14 Apr 2024, 08:26

Trump fans brave chill to hear Republican 'martyr' speak before trial

SCHNECKSVILLE, United States, April 14, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Donald Trump's mounting legal woes are just more reason to stick behind the former president, his ardent supporters told AFP on Saturday, just days before the Republican leader's historic criminal trial gets underway in New York.

Gathered in the small Pennsylvania town of Schnecksville, his impassioned backers said Saturday they believe Trump will come out of the proceedings stronger than ever.

The crowd, braving a chilly wind and some light rain, started gathering Saturday morning to hear the former president speak at night as he campaign once again for the White House.

"I've been indicted more than Al Capone, the great gangster," Trump said to the cheering audience.

"There is absolutely nothing here. There is no misdemeanor, there is no felony, there's no federal crime," he claimed.

On Monday, Trump will appear in court in New York City to face accusations of falsifying business records in a scheme to cover up an alleged sexual encounter with porn star Stormy Daniels so as not to doom his 2016 election.

To his fans, who huddled under fluttering American flags and "Trump 2024" banners, Trump's proclamations of innocence rang true.

"They are crucifying Donald Trump. He's being turned into a martyr. And the Democrats think they're winning. All they're doing is making us really, really angry," says Edward Young, a 64-year-old from Point Pleasant, New Jersey.

Young, an actor who also works in finance, said that he once was a centrist casting ballots on the merits of each candidate. But the barrage of legal cases against Trump has changed everything for him.

Whether Trump is convicted won't make any difference to Randy Thomas, 57, who also drove from New Jersey to attend the rally.

"It's a bunch of hate from the Democrats. they're scared of him," Thomas told AFP.

Thomas says he'll take to the streets if Trump is sentenced to prison.

"But it ain't gonna happen, it's not gonna happen."

Pennsylvania is a key swing state that Trump won in 2016 but lost to Joe Biden in 2020.

- 'Corrupt justice' -

Another supporter, who gave his name only as Ted, came to the rally with his daughter, the first time they had been to a Trump event.

"It's important to show support to him, but also to show that the justice system is corrupt and we see it and we're not going to let anyone fool us about it," says Ted, a corporate executive.

Hours before the rally, Trump used similar language on his Truth Social platform, attacking the judge who will oversee his trial in New York as "totally conflicted and corrupt."

Trump's other criminal cases -- centered on his alleged hoarding of top-secret documents in Florida after he left the White House and his involvement in attempts to overturn the 2020 election -- all face multiple delays.

Thomas, repeating a message Trump consistently voices online and at his rallies, said the legal troubles arise from politics -- and his enemies' desire to keep him away from the White House.

"You know, he loves the country. He doesn't need to do this job. He can live the rest of his life comfortably. He's a rich man," Thomas says.


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