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Sanders takes turn in Duluth, calls Trump 'pathological liar'

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From left: Brad Morberg, Kathy Gilchrist, Will Middleton and Alex Waxman cheer as Bernie Sanders takes the stage at a rally to support Keith Ellison at Denfeld High School in Duluth Friday. Ellison is running for Minnesota attorney general. Tyler Schank / Forum News Service2 / 5
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders listens to a supporter Friday while walking through the crowd at Keith Ellison campaign rally at Denfeld High School in Duluth. --- Clint Austin / Forum News Service3 / 5
Senator Bernie Sanders gestures during his speech at a Keith Ellison campaign event on July 13. Ellison is running for Minnesota attorney general. Tyler Schank / Forum News Service4 / 5
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders greets Keith Ellison Friday during a campaign rally for Ellison at Denfeld High School in Duluth. Ellison is running for Minnesota Attorney General. Clint Austin / Forum News Service5 / 5

DULUTH, Minn.—Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said Sen. Bernie Sanders enjoyed the view descending Thompson Hill into the city Friday.

"Just as much as we do," she said.

Arriving a short time later at Denfeld High School Auditorium, it was Sanders in full view. Pinwheeling across a 50-minute midterm rally speech, the Vermont senator and defacto leader of the progressive movement in the country found an audience eager to react and even chant his name.

"It's not Bernie," he responded. "It is you."

The Democratic Party rally was the second of the day in support of Rep. Keith Ellison's bid to become Minnesota attorney general.

The duo started in Minneapolis before bringing their energy into the 92-year-old auditorium Ellison mistakenly thought belonged to "Deerfield High School." Quickly correcting himself, Ellison explained his decision this spring to surrender his safe 5th District Congressional seat and pursue another political post.

"For me, it is all about service," he said. "How can I help the most people the fastest?"

Ellison's campaign estimated roughly 1,000 people gathered at Denfeld, nearly filling the lower bowl of the auditorium while leaving the balcony mostly empty.

The Trump rally in downtown Duluth earlier this summer drew several times that number. But Larson spun the event as good for late in the day on a sunny Friday.

"This is what democracy looks like," she said.

Both Ellison and Sanders drew plaudits for condemning the current national controversy over the separation of children from migrant families at the Mexican border and their slow reuniting. Ellison said he would never "sit by and let a government strip parents away from their children."

Ellison kept President Donald Trump at arm's length, referring to him once as "the guy with the orange hair."

Providing a stark contrast, Sanders unloaded on the president. Keeping his remarks entirely related to Trump's domestic matters, Sanders called the president "a pathological liar" — referencing the high number of statements challenged by fact-checkers throughout his presidency so far.

"It is not good for the political process to be debased," Sanders said. "The leader of our country lies all the time."

Sanders drove home his point that Trump's policies and efforts were benefiting a billionaire 1 percent over a working and farming class he said the president had promised throughout the 2016 election to represent. Sanders repeatedly aimed his comments directly at the president under the refrain, "President Trump ... you lied."

Sanders, a one-time and still popular prospect for president, hardly seemed to shrug off his possibilities for the role.

"We live in unprecedented political times," Sanders said. "We are living in a pivotal moment in history."

Sanders said progressive ideas such as a livable $15 minimum wage, health care as a right for all people, equal pay for women, and other people-first values were favored by the majority. He pointed out places where progressive movements were taking root and noted that ideas once thought to be wild and impossible were becoming the norm.

He cited the June victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a Democratic congressional primary in June in New York state as a sign of change.

"She ran on a progressive platform," he said. "She didn't step away from it."

Late Friday it was being reported nationally Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez would campaign together for fellow progressives in Kansas next week.

Sanders thundered into all corners of the national divide. Under Trump, the Supreme Court was on track to become more conservative, he said. Despite vowing to fight Trump's recent nominee to the high court, Brett Kavanaugh, Sanders predicted the court could even be asked to remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions who are in need of health insurance.

It was one of a number of what he called absurdities he confronted in his speech.

He said if billionaires could get tax cuts, the country could forgive untenable student debt loads. He renewed his call to make tuition free at state institutions of higher education.

"It's absurd to punish people for the crime of having gotten a decent education," he said.

Sanders joined Larson and Ellison in stumping to build numbers in the Democratic Party. All three said thousands of volunteers and new voters would be required to resist Trump and overtake the right wing majority.

Larson called on people to vote and get others to the polls, starting with the Aug. 14 primary election.

"Voting is what changes our community," she said. "Voting is what puts us on the path where we need to be."