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Playing electoral defence, Trump claims Biden opposes God

U.S. President Donald Trump billed his trip to Ohio Thursday as a chance to promote economic recovery, but he quickly pivoted to a deeply personal attack on Joe Biden, even questioning without foundation the former vice-president's faith in God.

Democratic presidential rival calls Trump's comments 'shameful'

President Donald Trump speaks during an event at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, on Thursday. (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

U.S. President Donald Trump billed his trip to Ohio Thursday as a chance to promote economic recovery, but he quickly pivoted to a deeply personal attack on Joe Biden, even questioning without foundation the former vice-president's faith in God.

Even for a president known for his blunt criticism, Trump's remarks stood out, and they signalled how contentious the presidential election campaign may get over the coming months.

"He's following the radical left agenda: take away your guns, destroy your 2nd Amendment, no religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God. He's against God. He's against guns. He's against energy, our kind of energy. I don't think he's going to do too well in Ohio," Trump said.

Biden called the remarks beneath the office he holds. "For President Trump to attack my faith is shameful," Biden said.

Trump also used his trip to Ohio to talk trade, telling workers at a Whirlpool plant, "I will stand up to the foreign trade cheaters and violators that hate our country."

Tariffs on Canadian aluminum

Barely one month after a new North America trade agreement went into effect, Trump announced his intention to reimpose 10 per cent tariffs on aluminum imported from Canada, saying that United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has advised him the step was necessary to defend the U.S. aluminum industry. However, the move also sets up the possibility of retaliation against U.S. companies and producers.

"Canada was taking advantage of us as usual," Trump said.

The administration said the president had exempted Canada last year from tariffs he had imposed as long as imports of steel and aluminum from Canada remained at historical levels. But there has been a surge that has intensified in recent months despite a contraction in U.S. demand.

Trump also sought to remind voters of the economic prosperity that much of the nation enjoyed before the coronavirus pandemic and said that he is best suited to rebuild a crippled economy. But his handling of the outbreak has weakened his bid for a second term, causing Trump to spend time and resources in a state he won easily in 2016 but now could be in danger of slipping away.

The virus already altered the trip even before Trump landed, with word that Republican Gov. Mike DeWine had tested positive for the coronavirus. DeWine had planned to meet with Trump and join the president on a visit to the Whirlpool Corp. plant in northwest Ohio. DeWine's office said the 73-year-old governor had no symptoms and was returning to Columbus; later, it said a second COVID-19 test on the governor turned up negative.

Shortly after landing in Ohio, Trump addressed supporters awaiting him. It was at that event where he veered from his economic message and attacked Biden personally.

Biden's campaign issued a statement from the former vice-president in which he said his faith has been the bedrock foundation of his life and provided him comfort in moments of loss and tragedy.

"Like the words of so many other insecure bullies, President Trump's comments reveal more about him than they do about anyone else," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said. "They show us a man willing to stoop to any low for political gain, and someone whose actions are completely at odds with the values and teachings that he professes to believe in."

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