Trump reiterates anti-immigrant rhetoric at New Hampshire rally

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CNN
 — 

Former President Donald Trump doubled down on language condemned for its ties to White supremacist rhetoric, saying at a campaign event in New Hampshire on Saturday that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.”

The comments mark another instance of Trump using increasingly violent rhetoric in his campaign messaging. At his most recent campaign event in New Hampshire prior to his appearance Saturday, Trump used the word “vermin” to describe his political rivals, drawing broad condemnation, including from President Joe Biden, who likened his comments to “language you heard in Nazi Germany.”

Trump told a crowd gathered in Durham, New Hampshire, on Saturday that immigrants “from all over the world” are “pouring into the country,” reiterating a phrase he used previously that sparked outcry from the Anti-Defamation League.

“They’re poisoning the blood of our country. That’s what they’ve done,” Trump said. “They poison mental institutions and prisons all over the world, not just in South America … but all over the world. They’re coming into our country, from Africa, from Asia, all over the world.”

Following Trump’s use of the phrase in October, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt linked his language to ethnically motivated massacres in Pittsburgh in 2018 and El Paso, Texas, in 2019.

“Insinuating that immigrants are ‘poisoning the blood of our country’ echoes nativist talking points and has the potential to cause real danger and violence. We have seen this kind of toxic rhetoric inspire real-world violence before in places like Pittsburgh and El Paso. It should have no place in our politics, period,” Greenblatt said in October.

The former president is planning a widespread expansion of his first administration’s hardline immigration policies if he is elected to a second term in 2024, including rounding up undocumented immigrants already in the US and placing them in detention camps to await deportation, a source familiar with the plans told CNN last month.

Trump on Saturday reiterated his proposal to “restore and expand” the travel bans he first implemented toward some countries in 2017 and pledged to “implement strong ideological screening for all illegal immigrants.” The travel ban targeted many Muslim-majority countries and African nations, leading critics to argue they were racially motivated.

Trump traveled to New Hampshire to lock down support as he tries to solidify his status as the 2024 Republican front-runner in the final weeks before the state’s first-in-the-nation GOP presidential primary.

In his first trip to the Granite State in over a month, Trump held a rally in the college town of Durham in one of the state’s most liberal counties. He’ll follow that up with an event in Reno, Nevada, on Sunday and then Waterloo, Iowa, on Tuesday – his second visit to the Hawkeye State in a week.

The burst of campaigning underscores an aggressive effort by Trump’s team to maintain his dominating lead when polls give way to actual voting. His advisers have privately voiced concerns that Trump supporters could simply assume he has a comfortable advantage in the race and is not reliant on their votes.

“We are leading by a lot, but you have to go out and vote,” Trump told supporters Wednesday night in Coralville, Iowa.

Trump’s visit to New Hampshire comes a day after rival Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, wrapped up his own one-day sojourn in the Granite State. It also comes as another opponent, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, appears to be gaining momentum there, punctuated by a recent endorsement by the state’s popular governor, Chris Sununu, who has long made clear his opposition to Trump’s candidacy.

DeSantis said Friday that Trump will claim the results of the New Hampshire primary are illegitimate if he doesn’t win.

“If Trump loses, he will say it’s stolen no matter what, absolutely,” he told reporters in Concord, New Hampshire.

DeSantis also hit Trump’s engagement with New Hampshire voters, asking: “When’s the last time he stood on a stage and just took questions from voters? Has he done that at any point during this campaign? He certainly hasn’t done it on a debate stage.”

Sununu told reporters Tuesday that he believed the Republican primary in New Hampshire was a two-person race.

“This is a race between two people. Nikki Haley and Donald Trump. That’s it … with all due respect to the other candidates,” Sununu said.

Following Sununu’s endorsement, Trump bashed the New Hampshire governor as “unelectable” and labeled Haley as having “no chance of winning.”

A Trump campaign adviser told CNN shortly after news of Sununu’s endorsement was first reported that the team has no plans to shift its strategy in response to Haley’s growing prominence in the race.

It’s unclear what impact Sununu’s endorsement will have on the primary. A recent Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom poll in Iowa suggested DeSantis’ support there grew only nominally from an endorsement by another popular governor, Kim Reynolds.

A CNN/University of New Hampshire poll of likely voters in New Hampshire’s Republican primary released last month showed Trump with 42% support. Haley, his closest challenger, was at 20%.

Trump is even more dominant in national polls. A Pew Research Center survey released Thursday found 52% of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters name the former president as their top choice in the primary. His nearest challenger was DeSantis, at 14%.

Trump pushed back on the notion that Haley, with Sununu’s help, is gaining ground on him. “There’s no surge. They don’t have any surge,” Trump told supporters in Iowa on Wednesday.

This story and headline have been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Steve Contorno, Jeff Zeleny and Alison Main contributed to this report.

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