Stephanie Innes, Ronald J. Hansen, Jen Fifield and Joshua Bowling
President Donald Trump praised Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally as “brilliant and brave,” and referred to her Democratic opponent Kyrsten Sinema as “very, very strange” on Friday during a visit to Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.
Trump, wearing a red tie, white shirt and an American flag pin on his suit lapel, said that McSally is a “nonpolitician,” someone who is being talked about across the country, and that he’s proud of her.
Trump held a round table with Luke Air Force Base leaders and defense industry executives, including chief executives for Boeing Co., Honeywell Aerospace and Lockheed Martin Corp.
Others attendees included U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, a Republican running to keep her seat in Congressional District 8, and Rep. Tom O’Halleran, who is running for re-election as a Democrat in Congressional District 1.
During the round table, which began shortly after 5 p.m., Trump promised to strengthen the military even more and said Arizona’s status continues to rise in defense. Arizona’s military industry supports 76,000 jobs, he said.
“The U.S. must always invest in a strong military,” Trump said.
He noted the pay increase for service members and modernizing the nuclear arsenal.
Before the meeting, Trump walked through the base with McSally, who wore a red, white and blue dress. They examined bombs inside a hangar and she showed him her necklace, which has an aircraft on it.
Trump also looked inside the cockpit of an F-35 fighter jet and examined an Apache helicopter.
During the round table discussion when Trump took questions from reporters, he was critical of U.S. immigration laws, and said judges are making “horrendous decisions” on immigration that he hopes will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“People are coming over from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and some of these people are hardened criminals, not good people,” he said. “These are tough, tough people and I don’t want them in our country and our country doesn’t want them in our country.”
“Oh, please. Don’t be a baby,” he told New York Times reporter Emily Cochrane, when she asked him to back up his claim about hardened criminals.
Trump reiterated that a wall needs to be built along the southern border and, if anything, it should be higher than previous plans.
When asked about the Saudi government’s latest account that Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight at the consulate in Turkey, he said of the report, “It’s a great first step.”
Trump then discussed the $110 billion pending order for military hardware by the kingdom, much of it involving the companies represented at the meeting.
“I don’t want to go over and tell Marilyn (Hewson of Lockheed Martin) or Dennis (Muilenburg of Boeing), ‘Oh, by the way, I have to take $25 billion worth of sales away from here because that would mean a lot of jobs. Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, but what happened is unacceptable.”
All was quiet around Luke ahead of Trump’s arrival. Police circled the base as a few supporters and protesters staked out spots along Litchfield Road.
Roger Prior, 67, of Sun City, stood outside the South Gate, holding a sign that said, “Vote Sinema, ground McSally.”
Prior is an Army veteran who served in Korea.
“I remember the ’60s, I didn’t do enough of this then … but I’ll be darned I’m doing it now,” he said, about protesting.
Nearby, in the same dirt lot, Dora Polakowski, of Litchfield Park, held a white sign with red letters saying, “Keep America great, vote Republican.”
“I believe (Trump) is making things right one day at a time,” said Polakowski, who wore a Trump hat.
A family and a few other supporters lined up along the wall of a McDonald’s parking lot.
Elizabeth Boggs and Howard Hughes, Goodyear residents, said they were there to support the president. They said people don’t respect the office anymore.
Hughes, an Army veteran, held an American Flag as he looked toward the base.
Boggs said she was excited to see Marine One land.
Inside the McDonald’s, Amanda Jeeter, who works at the restaurant, stopped mopping the floor to talk about her excitement for the president’s visit.
“I like his freedom of speech,” she said. “I feel as if more people should be that way.”
While Trump was at the base, a half dozen cars parked across the South Gate. People stood out on a dirt lot chatting, holding signs and waving to passing cars. Nearly all were Trump supporters.
McSally joined Trump as he left Luke for a rally in Mesa.
Josephine Garza stood with her child and granddaughter, Maria and Athena, outside the base to watch Trump’s departure. She said the president is “making America great again. He is bringing jobs back.”