CHARLESTON, W.Va. (CN) – President Donald Trump avoided mention of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen at a Tuesday night campaign rally in Charleston, West Virginia, and instead sought to rally his base ahead of the state’s looming, high-stakes Senate race.
As Trump spoke for nearly an hour of his support for the coal industry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, spectators and reporters alike looked in vain for cracks in the president’s onstage facade.
Only hours before the rally, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to eight felonies, including breaking federal campaign-finance law by arranging payments to two women who said they had sexual relationships with Trump before he became president.
Trump has denied the relationships, but Cohen said in court that he made the payments at Trump’s direction.
Within minutes of Cohen’s plea, Manafort was convicted in federal court in Virginia on eight counts of financial crimes.
Trump addressed the Manafort verdict en route to the West Virginia event, telling reporters that his former campaign chief was “a good man” who worked for former President Ronald Reagan and retired Senator Bob Dole.
But onstage Tuesday night, the closest Trump came to mentioning the day’s extraordinary events was when he slammed the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference as a “witch hunt” and asked: “Where is the collusion?”
The president’s appearance in West Virginia coincided with his administration’s announcement that it intends to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and will give states greater latitude in deciding the appropriate levels of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Trump also endorsed GOP Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey, who is hoping to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in the fall.
Trump told the crowd that Manchin “strongly supported Hillary Clinton after she said ‘we’re gonna put a lot of coal miners out of work.’”
The audience responded with chants of “Lock her up.”
During his brief remarks, Morrisey condemned so-called sanctuary cities across the nation, saying they merely serve to harbor people people who are in the country illegally.
“Our ICE folks at border control have no fear,” Trump said in response, stating that customs officers will be throwing gang members and drug dealers “the hell out of our country.”