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Trump campaign rolls through Monessen

| Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 7:02 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks at a campaign stop at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
President Trump's rally will coincide with the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which he elected not to attend in a break from tradition.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks at a campaign stop at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks at a campaign stop at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks at a campaign stop at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump speaks at a campaign stop at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Brett Ryan, 18, of New Castle awaits the arrival of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at a campaign stop at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum arrives at a campaign event for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Santorum spoke with media and expressed his endorsement of Trump.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Don Tirpak, 43, of North Apollo takes a photo during a campaign event for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Ray Trice, an employee at AlumniSource, awaits the arrival of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum arrives at a campaign event for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at AlumniSource in Monessen, PA on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Santorum spoke with media and expressed his endorsement of Trump.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump spoke Tuesday afternoon at a manufacturing facility in Monessen, a financially struggling mill town where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1.

"Although Monessen is not a Republican stronghold, I think Mr. Trump is probably targeting areas a little differently than past Republicans. His message will resonate with Monessen residents," said Michael Korns, chairman of the Westmoreland County Republican Committee.

The event drew former presidential candidate and one-time U.S. Senator Rick Santorum to Monessen to support the Republican nominee.

Santorum said he supports Trump's push for free trade.

"His message is that our current policies have devastated western Pennsylvania and he wants to change that. I'm here to stand and cheer him for doing that."

The Trump campaign announced the speech would be about "Declaring American Economic Independence." It was Trump's first policy statement since returning from the United Kingdom, which recently voted to exit the European Union, causing financial markets to plunge.

One of the indications the speech would be policy-focused was the appearance of teleprompters on either side of the podium. Trump, who has mocked other candidates for using teleprompters, began using the devices himself once he became the presumptive nominee and was expected to deliver coherent policy positions.

The Monessen event wasn't open to the public. It started at 2:30 p.m. at Alumisource, which provides shredded scrap to the aluminum and steel industries.

For those from out of town - especially out of town media - Monessen Mayor Lou Mavrakis offered a primer:

Christine Banford of Rostraver drove to Monessen with her two teen-age sons to catch a glimpse of Trump.

They don't have tickets to the invitation-only speech, but came hours ahead of his arrival to see the presumptive GOP Presidential nominee.

"He's different. He wants to bring change to our country. It's change that hasn't been done before," Banford said.

But not everyone outside the Monessen venue was a Trump fan.

In two previous campaign rallies in Western Pennsylvania, Trump vowed to restore lost manufacturing jobs, particularly in the steel and coal mining industries, and to renegotiate free-trade deals that he said have decimated the region's economy. The promises made crowds cheer but lacked specifics.

Alumisource owner Gabe Hudock said he's a long time Republican backer.

GOP officials were seeking out an Industrial site for the speech and reached out to Hudock to use his plant, which employs about 50 workers.

"We're privileged and honored," Hudock said.

Donald Trump has made a fortune off the foreign trade deals that he has railed against during his presidential campaign, an Ohio senator and the head of the United Steelworkers union told reporters Tuesday in advance of Trump visit.

"Trump talks about making America great again, but he doesn't make things in America," said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who participated in a conference call with United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard.

Brown rattled off a list of Trump's business products that have been made overseas, from business suits, cufflinks and teddy bears in China to furniture in Turkey, picture frames in India and shirts in Bangladesh.

"He could've fought to make these products here, but he hasn't," Brown said.

"There is nothing that Donald Trump has outsourced that couldn't be made in America if he was committed to it. He's a hypocrite," Gerard said.

Brown said that Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has a "forward-looking vision with a real plan" for improving the American economy and breathing new life into the U.S. manufacturing sector, pointing to her proposals to appoint a trade prosecutor and triple enforcement of trade laws.

Trump "says a few of the right headlines, but he never really dives in … He has no real plan, just a string of promises," Brown said.

"I think American workers are smart, and they'll see through his baloney," Gerard said.

Locally, Walt Geiger, President of the Westmoreland County Labor Council and AFSCME 1474 member, said "Donald Trump has personally profited from sending jobs overseas and consistently lines his own pockets at the expense of working people. We can't trust anything he says about trade."

Geiger said, "We won't be fooled into believing that Trump is fighting for the best interests of working people."

Democrats launched a rally in front of Alumisource about an hour before Trump was scheduled to speak.

About a dozen protesters held up signs blasting Trump.

The group included college students and other locals who said Trump's economic policies were dangerous to Pennsylvania and especially the Mon Valley.

"We're representing hundreds of people who would be here but they'd lose their minimum wage jobs," said Maureen Dudas, of Unity Township.

It wasn't just Democrats and labor groups critical of the Republican nominee.

Trump rolled out a seven-step plan to bring back jobs.

He said he would withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal; he'd appoint the "toughest and smartest trade negotiators," direct the commerce secretary to identify every violation of trade agreements, and tell North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners he intends to renegotiate. Trump said if the NAFTA partners don't agree to renegotiate the deal, he would submit notice under Article 2205 to withdraw from NAFTA. Trump also said he would instruct the Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator and he would instruct U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the World Trade Organization. He said if China does not stop illegal trade activities, he would use "every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes."

He said, "On trade, on immigration, on foreign policy, we are going to put America First again."

Tuesday morning, House Republicans released their long-awaited Benghazi Committee report, but it was anti-climactic from a campaign standpoint.

Trump, a prolific tweeter, was silent before the speech Tuesday.

Clinton, on the other hand, took advantage of a Washington Post investigation debunking Trump's charity claims.

And during Trump's speech, she tweeted evidence suggesting he does not practice what he preaches.

Separate polls released Sunday showed Trump trailing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, one by 5 percentage points and one by 12 points.

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