Trump plays down Michelle Obama’s ‘no hope’ criticism
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Trump plays down Michelle Obama’s ‘no hope’ criticism

President-elect looks to avoid spat after first lady tells Oprah, ‘Now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like’

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Ladd–Peebles Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Mobile, Alabama. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Ladd–Peebles Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Mobile, Alabama. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

MOBILE, Alabama (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump said first lady Michelle Obama “must have been talking about the past” when she said there’s no sense of hope after his election.

Trump, speaking Saturday at the final rally of his post-election “thank you” tour, then resisted escalating the spat further, suggesting “she made that statement not meaning it the way it came out.”

But as Trump praised the Obamas for treating him so nicely when he visited the White House shortly after the election, many in the Mobile, Alabama, crowd booed the first family.

Michelle Obama, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey set to air Monday on CBS, said she was now certain that her husband’s victory had inspired people because “now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like.”

In the interview, which was taped Wednesday in the White House residence, she said the public will eventually appreciate what a reassuring presence her husband was during the past eight years. She compared him to the person who doesn’t freak out when a toddler bumps his head, causing the child to start crying. “I feel that Barack has been that for the nation in ways that people will come to appreciate,” she said. “Having a grown-up in the White House who can say to you in times of crisis and turmoil, ‘Hey, it’s gonna be OK. Let’s remember the good things that we have. Let’s look at the future. Let’s look at all the things that we’re building.'”

“All of this is important for our kids to stay focused and to feel like their work isn’t in vain. That their lives aren’t in vain,” Mrs. Obama added. “What do we do if we don’t have hope, Oprah?”

First lady Michelle Obama 'winks' and gestures to guests after after speaking following the screening for the movie 'Hidden Figures,' Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
First lady Michelle Obama ‘winks’ and gestures to guests after after speaking following the screening for the movie ‘Hidden Figures,’ Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Trump’s comments about Michelle and President Barack Obama was one of the few conciliatory notes he sounded during a victory tour in which he showed few signs of turning the page from his blustery campaign to focus on uniting a divided nation a month before his inauguration.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama wave to supporters during a campaign rally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. (AP/Chuck Burton)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama wave to supporters during a campaign rally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. (AP/Chuck Burton)

At each stop, the Republican gloatingly recapped his election night triumph, reignited some old political feuds while starting some new ones, and did little to quiet the hate-filled chants of “Lock her up!” directed at Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

At the tour’s finale at the same football stadium in Mobile that hosted the biggest rally of his campaign, Trump saluted his supporters as true “patriots” and made little attempt to reach out to the more than half of the electorate that didn’t vote for him.

“We are really the people who love this country,” said Trump.

He reminisced about his campaign announcement and his ride down Trump Tower’s golden escalator. His disputed a newspaper’s account of the size of the crowd at one of his rallies and bashed the press as dishonest. And he joked that he had booked a small ballroom for his election night party so, if he lost, he “could get out!”

He paid homage to the August 2015 rally in the same stadium that he said jump-started his campaign. Though the crowd was not as large on Saturday, it was no less fervid, repeatedly chanting “Build the wall!” when Trump renewed his vow to build an impenetrable border at the Mexican border.

Trump brought his nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, up onstage to receive cheers from his hometown crowd. When Trump’s plane landed, he received a water cannon salute from a pair of fire trucks and was greeted by several Azalea Trail Maids, local women dressed in antebellum Southern Belle outfits.

The raucous rallies, a hallmark of his campaign, are meant to salute supporters who lifted him to the presidency. But these appearances also have been his primary form of communication since the Nov. 8 election.

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Mobile, Alabama. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Mobile, Alabama. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump has eschewed the traditional news conference held by a president-elect within days of winning. He’s done few interviews, announced his Cabinet picks via news release and continues to rely on Twitter to broadcast his thoughts and make public pronouncements.

That continued Saturday morning when Trump turned to social media to weigh in on China’s seizure of a US Navy research drone from international waters, misspelling “unprecedented” when he wrote “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters – rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act.”

He later corrected the tweet. China said Saturday it intended to return the drone to the US.

Within days of beating Clinton, Trump suggested to aides that he resume his campaign-style barnstorming. Though he agreed to hold off until he assembled part of his Cabinet, Trump has repeatedly spoken of his fondness for being on the road. Aides are considering more rallies after he takes office, to help press his agenda with the public — a possibility that Trump embraced from the stage Saturday.

But Trump has also sounded some notes of unity on the tour. In Mobile, he acknowledged that “now the hard work begins” and ended with a plea for all Americans, including those who did not support him, to “never give up.”

After the rally, Trump planned to return to Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach estate. Aides said the president-elect probably would spend Christmas week there and could stay until New Year’s.

Earlier Saturday, he announced the nomination of South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney to head the Office of Management and Budget, choosing a tea partyer and fiscal conservative with no experience assembling a government spending plan.

Mulvaney, a founder of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, has taken a hard line on budget matters, routinely voting against increasing the government’s borrowing cap and pressing for major cuts to benefit programs as the path to balancing the budget.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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