Former President Donald Trump baselessly railed against what he called “prosecutorial misconduct” at a campaign rally Saturday night in Texas, denying any wrongdoing amid investigations in New York, Georgia and Washington.
Without evidence, Trump repeatedly described the probes as politically motivated efforts to hamper his 2024 presidential bid during his rally in Waco.
“Prosecutorial misconduct is their new tool, and they’re willing to use it at levels never seen before in our country. We’ve had it, but we’ve never had it like this,” he said. “We must stop them and we must not allow them to go through another election where they have yet another tool in their tool kit.”
Behind Trump, supporters waved signs printed by Trump’s campaign that said: “Witch hunt.”
Trump called the investigations “bullsh*t,” and said local prosecutors in Manhattan and Fulton County are the “henchmen” of national Democrats.
“Our opponents have done everything they can to crush our spirit and break our will,” he said. “But they’ve failed. They’ve only made us stronger.”
The rally at the Waco Regional Airport was a return to the mega-rallies reminiscent of Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns, as the Republican field for the 2024 presidential race begins to take shape.
The former president’s return to his favorite event staging came as he is faced with investigations in New York City over a hush money payment, in Georgia over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith over classified documents the FBI found at Mar-A-Lago, his attempts to steal the 2020 presidential election and his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into Trump’s role in an alleged hush money payment scheme to adult film star Stormy Daniels is believed to be nearing its final stages. Trump, on his social media network Truth Social, has predicted his own arrest, and warned that it would lead to “potential death & destruction” and “could be catastrophic for our Country.”
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has admitted to paying $130,000 to Daniels just before the 2016 election to stop her from going public about an alleged affair with the former president.
Trump has denied the affair and denied it again on Saturday night, referring to Daniels in derogatory terms.
The Manhattan grand jury investigating Trump did not conclude this week.
In other probes, Trump’s defense attorney Evan Corcoran appeared Friday before a federal grand jury in Washington, where he was expected to answer questions in the classified documents probe that the former president unsuccessfully fought to hold back. And a federal judge ordered several former Trump aides, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, to testify before a grand jury as part of the criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
At the rally, Trump also attacked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – who appears to be inching toward his own presidential bid, with early polls suggesting he could be a formidable contender.
He took credit for DeSantis’ victory in the 2018 Florida governor’s race. DeSantis won re-election in a landslide last year, despite Republicans’ worse-than-expected performance nationwide. He also said DeSantis deserved little credit for Florida, which he said has “been successful for decades” thanks to previous GOP governors.
Trump also said DeSantis was too aggressive in taking public safety measures early in the coronavirus pandemic, and that other Republican executives in states such as South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee had done better.
“I’m not a big fan,” Trump said of the Florida governor. “He’s a disciple of Paul Ryan. … That’s why he wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare.”
Trump also highlighted Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meeting this week in Moscow. He described both as “very smart people” and said the two “talking about the world order for the next 100 years” was “one of the saddest things you can imagine.”
“I get along well with Putin,” Trump said, adding that the Russian president discussed Ukraine regularly. “He wanted to get a piece,” Trump said. “Now it looks like he’ll probably end up getting the whole thing.”
Supporters believe investigations are politically motivated
Ahead of Trump’s rally in Waco, many Trump supporters argued Saturday that if the former president is indicted, it would only help his chances of retaking the White House in 2024, with some echoing Trump’s baseless claims that the Manhattan district attorney is politically motivated.
“If 100 million people are going to vote for him, if they do indict him you’re going to get 120 million people voting for him because they’re just – you can’t keep taking an honest man down,” said Mike Gilbert, who was one of the thousands in line hours ahead of Trump’s rally.
Another supporter, Debby Cravey, said Trump would be a “shoo-in” for the presidency if he gets indicted.
“One hundred percent. If they do that, he’ll be a shoo-in,” Cravey said.
Bobby Wilson, along with more than a dozen other Trump supporters interviewed by CNN on Saturday, said if Trump were to be indicted it would not change his opinion or support of Trump whatsoever and he would still vote for him in 2024.
“It doesn’t change a thing about his integrity and everything else. We all have sin. We all have some things that we’ve done,” Wilson said.
Todd Castro argued the probe by the Manhattan district attorney’s office amounted to “persecution.”
“The way I look at it, it’s going to build him up even more,” Castro said. “He’s going to have more press time, his face is going to be out there more often and all that and Trump’s a fighter so he’s going to make it through this.”
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner appeared to acknowledge the political risks associated with indicting a former president on Sunday morning, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I hope whoever moves forward has a rock-solid case.”
The Waco rally comes 30 years after the federal and state law enforcement raid on the Branch Davidian doomsday cult’s compound in Waco – a 51-day siege that resulted in the deaths of 86 people and has since come to be viewed on the far right as a symbol of government overreach.
Trump has not linked the campaign rally with the Waco siege, and a spokesperson for the former president said earlier Saturday that Waco was chosen as the rally site because of its central location. The location is accessible to many of Texas’ population centers – less than a three-hour drive from Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.
“This is the ideal location to have as many supporters from across the state and in neighboring states attend this historic rally,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement.
This story has been updated with additional details.