Donald Trump on his federal indictment: ‘I will appoint a special prosecutor to go after Biden if I am elected’

The Republican candidate outlines his legal arguments at a New Jersey fundraiser hours after being indicted over the Mar-a-Lago papers

Donald Trump
Former US President Donald Trump gestures after delivering remarks at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster, New Jersey, on June 13, 2023.ED JONES (AFP)
María Antonia Sánchez-Vallejo

The first former U.S. president to be indicted on federal criminal charges shows no signs of despair after being indicted for the second time in just over a month. After the one in New York for the Stormy Daniels case - the payment of dark money to hush up an extramarital affair -, the Republican was indicted Tuesday morning in Miami on charges of withholding information that is sensitive to national defense and obstruction of justice, among the 37 crimes attributed to him, legally more serious than those of the previous case, but politically indistinguishable, given that each judicial setback seems to propel his candidacy for reelection in 2024.

Hours after pleading not guilty, and defiant as usual, the former president took advantage of a fundraising event to condemn the indictment, calling it an “abominable abuse of power” and “electoral interference”; to lambast the Democrats for being behind it, despite him doing the same or even worse - he invoked Hillary Clinton, but also called Joe Biden corrupt -, and to reaffirm his right to keep the classified material that led to the indictment: “I had every right to have these documents”. He also reaffirmed his intention to reach the White House next year, even though he faces charges that could send him to prison for life, and to take revenge on the Democrats if necessary: “I will appoint a special prosecutor to go after Biden if I am elected,” he warned.

The scene of the speech was his golf club in Bedminster (New Jersey), a prominent place in the federal indictment - it appears in two key incidents mentioned in the summary by special prosecutor Jack Smith, to whom Trump also directed his blows - and where this afternoon an event was held for VIP donors, including businessman and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, brash lawyer Kash Patel and Andrew Giuliani, son of his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani. While his wife, Melania, spent the day in New York away from the media and judicial frenzy, Trump arrived around 8:30 p.m. in Bedminster: the motorcade entered the compound while Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Mind was playing over the loudspeakers. As in April, the current Republican presidential frontrunner made a virtue out of adversity, trying to monetize the new accusation in terms of adhesions and donations, just as he had done throughout the day, with e-mails to his supporters asking for money and grandiose posts on Truth Social, his own social network.

The courtyard of the Bedminster club held dozens of folding chairs set up for the select guests in an atmosphere of enthusiasm befitting grand occasions. Judging by the polls, the flag of victimism is working for him: Republican voters remain overwhelmingly loyal to Trump despite his indictments and the other court proceedings he faces. In a CBS one released Sunday, 61% of respondents said the indictment is not going to change their minds about the GOP’s favored 2024 primary candidate, while 80% consider the charges political. Less partisan polls, such as the one by The New York Times journalists and columnists, also show Trump ahead of his primary rivals with 8.2 points, two more than his closest competitor, Ron DeSantis.

However, as his former attorney general, Bill Barr, said this weekend, even if only half of the charges against him today in Miami were true, the Republican would be “toast”. But if the 34 charges for falsifying business records that the Manhattan District Attorney charged him with in April unified many Republicans around Trump, the 37 charges filed Tuesday in Miami could have the same effect among his faithful, and especially among those gathered tonight in Bedminster. The federal indictment, which at least 60% of the Republican electorate sees as political in nature, may further galvanize his forces.

Although Trump has been criminally indicted, he is not barred from running for or assuming the presidential office, even if he were convicted. Trump being Trump, his former press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, warned Tuesday, “he’s going to double, triple down. He’s going to fundraise. He’s going to play the victim.” As he demonstrated, in the midst of the crowds, in Bedminster. The politics of denial came to a head when the former president said, “A lot of people have asked me why I had those boxes [of documents], what I wanted them for.” The boxes, he explained, “contained all kinds of personal effects, shirts and shoes”.

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