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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Celebrate Freedom Rally in Washington, U.S. July 1, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump honoured military veterans in Washington on Saturday at a Kennedy Center event that resembled both a political rally and an evangelical Christian religious service ahead of the July 4 Independence Day holiday.

Using the podium again to lash out at the news media, Trump worked to energise evangelicals in his political base, noting that the U.S. currency was inscribed with the words: “In God We Trust."

"Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago, America always affirmed that liberty comes from our creator. Our rights are given to us by God, and no earthly force can ever take those rights away," he said.

Attendees at the event for veterans waved miniature American flags from their seats in the theatre and raised their hands as a sign of praise while a large choir sang ahead of Trump's remarks.

The president praised veterans from each of the U.S. military branches and highlighted his administration's work to reform veterans' services.

Trump, who is spending a long weekend at his property in Bedminster, New Jersey, flew back to Washington for the rally but did not spend the night at the White House, preferring to return to Bedminster.

Later, in a rare late-night post on Twitter, which he uses prolifically and sometimes controversially, Trump wrote:

"We will always take care of our GREAT VETERANS. You have shed your blood, poured your love, and bared your soul, in defence of our country."

Trump has held campaign-like rallies regularly during his first few months in the White House and kicked off his own re-election campaign far earlier than other incumbents in recent history.

Part of his strategy to connect with his supporters has included criticizing the media, and he included harsh words for the press again in his remarks.

"The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them," he said. "The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I'm president, and they're not."

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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