WHEELING, W.Va. – President Donald Trump sounded familiar themes – among them economic growth, foreign policy, immigration and health care – during his speech to a friendly crowd in Wheeling on Wednesday. But his biggest applause lines were when he talked about coal, natural gas and steel.

Trump was at WesBanco Arena for a private fundraiser arranged by Murray Energy President and CEO Robert Murray. Between 900 and 1,000 people attended.

He referred to former President Barack Obama’s policies as “a disaster for the coal industry,” then listed various regulatory initiatives his administration has rolled back or is in the process of altering. That has meant “$40 billion in relief to the American coal industry,” Trump said to applause from a crowd, including many who work in it.

In contrast, had Obama-era programs remained in place, “the coal industry would have been gone,” the president said.

There is evidence the industry is making a comeback, Trump said, noting that U.S. coal exports last year were 92% higher than the previous 12 months.

His comments were aimed partly at rank-and-file miners. Important new measures to protect miners’ health and safety are being implemented in Australia, Trump said, adding to applause that, “We’re following suit.”

More applause came when he discussed efforts, including new tariffs, to protect U.S. steel companies against foreign competition. “Our steel companies are coming back,” Trump said, adding, “No business has come back as big as the steel industry.”

And there was talk about natural gas, with the president noting that industry was given a boost by his administration’s approval of major interstate pipelines such as the Keystone XL project.

There was a reference to Wednesday’s big national news – former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress. Trump had little to say about Mueller, other than to comment, “I wouldn’t say that performance was too good.”

Wednesday’s event drew governors, top legislators and members of Congress from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, with several drawing commendations from Trump. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice returned the favor, telling the crowd that when he telephones Trump for help with a state-related issue, “He always takes my call.” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine paid tribute to Trump’s “commitment to the coal industry.”

Murray himself paid high praise to Trump, bringing the audience to its feet in applause by referring to him as “the greatest friend, the biggest champion of the coal industry.”

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