The evening of his historic indictment on 37 felony counts, former President Donald Trump delivered a speech that will likely be as remembered as when his third presidential bid began in earnest.
Trump’s indictment in a Manhattan courtroom Tuesday marked the first time a president has been charged with a crime. The charges accuse him, among other things, of falsifying business records based on his role in paying hush money to adult entertainment performer Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
During a 25-minute address at Mar-A-Lago, his Palm Beach residence, Trump played all his biggest hits in front of a packed house, attacking the indictment and several ongoing investigations against him while hurling darts at President Joe Biden.
While he could face several years in prison if found guilty of the charges, the situation has gusted more air under his campaign’s wings, increasing the distance between him and the rest of the potential Republican field.
Trump kicked off his speech by denying any wrongdoing, saying he never believed his prosecution could happen in America. “The only crime that I've committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it,” he said.
He attacked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who pursued the indictment, as well as other ongoing criminal investigations into him, including a grand jury investigation in Georgia based on election interference, a $250 million lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James, and a Department of Justice obstruction of justice investigation based on his handling of classified documents.
He said the investigations and legal action were part of Democrats’ attempts to deep-six his candidacy in the 2024 election. “They can’t beat us at the ballot box, so they try to beat us at the law,” Trump said.
The former president also used much of the speech to attack the current one, calling Biden’s tenure in office “the most embarrassing time in our country’s history” for the lives lost in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, rising inflation and rising crime in major Democrat-controlled cities.
"If you took the five worst presidents in the history of the United States and added them up, they would not have done near the destruction to our country that Joe Biden and the Biden administration have done,” he said.
If Trump is found guilty of the crime, he could receive up to four years in prison for each charge. The charges, however, do not have a mandatory minimum sentence, meaning he could escape jail time all together if convicted.
In the hours before Trump’s remarks, Florida Republican office holders from several levels of government spoke out in support of Trump on social media and in interviews.
Sen. Marco Rubio posted on Twitter an almost two-minute long video recorded from his car where he denounced the indictment and said it starts a whole new precedent in American politics: “After today every prosecutor in America that wants to make a name for themselves now is going to have permission to basically go after someone in the other party."
Several of Florida’s members of Congress also posted about the indictment. In one of several posts she made about Trump Tuesday, GOP U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna posted a picture of Trump with the caption “I Support 45!” U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds posted a clip of him on CNN defending Trump.
Republican leaders in office at the state level also chimed in. Florida Speaker of the House Paul Renner attacked the indictment during a press gaggle: “I think it is abhorrent and it’s wrong, and the rule of law should not be weaponized for political purposes.”
And Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis made a post hinting he believes that the indictment has set a new tone. “The next time the Left screams about all the norms being violated, remember this day. They use the courts and prosecutors like a political wing,” he wrote.