Post-conviction Trump sounds like pre-conviction Trump in return to trail (2024)

PHOENIX — Hands shot up when a warm-up speaker for Donald Trump asked who “gave money after the conviction?” Event attendees held blown-up posters of Trump’s Georgia mug shot and shook them during the applause.

Taking the stage exactly one week after a Manhattan jury convicted him on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, Trump on Thursday called his trial “rigged” and said “there was no crime.” But mostly he talked about other issues animating his campaign for president. He claimed Arizona had become a “dumping ground” for “the Third World” and gave a profane and apocalyptic denunciation of the country under President Biden, whose border policies he said amounted to “one of the most vile criminal conspiracies of all time.”

In other words, at his first major campaign event since his conviction, the Trump show went on with little change in the programming.


“If we don’t win, this country is finished — I really believe that,” he told the crowd.

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Trump spoke at an event hosted by the conservative group Turning Point Action, which is planning an extensive turnout effort and whose leaders spent much of Thursday’s program urging the audience to sign up to become “ballot chasers” who encourage others to vote. The mood at Dream City Church, a sleek megachurch in Phoenix, was upbeat.

Trump fans lined up cheerfully in 99-degree heat to get in; many didn’t make it in, and some were rushed to the hospital with heat exhaustion. The ones who got inside were excited and rowdy, standing up from their movie-theater-style seats to dance to the music and interjecting during Trump’s speech with shouts: “Shame on Joe Biden!” “Drill, baby, drill!” “Bring back the death penalty!”


A dramatic video montage of Trump — which focused heavily on his legal woes — played so loudly ahead of his remarks that chairs throughout the auditorium vibrated. The crowd shouted boos later when the former president discussed his case in New York.

“There was no crime, it was made up,” Trump said, before turning a minute later to other topics.

He dwelled, more than anything else, on undocumented immigration at the southern border — an especially salient issue in Arizona. Trump praised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s approach to immigration, decried “the Biden invasion” and blasted Biden’s recent executive order aimed at limiting illegal border crossings. Trump called it “bulls---” — even as he said he didn’t like using that word in front of “beautiful children.”

In the back of the auditorium, the crowd took up a chant of the vulgar phrase.


Lamenting the migrants crossing into the United States illegally from other countries, Trump said he would “tariff the hell” out of other nations that didn’t “behave.” He noted that Biden proposed a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants at the beginning of his term, prompting the crowd to boo loudly. “Treason!” one man yelled.

Kevin Munoz, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, said in a statement Thursday that Trump had blocked “the toughest, fairest bipartisan border legislation in a generation” this year by turning Republicans in Congress against the bill. Some in the GOP acknowledged they did not want to give Biden an election-year victory.

Trump gave a warm hug onstage to longtime ally Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County whom Trump pardoned in 2017. Arpaio, known for his aggressive tactics, was convicted of criminal contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people he only suspected of being undocumented immigrants.


“You talk from the heart,” Arpaio told Trump. He said the former president had called his wife seven times while she had cancer, prompting murmurs of admiration throughout the crowd.

Trump also promised to bring down crime and champion “law and order,” even though he has attacked law enforcement, prosecutors and other officials involved in his legal cases. Sentencing for his New York conviction is set for mid-July; it is not clear if any of his other three criminal cases will proceed to trial before the election in November.

Biden’s campaign continued to highlight Trump’s conviction Thursday while also prosecuting a broader case that focuses heavily on democratic norms and abortion rights. A Thursday morning event at one of Biden’s campaign offices in Phoenix featured former Phoenix vice mayor Peggy Neely, who said she was a lifelong Republican but switched to independent because she couldn’t stomach Trump.


“He was extreme before Arizonans rejected him in 2020, and then he snapped,” she said, urging a vote for Biden.

Biden’s victory in Arizona was the first by a Democratic presidential nominee since 1996.

In a new interview with ABC News, the president said his opponent’s comments are “off the wall.”

“He’s about him — I’m about the country,” Biden said.

At Dream City Church, Trump was surrounded by fervent supporters and hosted by a group that embraced his false claims of victory in 2020. Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk urged the audience to sign up for his group’s “Chase the Vote” operation and help it ensure that Trump supporters get their ballots in — including by mail.

But Trump and his allies in Arizona have vilified mail-in ballots for years, falsely claiming that they led to massive fraud in 2020 and blaming them in part for Trump’s loss. In interviews, some attendees said they remain highly skeptical of voting by mail, which was widespread in Arizona before the 2020 election.


A reporter with the local news station ABC15 noted to Trump in an interview Thursday that he did not arrest or jail any political opponents during his term, despite sometimes embracing calls to “lock up” Hillary Clinton. The reporter asked if his approach had changed since his conviction. Trump said it would be “terrible” to jail “the former president’s wife,” noted that his prosecution in New York could have been brought much earlier but wasn’t, and concluded with, “When you ask me the question, would we do it? I’ll talk to you in about three years from now.”

Post-conviction Trump sounds like pre-conviction Trump in return to trail (2024)


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