proposed cutting the number of federal income tax brackets from seven to three and reducing the top rate to 33 percent from 39.6 percent. He had previously said he would drop that rate to 25 percent, an idea many tax experts said would dramatically reduce government income and balloon deficits.

He called for a new deduction for childcare costs. There is now a tax credit for child and dependent care, which is determined based on income and capped at expenses of $3,000 for one individual or $6,000 for two.

Trump also repeated his plan for a 15 percent corporate tax rate. The current corporate rate is 35 percent, and Republicans have long sought to reduce it.

Trump’s Detroit event gave him a chance to outline substantive policy proposals before a key audience of business leaders. Bonjean called the Detroit Economic Club, where 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney spoke, a “rite of passage” for White House hopefuls.

The New York real estate developer, who has never held elected public office, touts his practical experience on economic matters and potential to create jobs, blaming President Barack Obama for what he calls a weak recovery from the economic recession.

Trump has vowed to rewrite some international trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico that was signed into law in 1994 by Clinton’s husband, then-President Bill Clinton. Critics blame NAFTA for costing American jobs.

Trump, whose core support is among white blue-collar workers, has long targeted Mexico with a signature, controversial proposal to keep illegal immigrants out by building a wall along the southern U.S. border.

At least a dozen women protested Trump’s economic policy speech Monday by jumping up and shouting in a coordinated effort to disrupt the Republican presidential nominee’s remarks.

One at a time, women seated throughout the audience stood up and yelled “Mr. Trump,” but their continued shouts were quickly drowned out by boos as security led them from the room. An organization called the Michigan People’s Campaign is claiming responsibility. It was hard to hear the women, but the group says they were yelling at Trump about jobs and his comments on women.

“It’s all very well planned out,” Trump said after security had led several protesters out.

One man also stood up toward the end of the event and yelled that Trump has “tiny hands.” That’s apparently a reference to a sexually tinged comment by primary rival Marco Rubio, the Florida senator.

Protesters occasionally disrupt Trump’s larger rallies, where members of the public can enter. But this is the first time he’s faced such sustained resistance at a policy speech delivered to a private group. He was speaking to the Detroit Economic Club and most people in attendance were club members or their guests.

Trump largely stayed on message as security removed the protesters. He paused to let the disruption subside several times and occasionally continued speaking through protesters as the audience offered him applause and standing ovations.

“The Bernie Sanders people have far more energy and spirit,” Trump said after one woman was taken from the room.

Several audience members shouted “we love you, Trump” and other messages of support.

Outside the Cobo Center where Trump was speaking, hundreds of protesters gathered. Some held what appeared to be sections of white sheets with bricks and “No Borders” painted on them. Another sign read: “Trump Demeans Women.” Scrawled on a small cardboard sign was: “Bikers Against Trump.

A much smaller group of Trump supporters gathered nearby. One of their banners read: “Trump, Make America Great Again!”

Some protesters also attempted to wrestle away a large Confederate flag held by a man wearing a Trump T-shirt, before police intervened.