Former US president Donald Trump, after his third court appearance as a criminal defendant, delivered a defiant speech, insulting prosecutors and asserting that the “Donald Trump indictment” charges aid his 2024 presidential campaign.
Trump’s Defiant Response to Charges
“Whenever they file an indictment, we go way up in the polls,” Mr. Trump said at a Republican Party dinner in Alabama.
“We need one more indictment to close out this election. One more indictment, and this election is closed out. Nobody has even a chance.”
Mr. Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday to crimes related to his efforts to overturn the results of his 2020 election loss.
Most serious of Trump’s three indictments, the federal government charges him with blocking a peaceful power transfer.
Trump unapologetic on stage, raised fist, received standing ovation for nearly three minutes at Friday night event.
“We’re gonna be here for a little while,” he joked, asking the crowd to take a seat.
The latest set of charges focuses on the two months between his November 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden and the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol.
Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing and has linked his 2024 presidential campaign to his legal defense and his false claims of 2020 election fraud.
Trump Releases Ad Targeting Prosecutors Amid Legal Battles
In a sign of defiance, his campaign released an online ad on Friday attacking Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, who led the investigation that resulted in Mr. Trump’s latest charges, and a separate case where he is charged with mishandling classified documents.
Next week’s ad targets Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and Fulton County DA Fani Willis, both involved in Trump’s cases.
A Trump aide said the ad will start airing on Monday and Tuesday in Washington, DC, New York, Atlanta, and on national cable.
The ad was also shown to the crowd at the Alabama dinner on Friday night.
Mr. Trump has continued to receive endorsements from Republican elected officials throughout the investigations and criminal cases, including on Friday from all six of the state’s Republican US House members.
Senator Tuberville Stands Firm, Crowd Excited Ahead of Super Tuesday Primaries
Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who is waging an unprecedented campaign to try to change Pentagon abortion policy by holding up hundreds of military nominations and promotions, introduced Mr. Trump at the dinner on Friday night.
“He’s had a tough week. We need to stand behind him,” Mr. Tuberville said.
“He needs encouragement. They’re after him.”
Repeating Mr. Trump’s frequent refrain, he added: “They’re after you.”
Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips, producers of the film 2000 Mules, featured as opening acts at the dinner.
Mr. Trump praised the pair in his remarks and said: “Get ready. Get those votes ready. Just get them ready. Keep those tapes handy because you’re going to need them.”
The 2,700-strong crowd arrived hours early for the $250-per-ticket fundraiser for the Alabama Republican Party.
“They are excited,” Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl said.
“There is so much passion from Trump supporters and voters across the state.”
Despite facing legal troubles, Mr. Trump’s support remains strong in the Deep South state ahead of Super Tuesday primaries.
The March 5 elections offer a vital chance for other Republican candidates to challenge Trump’s front-runner status.
Mr. Trump’s closest rival, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, has been making a play for Super Tuesday states.
Alabama gauge: State GOP sold 1,000 fewer tickets for DeSantis’ dinner compared to Trump’s event.
Supporters Defiant Amid Criminal Charges
Robin Rowan, the owner of a financial company, wore a button and sash with Mr. Trump’s image and “Not Guilty” emblazoned in sequins as she waited on Friday to hear Mr. Trump speak.
Despite not believing the criminal accusations against Mr. Trump, Ms. Rowan stated that the charges have rallied support for him.
“We know the truth. They are trying to wear us down. They are not going to wear us down,” Ms. Rowan said.
Rich Foster, a retired police officer wearing a black “Bikers for Trump” T-shirt, stated that while he believes some crimes were committed on January 6, such as the attacks on police officers defending the Capitol, he does not consider Mr. Trump responsible for the violence that happened.
“I don’t think Trump committed a crime that day,” Mr Foster said.
He said he believed that Mr. Trump, as president, had a right to speak out about the election.
Despite not being charged with incitement, prosecutors accused Mr. Trump of exploiting Capitol violence to perpetuate election fraud claims.
Foster and Trump supporters see charges as 2024 election obstruction attempt.
He said he would write in the former president’s name if he had to.
“If they get him off the ballot somehow,” he said, “I know how to write Donald J Trump on the ballot.”