SCRANTON - Barely acknowledging the criticism of his latest controversial remarks, Donald Trump used a rally here to intensify his attacks on Hillary Clinton and try to blunt any convention bounce coming her way.

Speaking to a few thousand supporters who packed a college gymnasium a few hours north of Philadelphia, the Republican presidential nominee dismissed the tenor of the Democrats' convention and the portrayals of their nominee.

Trump said he had no objection to a woman president but called Clinton "a disaster" who would set back women "a long way."

He also laughed off descriptions of her as "change maker," the term her husband had used Tuesday night in his effusive keynote address.

The Democrats "probably paid $2 million" to the creator of that slogan, Trump quipped.

"I came up with 'Crooked Hillary' all by myself," he said.

Like at many of his rallies, the nominee was short on details but generous with his attacks and promises. "You're going to have jobs flowing in, believe me," he pledged.

But the crowd, including some who waited for hours to enter, soaked it up, thumping the Lackawanna College gym bleachers and breaking into chants of "Lock her up," the latest rallying cry against Clinton.

They booed when Trump referred to reporters as "the most dishonest human beings." Someone shouted: "The media sucks!"

Besides trying to steal some of Clinton's convention spotlight, Trump's visit reflected how crucial Pennsylvania could become in the race.

On Friday, Clinton will use an Independence Hall rally to kick off a cross-state bus tour with her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. Next month, she's expected to return to Scranton, where her father was born, with Vice President Biden, another Scranton native.

Trump's arrival came just hours after the GOP presidential nominee sparked another firestorm when he called upon Russia to find emails missing from Clinton's server. Democrats accused Trump of encouraging espionage, and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, sought to distance himself from the comments.

Trump didn't repeat the remark or answer the criticisms during his Scranton event.

Instead, he made light of accusations that Russia had leaked Democratic Party emails on his behalf. "I'm sitting there watching, saying, 'What did I do?' " he said.

He also reiterated his desire to work with Russia. "Wouldn't it be a great thing if we could actually get along with Russia?" Trump said, asserting that the United States was being "ripped off" in trade deals.

Joined onstage by Pence, Trump said he had been asked about having "broken the rules" by campaigning during the other party's nomination convention.

"Well, guess what? We're campaigning," he said.

He slammed Clinton for her remarks earlier this year about moving the nation away from its reliance on fossil fuels, effectively putting "a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

Addressing the region's blue-collar laborers, Trump said: "Hang in, because we're going to put you back to work. That's going to be a beautiful thing to see."

The message resonated with Pete Miller, a retired machinist from Union County who stood in a line of rally-goers snaking down Jefferson Avenue to enter the event.

Miller, 78, said he was once a Democrat - back in the days of Kennedy and Johnson. But he gave up in 1999 and has been a Trump supporter from Day One of the billionaire's campaign.

"I like building that wall," Miller said.

Another supporter was Joseph Soika, 63, of McAdoo. Trump, he said, was "100 percent for the American people."

"He's going to get rid of half the politicians or more in Washington, D.C., I hope," said Soika, a retired laborers union member who wore a button that read "Hillary sucks!" He said immigrants in the United States illegally are "depleting" this country.

"It's time for a big, big change," Soika said.

The crowd was so big, organizers had to turn away several hundred.

Among those left outside, a small crowd gathered around anti-Trump demonstrator Jonathan Chrisdiansen, 38, and Trump supporter Ray McCourt, 26, as they argued their sides.

Chrisdiansen described himself as a "de facto" Clinton supporter and held a workers' power flag. He called Trump a "narcissist" who would hurt working Americans. "He shipped jobs overseas," Chrisdiansen said.

McCourt, who wore a blue blazer, a tie, and a "Make America Great Again" cap, said Trump's candidacy was selfless.

"He could be living in his millions of dollars," said McCourt. "I believe he really wants to make a difference."

Mimi Jones, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom from Scranton, said she had never trusted politicians - until Trump came along.

"This is going to be my first time voting," she said. "I never voted because I thought it's all the same." Trump is different, she said.

Inside, the nominee told the crowd it would be "nice" if the Republican Party united around his candidacy.

But he said it didn't matter.

"We open up states . . . meaning you," he said. "I'm a messenger. That's all I am."

609-989-8990 @maddiehanna

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