Trump rallies supporters in campaign-style speech after first-ever arraignment of an ex-president: 'The only crime that I've committed is to fiercely defend our nation'

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Trump rallies supporters in campaign-style speech after first-ever arraignment of an ex-president: 'The only crime that I've committed is to fiercely defend our nation'
Former President Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate hours after being arraigned in New York City, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Palm Beach, Fla.AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
  • Trump gave remarks at Mar-a-Lago surrounded by supporters just hours after appearing in court.
  • "I never thought that anything like this could happen," he said, calling the charges "a persecution."
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PALM BEACH, Florida — Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday defiantly addressed his supporters at the grand ballroom of his private Mar-a-Lago Club, just hours after hearing the charges against him in court in Manhattan.

In his first public remarks since the arraignment, Trump accused the Manhattan District attorney of targeting him as a political vendetta, saying he "never thought that anything like this could happen."

"The only crime that I've committed is to fiercely defend our nation," Trump said, addressing each of the pending investigations against him, in addition to the charges brought in New York.

The rambling, 27-minute speech, Trump called the charges against him "a persecution, not an investigation" and evidence the country "is going to hell," adding that the charges should be dropped immediately.

"These radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement we can't let that happen," Trump said. "With all of this being said, and with a very dark cloud over our beloved country I have no doubt nevertheless, that we will make America great again."

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The 34 charges brought against Trump today mark the first time in history that a former president has faced criminal prosecution. If found guilty, Trump could face up to four years in prison.

The Manhattan District attorney alleged that Trump orchestrated an unlawful scheme to influence the 2016 presidential election, accusing the former president of violating election laws and falsifying business records related to payments to guarantee the silence of two women who allege they had affairs with him.

Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records, and has denied having the affairs. A trial date in the case hasn't been set yet, but the next hearing is set for December 4.

Supporters began filling the room around 5 p.m., and by the time Trump reached the stage the standing area of the ballroom was packed with between 500 to 700 people, some of whom were Mar-a-Lago members.

Surrounded by his remaining political allies, including Roger Stone, Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Trump was introduced as "the next President of the United States," to raucous cheers of "USA! USA!" from the crowd.

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Melania Trump was notably absent, but Eric Trump, the second son of the former president, and daughter Tiffany Trump, were in attendance.

"It's a sad day in America," Greene told Insider in an interview. "It's a tragic day in America that we've crossed this line to where we're seeing the weaponization of government, in actual warfare being waged in order to stop a political opponent. This should never happen."

Greene said the actions should "unify the party." She declined to say if the other 2024 candidates should drop out of the race, but did say they should "step up and support President Trump and fight for him because he's fought for them, helped them raise money, campaigned for them, let them use his name."

Three Republican presidential candidates have formally announced they're running, including former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. More are expected to announce in the coming weeks and months, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

Polling for the 2024 GOP primary has shown Trump gaining steam amid news of the forthcoming indictment. Congressional Republicans, including some who have previously criticized Trump, also rallied behind him on Tuesday.

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Attendees largely struck an optimistic tone, convinced the indictment would lead more voters to support Trump. The Trump campaign reported that it had raised $8 million since the indictment Thursday.

"The guy is raising millions of dollars from people who have never donated one penny to politics," Kari Lake, the 2022 gubernatorial candidate from Arizona, told reporters before Trump's speech. "They understand and they recognize bullying when they see it."

The arraignment on Tuesday "solidified" a Trump win in 2024, MyPillow CEO and Trump ally Mike Lindell told Insider ahead of the Mar-a-Lago speech. He accused the Manhattan DA of having political motivations because Trump didn't "go away" after the 2020 election.

Lindell also criticized DeSantis, who polls just behind Trump in a hypothetical 2024 matchup, for saying that he wouldn't be involved in a potential extradition given that Trump had already planned to show up in court voluntarily.

DeSantis should not run for president, Lindell added. "He should just endorse Trump tomorrow morning," he said.

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