On Wednesday, former President Donald Trump traveled to the site of the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, in what may be an effort to shore up support in a district where he has a strong lead while undercutting his chief political rival, President Joe Biden.
The trip is one of his first major out-of-state forays the former president has made since announcing his 2024 presidential campaign in November 2022.
In the 2020 general election, Trump won Columbiana County, where East Palestine is located, with over 70% of the vote.
However, the former president currently trails Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in several polls for the Republican primary even though DeSantis has not yet announced his own 2024 candidacy.
Trump’s campaign confirmed that the former president intends to donate thousands of bottles of water and cleaning supplies during Wednesday’s trip, according to a report from the Washington Examiner.
The Feb. 4 train derailment caused dozens of cars carrying toxic gas vinyl chlorine to release the toxin into the surrounding area, potentially contaminating the local water supply and soil.
Trump was joined by East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), state Rep. Monica Robb-Blasdel (R), state Sen. Michael Rulli (R) and other local officials.
Some MAGA vendors have also reportedly traveled to the town in conjunction with Trump’s visit, reportedly planning to sell merchandise and donate profits to the recovery effort.
Trump and allies have harshly criticized Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg of their handling of the cleanup, going so far as to take credit for some of the federal aid sent to the region.
“Biden and FEMA said they would not be sending federal aid to East Palestine. As soon as I announced that I’m going, he announced a team will go. Hopefully he will also be there,” he wrote on Truth Social over the weekend. “This is good news because we got them to ‘move.’ The people of East Palestine need help. I’ll see you on Wednesday!”
Trump claimed that the Biden administration has continually “failed” the community of East Palestine in its response efforts, while an adviser to the former president said that Trump’s trip will show that he “will never forget” the people within the community.
Trump also attacked Biden for his visits to Ukraine and Poland in recent days to commemorate the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine rather than making a visit to East Palestine.
Trump visited with East Palestine residents, delivering a direct message to Biden: “Get over here.”
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