Trump set for first public appearances since federal indictment, speaking in Georgia, North Carolina

ATLANTA (AP) — Former President Donald Trump will make his first public appearances since his federal indictment, addressing friendly Republican audiences in Georgia and North Carolina on Saturday as he seeks to rally supporters to his defense.

Trump, who remains the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2024 despite his growing legal troubles, is expected to use his scheduled speeches at state party conventions in both states to unreservedly rebuke the accusations and amplify his claims that he is being victimized. a politically motivated ‘witch hunt’ by Democratic President Joe Biden’s Justice Department.

His appearances will come a day after an indictment was unsealed charging him with 37 felony counts in connection with his hoarding of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The indictment accuses the former president of deliberately defying Justice Department requests to return classified documents, of enlisting aides in his efforts to hide the records and even of telling his attorneys that he wanted to challenge a subpoena for documents stored in his estate. The indictment includes allegations that he stored documents in a ballroom and bathroom at his resort, among other places.

The most serious charges against him carry prison terms of up to 20 years each, but first-time offenders rarely approach the maximum sentence and the decision would ultimately be up to the judge.

Still, Trump can expect a hero’s welcome this weekend as he rallies his fiercest supporters and seeks to cement his status as the leading Republican presidential candidate of 2024.

“Trump is a fighter, and the kind of people who attend these conventions love a fighter,” said Jack Kingston, a former Georgia congressman who supported Trump in 2016 and 2020.

With former Vice President Mike Pence also set to address Republicans in North Carolina, Saturday will be the first time the former running mates have appeared at the same location since Pence announced his campaign against his former boss.

For his part, Trump insisted he had done no wrongdoing, saying, “There was no crime except for what the DOJ and the FBI did against me. for years.”

The indictment comes at a time when Trump continues to dominate the Republican presidential primary. Other GOP candidates have largely attacked the Justice Department — rather than Trump — for the investigation, though the breadth of the allegations and the scope of the indictment may make it harder for Republicans to argue. oppose an earlier criminal case in New York that many legal analysts had called weak. .

A Trump campaign official described the former president’s mood as “provocative” on Friday ahead of his trip. But aides were noticeably more reserved after the indictment was unsealed as they considered the seriousness of the legal charges and the threat they pose to Trump beyond the potential short term. long-term political gain.

The federal charging document alleges that Trump not only intentionally possessed classified documents, but also proudly showed them to visitors and aides. The indictment is based on Trump’s own words and actions as told to prosecutors by attorneys, close associates and other witnesses, including his profession of following and knowing procedures related to the handling of information. classified.

The indictment consists of 37 counts – 31 of which relate to willful withholding of national defense information, the rest relating to alleged conspiracy, obstruction and misrepresentation – which, taken together, could result in a one-year prison sentence.

Trump is due to make his first appearance in federal court on Tuesday in Miami. He was charged alongside Walt Nauta, a personal assistant who prosecutors say moved boxes from a storage room to Trump’s residence for him to examine and then lied to investigators about the move. . A photograph included in the indictment shows several dozen filing boxes stacked in a storage area.

The case adds to heightened legal danger for Trump, who has already been indicted in New York in a silent money scheme and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that could also lead to criminal charges. But of the various investigations he has faced, the Mar-a-Lago investigation has long been seen as the most perilous and ripe threat to prosecution. Campaign aides had been bracing for the fallout since Trump’s lawyers were told he was the target of the investigation, assuming it was not a question of whether charges would be brought, but when.

Trump’s continued popularity among Republican voters is evident in the cautiousness with which his main rivals have treated the federal indictment, which comes less than three months after he was indicted in New York in connection with a silent money scheme resulting from payments made to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign.

Pence, campaigning in New Hampshire on Friday, said he was “deeply troubled” that Trump was indicted by the federal government because he believes it will further divide the nation.

Pence urged his audience to pray for Trump, his family and all Americans, and vowed to uphold the rule of law and ‘clean house to the highest level’ of the Justice Department, if elected .

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s main rival in the GOP, shamelessly echoed the former president, decrying the “weaponization of federal law enforcement” and “uneven law enforcement.” Without offering any specific allegations, DeSantis took aim at two favorite Republican targets — Hillary Clinton and Biden’s son Hunter — and suggested they escaped federal accountability because of such “political bias.”

During his own remarks at the North Carolina GOP convention on Friday night, DeSantis did not mention Trump by name, but again drew the comparison to Clinton.

“Is there a different standard for a Democratic Secretary of State compared to a former Republican President?” DeSantis asked. “I think there has to be a standard of justice in this country. … Ultimately, we will end once and for all the militarization of government under my administration.”

Of the declared Republican contenders, only Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson had explicitly called on Trump to end his run for return.


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Meg Kinnard and Hannah Schoenbaum in Greensboro, North Carolina; Eric Tucker in Washington; Thomas Beaumont in Marshalltown, Iowa; and Holly Ramer in Derry, NH, contributed to this report.

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