President Trump attacks ESPN, touts support from coal miners in West Virginia rally

Trump took the stage following a day of damaging political headlines.

August 21, 2018, 8:38 PM
President Donald Trump arrives for a political rally at Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia, Aug. 21, 2018.
President Donald Trump arrives for a political rally at Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia, Aug. 21, 2018.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Charleston, WEST VIRGINIA -- Mere hours after President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman was convicted on eight charges and his former personal attorney sought to implicate him in a guilty plea for violating campaign finance laws, Trump took the stage at a campaign rally in West Virginia ready to rile up his thousands of supporters in the audience.

While Trump initially didn’t directly mention Paul Manafort or Michael Cohen, at one point he spoke of the Russia investigation repeatedly asking the crowd: “Where is the collusion?!”

“Fake news on the Russian witch hunt," Trump said. "We got a whole big combination. Where is the collusion? They are still looking for collusion -- where is the collusion? Find some collusion. We want to find some collusion.”

Trump kicked off his routine with an opening shot at ESPN, for the company's recent announcement they will no longer broadcast the national anthem in their coverage of Monday Night Football.

"Rather than defending our anthem, and defending our flag, they’ve decided that they just won’t broadcast when they plan the national anthem," Trump said. "So while the players are kneeling, you’re all proudly standing for our national anthem. The ESPN thing is terrible, it just came out."

Earlier upon landing in Charleston, Trump offered his first response to his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort being found guilty on eight different counts in a tax fraud trial in Alexandria, Virginia, telling reporters he feels "very badly" for Manafort.

"It doesn't involve me but I still feel -- you know, it's a very sad thing that happened this has nothing to do with Russian collusion," Trump said. "This is a witch hunt, and it's a disgrace.”

The president did not respond to questions regarding his former personal attorney Michael Cohen's guilty plea to federal prosecutors in New York just hours earlier.

According to the Trump campaign, Tuesday's Charleston appearance marks Trump's third rally in West Virginia since he announced his presidential run in 2015. Trump's visit to the state comes as he looks to gin up support for West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey in his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in the November midterm elections.

"He does not stop. He will fight for you like no one has ever fought for the people of West Virginia," Trump said of Morrisey as he invited the candidate up to deliver brief remarks.

"I like Joe, but Joe doesn't vote, he just doesn't vote for us," Trump told the crowd to boos. "It's a vote for Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, their new leader, Maxine Waters."

Trump's rally followed an earlier announcement Tuesday by the EPA of a policy intended to roll back a sweeping Obama-era Clean Power Plan that Trump and GOP allies have argued put too many restrictions on companies that produce power from coal. The replacement plan from the Trump administration aims to make it easier for electricity produced from coal to compete with natural gas and renewable sources by eliminating requirements for coal plants to install pollution-reducing technology.

With multiple attendees wearing mining hard-hats in his backdrop, Trump touted the announcement as a victory in his administration's efforts to eliminate regulations.

"The so-called Clean Power Plan. Doesn't that sound nice?" Trump said. “We've got the cleanest country in the planet right now. There is nobody cleaner than us and it's getting better and better.”

"We are putting our great coal miners back to work!" Trump said to cheers earlier in the rally.

Almost 40 percent of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. have retired or announced plans to retire between 2010 and 2018, according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

The replacement for the Clean Power Plan predicts that coal will become a bigger part of the nation's energy infrastructure by 2035 but when it comes to jobs coal has seen only slight increases while renewable energy industries like solar and wind energy are some of the fastest growing industries.

In 2016, coal production was at the lowest annual production level since 1979.

ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs and MaryAlice Parks contributed reporting to this article.