President Donald Trump left behind Washington’s bruising partisan battles for friendlier territory in Louisiana on Tuesday, touting the state’s energy industry before a supportive crowd in Cameron Parish and then visiting Metairie to raise millions of dollars for his re-election campaign.
The fundraiser occurred at the Old Metairie home of businessman Joe Canizaro, who said the event had room for 225 people and was sold out.
A news report from the event said it raised $4 million.
“People absolutely love him,” Canizaro said of Trump, who won 58 percent of Louisiana’s vote in 2016. “They see the results of what he’s done.”
Of course, in the view of his critics, what Trump has done is coddle authoritarian foreign leaders, cut taxes for big corporations and the wealthy, weaken anti-pollution rules, lie repeatedly and initiate a potentially costly trade war with China, one that could especially hurt trade-dependent Louisiana.
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“It takes a lot of nerve for Donald Trump to visit a plant one day after China doubled tariffs on its product,” Zach Hudson, a spokesman for American Bridge, a left-wing super PAC based in Washington, said in a statement. “Even worse, while Trump ignores farmers to hobnob with his millionaire donors, Louisiana crops are rotting due to his disastrous trade war. We hope Trump sleeps well tonight. The Louisiana farmers worried about losing their farms sure won’t.”
But to Canizaro and Boysie Bollinger, who co-hosted Tuesday’s fundraiser, Trump is making America great again.
“He’s really focused on what he said he’d do — the wall, the economy, the jobs, his focus on trade,” said Bollinger, a retired shipbuilder. “As much as people are aggravated by the things he does, he’s a negotiator. His focus is on getting a deal done, not on what’s popular. (People) want someone who will stand up for America.”
Canizaro and Bollinger are longtime Republican fundraisers who chaired Trump’s campaign finance effort for Louisiana in 2016 and will perform the same role for the president’s re-election campaign.
“He’s a doer,” said Canizaro, who first met Trump some 40 years ago in real estate development circles and who worked with him when both men owned teams in the ill-fated United States Football League. At one point, Trump called Canizaro every day for a month at the same time to make a pitch involving league rules.
Asked about the president’s vociferous critics, Canizaro replied, “They don’t know him like I do.”
Bollinger said selling tickets to the event was easy.
“Three people called me today to put up $100,000 apiece,” he said. “We didn’t have room for them. (Trump) is doing everything he said he would do.”
Among the $100,000 donors was Eddie Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman who is running for governor.
The president’s visit caused a predictable rush-hour traffic snarl as police shut down Interstate 10 between Kenner and Metairie while Trump and his motorcade rode to and from the fundraiser.
In all, Trump spent about seven hours Tuesday in Louisiana.
He came to the state at a time of intensifying battles between the White House and Democrats following the release of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller, who probed the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties with Russian operatives and his efforts to keep a lid on the investigation.
Leading Democrats say the findings warrant more investigation, and possibly Trump’s impeachment. Bollinger said the Democrats are only strengthening Trump.
“They’re playing right into his hands,” Bollinger said. “I was skeptical about his ability to be re-elected. Now I think it would be hard not to be re-elected. It’s ridiculous what they’re trying to do.”
Air Force One touched down at Louis Armstrong International Airport at 4:45 p.m. A hundred fifty or so supporters standing behind a metal barricade greeted him with chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” Trump spent nearly 10 minutes talking to them.
Using a black sharpie, he signed the left arm of Caroline Reily of Metairie. Asked afterward when she would wash off the signature, she said, “I haven’t gotten that far.”
Trump had arrived earlier at Lake Charles’ airport accompanied by several members of Louisiana’s Republican delegation to Congress. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham was one of those who greeted the president after he disembarked. Abraham has been spending most of his time in Louisiana as he runs for governor. Several statewide Republican elected officials also greeted the president.
Gov. John Bel Edwards was presiding over a two-day National Governors Association meeting on state cybersecurity in Shreveport, along with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican.
Edwards’ re-election campaign aired an ad on Lake Charles TV stations in which the Democratic governor tied himself to the president. Edwards said the president’s visit demonstrated that southwest Louisiana is growing. The ad didn’t note that the plant that Trump visited had been brought to the state under Edwards' GOP predecessor, Bobby Jindal.
Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser had a surprise for President Trump as he make his second Louisiana trip of the year Tuesday to highlight th…
In the Cameron Parish town of Hackberry, Trump toured a $10 billion export terminal that will liquefy natural gas for storage and shipping. The process involves cooling gas vapor to a liquid state. Sempra Energy announced Tuesday ahead of Trump's visit that the Louisiana plant has begun producing liquefied natural gas.
"Under my administration we have ended the war on American energy and ended the economic assault on our wonderful energy workers," Trump said in a wide-ranging speech to workers .
Declaring that production of liquefied natural gas is increasing, Trump said: "What does it really mean? It means jobs, jobs, jobs." He said that if some Democrats' Green New Deal proposal for aggressively cutting carbon emissions is enacted, "everybody in this room gets fired."
“Today we celebrate the amazing workers at Sempra LNG," the president said. "From right here in Hackberry, Louisiana, you are bringing clean natural gas to countries all over the globe. The skilled and talented 7,000 workers here at this facility are helping lead the American energy revolution."
Trump added that once the facility is fully operational, it will produce 15 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year, enough to meet 25 percent of the European Union’s needs in 2018. Currently, only one of the three structures where the LNG is processed is operational.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. exports LNG to 35 countries on five continents.
LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to a liquid state at minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sempra Energy Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Martin said the facility in Hackberry allows American energy companies to access new markets in Asia and Europe, improve the economic security of America and its allies and bring a cleaner fuel source to the world.
“At the end of the day, this celebration is also about America’s energy renaissance. In its simplest form, think of the LNG facility behind me as a gateway to a more exciting future for American energy,” Martin said.
Sempra announced last month that the Hackberry export terminal had begun feeding natural gas to the first liquefaction unit ahead of ramping up production. The Cameron Parish site is expected to create 10,000 construction jobs as the build-out continues, then hundreds of permanent jobs once it is completed.
While much of Trump's speech was about the role such facilities play in American energy independence and the positive economic news under his administration, he took the opportunity to take jabs at potential 2020 Democratic opponents.
He said former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke is "falling fast," and he mocked former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
"Bernie's got a lot of energy,” Trump told the crowd. “But it's energy to get rid of your jobs."
But the president brought a bit of local content, too. Much to the jubilation of the crowd, Trump promised that if he wins re-election in 2020, he would replace the ailing Calcasieu River Bridge on Interstate 10.
Authorities said several motorcycle escort officers crashed during Trump's motorcade in Lake Charles, but the motorcade itself was not involved. Three of the officers were taken to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries.