A volunteer at Donald Trump’s Indiana rally has been caught trying to block a news photographer’s lens at an event where the US president decried “political censorship”.
The man attempted to obscure the journalist’s view of a protester while Mr Trump paced on stage, waiting for the interloper to be led away.
During the rally in Evansville on Thursday night, the billionaire repeated his attacks on social media companies he claimed were biased against him.
“We as a country cannot tolerate political censorship, blacklisting and rigged search results. We will not let large organisations silence conservative voices,” Mr Trump said.
Google has pushed back strongly against claims it was loading its search results against the president, who first complained in a tweet apparently after watching a Fox News segment suggesting 96 per cent of Google results were from “national left-wing media”.
“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology,” the company said in a statement.
A separate claim by Mr Trump – that Google had failed to promote his State of the Union address despite having done so for Barack Obama – was debunked online. Google had put a link to live coverage of the 2018 speech on its home page, and did not use one for Mr Trump’s 2017 address to Congress because it was not technically a State of the Union speech.
It had made the same decision for Mr Obama’s first-year address, it said.
Mr Trump used his time on stage at the rally, which was held to drum up support for Mike Braun, the Republican senatorial candidate in November’s mid-term elections, to attack the news media and to suggest he could “get involved” with the Department of Justice and the FBI if the people heading those bodies failed to “start doing their job and doing it right”.
It appeared to be yet another attack on the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who has faced an onslaught of criticism from his boss after he recused himself from the investigation into Russian election meddling.
The comments came as the president faced several changes in his legal team and aides feared he may not be fully prepared for any fallout from Robert Mueller‘s federal probe.
Shortly before holding the rally the Republican attacked Mr Mueller’s investigation as “illegal” during an interview at the White House.
Mr Trump plans to spend more than 40 days on the campaign trail between the beginning of August and the 6 November mid-terms.
Officials said the president wanted to be on the road stumping for Republicans more frequently than Mr Obama had been for the Democrats in 2010 – when that party suffered a defeat Mr Obama called a “shellacking” – and more often than George W Bush in 2002.
The GOP is hoping to hold onto its majorities in the House and Senate in the face of retirements and an energised Democratic opposition.
Heading into the final months of campaigning, Democrats are increasingly bullish about their chances of capturing the 23 seats they need to retake the House. But flipping the Senate remains a much tougher prospect, given that 10 incumbents are running in states Mr Trump won in 2016.
For his part, Mr Braun pledged to be a “true ally” to the president, “not somebody that says something when you’re in Indiana and does something differently when you’re in DC”.
Mr Trump called the candidate a “special guy” and said he would be a “truly great senator”.