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Trump: ‘The only crime that I’ve committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it’

The former president addressed supporters in Florida, in his first statement after being charged with 34 crimes for falsifying records in order to hide three under-the-table payments

Donald Trump
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Mar-a-Lago Club April 4, 2023 in West Palm Beach, Florida.JOE RAEDLE (Getty Images via AFP)
María Antonia Sánchez-Vallejo

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Former president Donald Trump claimed to be a victim of political persecution in a speech delivered Tuesday night from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. In the address, he argued that he had been under constant attack from the Democrats — first from the Mueller special counsel investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and then from two impeachment trials, from which Trump was acquitted. He thus put an end to a dizzying day, in which hours earlier he had been indicted in New York for three under-the-table payments made during the 2016 campaign to hide alleged extramarital affairs. If Trump felt injured by the indictment, he did not let it show, although he did address the press without his usual energy.

Dressed as he was in his earlier appearance in New York, Trump accused the Manhattan District Attorney’s office of interfering in the 2024 presidential race at “a scale never seen before in our country” — Trump announced his intention to run last year, and, according to the polls, is the favorite to win the Republican presidential primaries. The former president accused the “radical left” in power of pursuing the hush money case against him, and said it should be “dropped immediately.” The phrase “radical left” was repeated throughout the speech.

Trump went on to attack Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of interfering in the 2024 White House race, arguing he was backed by philanthropist and investor George Soros, who is one of the Republican Party’s main enemies.

“I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” said Trump, who said the indictment showed that the country “is going to hell.” The former president is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records linked to the hush money paid during the 2016 presidential campaign. According to the indictment, those false records cover up attempts to violate state and federal election laws. The indictment is the first against a sitting or former president in U.S. history.

“The only crime that I’ve committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it,” Trump said, who described the legal offensive against him as an insult. In addition to the New York indictment, Trump is facing several other federal and state investigations. These include a probe into whether he withheld classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his role in instigating the 2021 assault on Capitol Hill, and his efforts to influence the election results in the state of Georgia.

Trump devoted much of his lengthy speech to complaining about the criminal investigations — including joking about tweets published by the wife of prosecutor Bragg — instead of conveying a broader message, in electoral terms, capable of rallying and mobilizing the crowd. He didn’t need to: he had a captive audience. He also painted a bleak picture not only domestically, but also of global challenges such as the threat from China. “We are a nation in decline and now, these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement,” he said.

“Our justice system has become lawless,” Trump said. “They’re using it now — in addition to everything else — to win elections,” he added to rapt applause. The former president referred to President Joe Biden as a lunatic, and claimed attorney Bragg was a “criminal,” who went after him before knowing anything about the case. Trump also saved some ammunition for the judge overseeing the case, Juan Merchan, who he described as “a Trump-hating judge,” and even for Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by the Department of Justice to supervise all cases related to Trump, who he called a “lunatic special prosecutor.”

Among the audience that silently followed his words, there were numerous people wearing the red caps of his MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement. Trump said that he has no plans of bowing down to the threats against him, as he intends to “make America great again” — the closest thing that came to an election slogan.

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