For the first time since leaving office, former President Barack Obama publicly addresses President Donald Trump by name in an Illinois speech on the 2018 midterm campaign trail. In his speech, President Obama rebukes a brand of politics that he says is steeped in fear and division.
Former President Obama Hits 2018 Campaign Trail, Breaking His Silence on President Trump
LESTER HOLT, anchor:
Good evening, everyone. Barack Obama is back in the game tonight. Now abandoning all subtleties to deliver a pointed takedown of President Trump and what he called the crazy stuff coming out of the White House. A public rebuke many Democrats have longed for. As Obama was in Illinois calling these dangerous times and rallying Democrats to vote for sanity in November, TV cameras were capturing a remarkable split screen moment. President Trump taking his own road trip, mocking Obama and calling on his attorney general to go after the writer of that anonymous New York Times op-ed. Our coverage begins with NBC's Kristen Welker.
KRISTEN WELKER, reporting:
Tonight, an epic clash between bitter rivals, the President and his predecessor.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You need to vote because our democracy depends on it.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Isn't this much more exciting than listening to President Obama?
WELKER: In Illinois, former President Obama coming off the sidelines for the first time since leaving office and taking on President Trump by name.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause.
WELKER: Rebuking a brand of politics, he says, is steeped in fear and division. Mister Trump responding in North Dakota.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I watched it, but I fell asleep. I found he's very good, very good for sleeping.
WELKER: The two leaders have been adversaries since Mister Trump launched his political career by questioning whether Obama, the nation's first African-American president, was born in the U.S. A feud Mister Obama revived today.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party. Embraced wild conspiracy theories like those surrounding Benghazi or my birth certificate.
WELKER: And he excoriated Mister Trump for his controversial response to last year's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We're supposed to stand up to discrimination and we're sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?
WELKER: Mister Obama casting this election as much larger than one man.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The stakes really are higher. The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire.
WELKER: Mister Trump making the midterms a referendum on his own future.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: They'll say we want to impeach him and you'll impeach him. It's so ridiculous, but we'll worry about that if it ever happens. But if it does happen, it's your fault because you didn't go out to vote.
WELKER: Two presidents fighting for the midterms and America's future. Kristen Welker, NBC News, the White House.
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