WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — President Donald Trump made his fourth West Virginia appearance since becoming president at the White Sulphur Springs Civic Center Thursday.
Sitting in front of an American flag and a backdrop that read "USA Open For Business," Trump, along with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, Gov. Jim Justice and two of the state's Republican Senate hopefuls, Rep. Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, spoke on tax cuts signed into law in December.
Trump used the early moments of the discussion to reiterate his position on current affairs.
One of the key points in Trump's impromptu introduction was trade with China.
Noting the country's trade deficit with the Asian power, the president told the crowd that something must be done.
"We can't be taken advantage of any longer," Trump said, adding that he believes that the economy has rebounded enough to try to combat trade loss. "You have to go after people who aren't treating you right."
While China was the main subject of the president's trade scorn, he also spent time discussing trade with traditional allies in the European Union and those countries involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Citing a trip to Peru next week, the president shared his hope that a deal can be struck with the other countries involved in NAFTA.
Then the president shifted toward immigration, including his proposed border wall, immigration enforcement and Latin American gangs.
When discussing the countries' lottery-based immigration system, Trump harkened back to his presidential campaign kickoff speech, telling the audience that "you can imagine what those countries put into the system, they're not putting their good ones."
On the issue of sanctuary cities, Trump said the actions of the mayor of Oakland, California, who issued a warning of upcoming immigration sweeps in her community, amounted to obstruction of justice.
Moving back to a more comfortable place, that of an off-the-cuff campaigner, Trump praised West Virginia and touted his campaign's success there.
"You were with me from day one," Trump told the audience.
Before moving on to those impacted by the tax cuts, the state's political leadership represented on stage took turns praising the president and the tax cuts.
Along with some of the state's premier politicians, Trump was also joined at the table by representatives of three West Virginia companies and three West Virginia families who received a windfall from the tax cut, according to a press handout from the White House.
Two of the companies were Elkins-based banks Citizens Bank of West Virginia and Davis Trust Company.
"Our staff is the heart and soul of what makes Citizens successful as a small community bank," said bank President Nathanial Bonnell.
According to the handout, Citizens Bank provided a $1,000 bonus to its 66 employees and Davis Trust provided a 3 percent raise and a cost of living adjustment for its 45 full-time and two part-time employees.
One of those Citizens Bank employees was Anita Jones, who was on hand to also speak with the president.
Jones, who is originally from Indonesia, came to the Mountain State in 2007 and gained her citizenship in 2013.
"This country has given me a lot of opportunities," Jones told Trump.
Explaining how happy the other employees were to receive bonuses — which the bank said were because of the tax cuts — Jones told Trump that she plans to use her bonus pay to take a trip to visit family back in Indonesia with her young son.
White Sulphur Springs itself was represented by Worldwide Equipment, a local truck dealer and service center that provided a $300 bonus to more than 1,100 employees in multiple states.
Terry Dotson told Trump that the tax cuts and changes in energy policy have greatly helped his business and the trucking business in general.
"This country moves on trucks," Dotson said. "Eighty-four percent of the freight of this country moves solely on a truck."
Dotson told the president that the entire trucking manufacturing industry has sold out for this year's build requests and his company and employees believe that is directly related to Trump's policy.
Speaking on the bonus that his company gave out, Dotson used a now infamous quote from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.
"I can tell you that it's not crumbs to them (his employees) when they can pay their car payments and invest in their children's future," Dotson said.
While two of the families on stage came from Hurricane and Huntington, the third was the Lillys of Ghent.
"I'm not a political person by any means," Jon Lilly told the president before adding that he is just a simple family man.
A parts manager for Leslie Equipment, Lilly said that the tax cuts, changes in energy regulations and a proposed spending increase in infrastructure have eased his mind about his job security.
"Our family was blessed a lot by the tax cuts," Lilly said before handing the microphone to his wife.
Elizabeth Lilly told Trump that their tax savings had now averaged out to some $3,500 and that it has enabled the family to travel across the state in support of their daughter who has joined an archery team.
Along with adding time with their daughter, Elizabeth Lilly, who is dealing with health issues, told the president that the savings had enabled the family to stay overnight when she travels to a hospital three hours away, instead of making it a long day trip.
While the tax cut included reductions in the individual tax rate, the greatest decrease was in the corporate tax rate, which dropped from 35 percent to 21 percent.
For single individuals earning less than $38,700 and married couples earning under $77,400, the rate was reduced from 15 percent to 12 percent.
The next tax bracket, capped at $82,500 for single filers and $165,000 for joint filers, was reduced from 25 percent to 22 percent.
Deductions for single filers were increased from $6,350 to $12,000 and for married filers from $12,700 to $24,000.
"We're very proud of the tax cut," Trump said in his closing remarks. "A lot of people are being helped so much."
Speaking on business growth, the president added that he believes as much as $4 trillion would be brought into the country from offshore bank accounts, adding that with increased business spending in the country and increased consumer spending, hopefully manufacturing would be able to return to the nation.
An early supporter of the tax cut, Capito said that she was pleased with Thursday's event and that it reinforced what she believed was going to happen from the outset.
"I thought the stories are powerful," Capito said. "They were plain spoken and went to the heart, where an increase in their money at the end of two weeks or the month has a real impact on everyday families."
The senator also said that she believes the tax cuts are a start to righting the state's economy, which has suffered from the decline in coal and the loss of severance dollars.
"A growing economy is going to help every single county in the bottom line," Capito said. "In terms of the downturn, I think what will really be good for all of these counties is to have stability and predictability to know where they are going to be. I think you're going to see that from now on."
Email Matt Combs at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @mattcombsRH.