PALM BEACH, Florida (Reuters)—Former president Donald Trump lashed out on Tuesday at New York prosecutor Alvin Bragg for bringing criminal charges against him and declared himself the victim of election interference.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” Trump told supporters gathered at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida. “The only crime that I’ve committed has been to fearlessly defend our nation against those who seek to destroy it.”
Earlier, Trump pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, as prosecutors accused him of orchestrating payments to two women before the 2016 election to suppress publication of their sexual encounters with him.
Trump, running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, on Tuesday night in Florida gave a relatively short speech, 25 minutes, compared to his rally speeches that can sometimes last two hours.
Despite launching a tirade against prosecutors, he did not call for new protests from his supporters. And while he is expected to return to the campaign trail soon, he gave no details of that.
Trump accused Manhattan District Attorney Bragg of being out to get him “before he knew anything about me.” He said the judge in the case, Juan Merchan, is “a Trump-hating judge.”
Some of the former president’s own critics have questioned the strength of the case against him. Former national security adviser John Bolton and Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah), both of whom have had harsh words for Trump, slammed the indictment against him as weak and politicized. As Politico described it Wednesday, “the consensus of the legal punditocracy was that they were underwhelmed by the case.”
ATTACKS LEGAL CASES
Trump took fresh shots at all the various legal cases against him, from the handling of classified documents that were taken to Mar-a-Lago when Trump moved out of the White House in early 2021, the probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol and the election interference case he is facing in Georgia from the 2020 election.
Trump expressed particular concern about the documents case being investigated by special counsel Jack Smith, who he called a “lunatic” several times.
He said the cases amount to an attempt to thwart his third run for the presidency, calling it “massive election interference at a scale never seen.”
Gathered before him in a gilt-edged ballroom at Mar-a-Lago were a number of combative, diehard Trump backers, including Republican lawmakers Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, long-time operative Roger Stone, pillow maker Mike Lindell, former U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and Trump sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne and Rich McKay in Palm Beach; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Grant McCool)
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