Trump Targets Retiring Joint Chiefs Chairman and F-35 Program Ahead of South Carolina Campaign Stop

by Braxton Taylor

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. — Former President Donald Trump ramped up his campaign schedule with a visit to South Carolina on Monday after a busy weekend online that included threats to the media, multiple accusations of treason and a claim he could design a better fighter jet than the military.

The Republican presidential front-runner, who has spent far less time on the campaign trail than his leading rivals, began his trip to small-town Summerville with a meet-and-greet with volunteers at a local campaign office and a visit to a local gun store, where he admired a Glock.

He later addressed supporters outside a boat manufacturing facility, where he showed off a slew of new South Carolina endorsements, including from the state’s attorney general, its secretary of state, its House majority leader and other members of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

While his rivals have been busy holding town halls and visiting local diners, Trump has spent much of the last months responding to his mounting legal troubles. He has been indicted four times in four jurisdictions and faces 91 criminal charges, but that has yet to hurt his standing in the GOP primary.

In a sign of his dominance, he’s going to skip the second Republican primary debate on Wednesday, as he did the first, and will instead visit Michigan to voice his opposition to President Joe Biden’s automotive policies amid an auto workers strike.

Trump, who has vowed retribution if he wins a second term, spent the weekend lashing out at the media and others on his Truth Social platform. Among his targets: NBC News and MSNBC, which he claimed “should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason.'” He once again slammed the free press — a cornerstone of U.S. democracy — as its “true threat,” while warning “The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!’”

Trump often casts unflattering coverage and stories he doesn’t like as ”fake.”

Beyond his complaints with the press, Trump lashed out at Mark Milley, the retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, over phone calls he made to China in the final stormy months of Trump’s presidency. Milley has defended those calls as “routine” and “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job.

But Trump on Friday claimed Milley had committed “an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act.” He said Milley’s retirement ”will be a time for all citizens of the USA to celebrate!”

Trump also laced into congressional leaders as he pressed Republicans to embrace a looming government shutdown — “UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN!” he urged — and again called for the ouster of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “the weakest, dumbest, and most conflicted ‘Leader’ in U.S. Senate history.”

Trump was just as displeased with McConnell’s Democratic counterparts. “EVERY DEMOCRAT SHOULD RESIGN FROM THE SENATE!” he said, in the wake of a sweeping bribery indictment against New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.

He also claimed, after the recent crash of an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter aircraft in South Carolina, that as president he had told the the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin numerous times that the F-35 Fighter Jet was “in effect, DEFECTIVE, because it only has one engine” — and that he also advised Boeing against developing the 737 MAX before a pair of crashes.

He insulted his former U.N. Ambassador and current GOP rival Nikki Haley, a native of South Carolina, calling her “Birdbrain.” And he took the time to criticize shock jock Howard Stern, calling him “a broken weirdo, unattractive both inside and out, trying like hell to be relevant!”

Trump last visited the state last month, when he spoke at the state GOP’s largest annual fundraiser in Columbia.

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Associated Press writer Michelle Price contributed to this report from New York.

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