Washington He was flown to the edge of the stage in his private jet while pop songs about fire, thunder and heroes blared from the loudspeakers. At the same time, an artist painted a gigantic portrait of Donald Trump in “speed painting” style, i.e. in real time.
Everything about that performance said, I’m not gone, I’ve never been, I’ll never be gone. Or, as Trump put it in front of thousands of fans on Saturday: “2024 is the final battle. It will be the biggest of them all. You guys take me back to the White House and we’ll be a free nation again.”
The ex-president held a mass rally in the Texas city of Waco that was more elaborately staged than many of his other rallies. It was his first appearance after a grand jury in New York was preparing to indict Trump. A possible arrest is in the room. The investigation is about hush money payments from 2016 to two former alleged lovers of Trump.
A criminal case and possibly an arrest could have immense political repercussions: Trump wants to move back into the White House on the Republican ticket, and presidential elections will be held again in the United States in 2024.
Trump said a week ago that his arrest was imminent, but so far it has not happened. According to US media, however, impeachment against Trump is likely. He would be the first ex-president in US history to face criminal charges. According to the AP news agency, the grand jury that will decide on an indictment will next meet on Monday.
“I am your warrior”
Trump used the approximately two hours on a runway at the local airport to settle accounts with the judiciary, politicians, the electoral system, the media and everyone who rejects him. “I am the most innocent man in the history of the country,” Trump exclaimed, alluding to the impending trial.
“They’re not after me, they’re after you,” he warned his followers. “I’m just getting in the way.” A few minutes later he promised: “I am your warrior, I am your justice, I am your vengeance.”
With anger and aggression, Trump scored points in previous election campaigns at the Republican base. But in recent days, Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has reached a new intensity.
On the eve of the rally, his followers flocked to the Waco airport grounds, the scenes at the airport reminiscent of the worship of a cult leader. According to the Trump campaign, 15,000 people gathered outdoors in mild temperatures.
The appearance was an example of how far Trump has moved away from the political issues that once made him famous. As usual, he railed against China, against refugees, against “globalists, communists, Marxists, the fanatics of the open border”.
Joe Biden is “worse than the five worst presidents combined,” Trump said. At one point he praised the punitive tariffs he imposed on Europe during his tenure. “Even against Germany, they rip us off like the rest of the world.”
But almost half of the speech was devoted to Trump’s allegations of a stolen 2020 presidential election, which dozens of courts have refuted, and the investigations against him. “Shameful, corrupt and depraved are the injustices being done to me,” Trump said.
Trump repeatedly called for resistance. “Dark, corrupt forces want to destroy America. But we fight back, we fight back together.”
A small town with a bloody past
In the run-up to the rally, there had been criticism that Trump would stop in Waco, a small town with a bloody history. Next week will mark the 30th anniversary of the “Waco massacre”.
In 1993, a religious sect fought a week-long battle with emergency services that ended in a major fire and 86 deaths. Far right in the US celebrates the event as a successful rebellion against the state.
According to the Trump campaign, the location was chosen because it was well connected. But the appearance was no coincidence, accused Mary Trump, a niece of Donald Trump, of her uncle. “He wants a similar mess of violence to save him from justice,” she tweeted. In 2020, Mary Trump attested the then President to have a personality disorder in a bestselling book.
Trump has repeatedly called for violence in the past. With tweets, a mass rally in Washington and allegations of a manipulated presidential election, he made a significant contribution to thousands of supporters storming the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Trump lands number one hit
Even now, Trump seems determined to turn the impending indictment into a spectacle. When fake photos of his alleged arrest – created by artificial intelligence software – flooded the internet last week, the ex-president shared one of the images.
At the same time, the Trump song “Justice for all” stormed the download charts in the USA. Trump speaks the pledge of allegiance in the recording, accompanied by a chorus of prisoners arrested in connection with the storming of the Capitol.
He called on his fans to protest against the investigation several times. He compared the procedure in Manhattan with methods from the Third Reich. “It’s not a legal system, it’s the Gestapo.” Fearing riots, police cordoned off the Manhattan courthouse and the US Congress.
Experts see Trump’s behavior as a dangerous tactic. “An indictment will increase the devotion and anger of his supporters,” says political strategist Mac Stipanovich of Florida, where Trump resides. “And maybe that’s enough to get him the Republican nomination again.”
Still, according to Stipanovich, an indictment will harm Trump “in the long run, whether he is convicted or not.” The US Constitution provides no hurdles for offenders, explains the expert. Even if found guilty, Trump is likely to exercise his candidacy and a presidency.
“But most Republicans finally want to get rid of Trump. Because you can’t win with him, he’s a proven electoral loser. Republicans running Trump again would be a political suicide squad.”
>> Read here: Charge, arrest, candidacy: the most important answers to the proceedings against Donald Trump
Leading Republicans want to separate Trump’s party. So far, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have made their bid for the presidential election official.
Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, who is the only politician to come close to the ex-president in polls, is currently considered Trump’s most promising competitor. He could announce his candidacy in May or June.
Other investigations are ongoing against Trump. The US Department of Justice is investigating possible violations of the Espionage Act and Trump’s responsibility for the storming of the Capitol.
A Georgia grand jury is pursuing a separate criminal case into whether Trump illegally interfered with the 2020 election process when he called for the destruction of thousands of Biden ballots over the phone. There are also civil investigations into a rape allegation from the 1990s.
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