President Donald Trump gave a rallying cry at a campaign event Thursday night in Huntington, West Virginia, as the state’s Democratic governor, Jim Justice, announecd he was joining the GOP.
Democrats “can continue their obsession with the Russian hoax or they can serve the interests of the American people,” Trump said after Justice’s announcement. “Try winning at the voting booth.”
In the small city along the banks of the Ohio River, whose 49,000 residents have been hard-hit by the opioid crisis and job losses, Trump blasted the investigations into possible ties between Russia and his 2016 campaign, “fake story that is demeaning to all of us and most of all demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.”
Earlier in that day, news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury as part of the federal probe into Russia.
Huntington has captured national attention in recent years for its staggering number of opioid overdoses — in one case, 26 overdoses in a few hours. As the opioid epidemic unfolds, the region has dealt with deep job cuts in the coal industry and many residents are struggling to find work. Nearly 68 percent of the state supported Trump in the 2016 election; in Cabell County, where Huntington is located, 59 percent of voters supported him.
The New York Times, in breaking the news about Justice’s possible party switch, notes that the governor has previously been a registered member of both parties and also an independent.
Earlier this week, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which Trump established by executive order in March and is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, asked that the president declare a national state of emergency to usher in a more urgent response to the country’s fight against this public health crisis. In 2016, an estimated 59,000 people died after overdosing from opioids, according to data analysis from a New York Times.