Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch
Former President Donald Trump said in a speech Friday in Alabama that he wears as a “badge of honor” his recent indictment on charges of attempting to subvert the 2020 presidential election.
In a nearly hour-long speech at a Montgomery fundraising dinner for the Alabama Republican Party, Trump attacked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, his main rival for the Republican nomination for president, and President Joe Biden, whom Trump accused of weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice.
“They want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedoms. They want to silence me because I will never let them silence you,” Trump said.
The speech was the former president’s first extended public remarks since Tuesday when a federal grand jury indicted the former president on four criminal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of, and attempt to obstruct, an official proceeding; and conspiracy against rights.
The 45-page indictment says that despite knowing his statements were false, then-President Trump continued to repeat that he won the 2020 presidential election, working with co-conspirators to directly pressure state officials and hatch a plan to switch out legitimate slates of electors in states Biden had won with false electors recruited by Trump and his advisers.
The former president could face up to five years in prison for the first charge against him, and up to 20 years for each of the remaining three charges. Each charge carries a potential fine of up to $250,000 and could result in up to three years of supervised release.
The indictment also details a pressure campaign by Trump to convince Vice President Mike Pence that he could obstruct the certification of the votes, a largely ceremonial role that was scheduled to occur Jan. 6, 2021.
That day, Trump rallied supporters, urging them to descend on the U.S. Capitol after repeatedly falsely telling them that Pence could stop the proceeding.
A violent crowd attacked the Capitol, chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” and injuring law enforcement officers.
The allegations outlined in the indictment handed up Tuesday mirror conclusions that the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6, 2021, Attack on the U.S. Capitol made following the panel’s two-year probe.
Biden and ‘DeSanctimonious’
In his speech Friday, Trump called U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith, who brought the indictment, “deranged.” At times he called prosecutors “communists” and “corrupt Marxist prosecutors.” He called the indictment “fake charges” that are an “outrageous criminalization of political speech,” even as he suggested it would help his presidential campaign.
“This is a ridiculous indictment against us — it’s not a legal case. It’s an act of desperation by a failed and disgraced crooked Joe Biden and his radical left thugs,” Trump said.
Trump also repeated election lies and claimed that Biden rigged the election in 2020 and suggested that the current president will interfere with the next election.
“So now they’re trying something that hasn’t been tried in this country: election interference,” he said. “They rigged the presidential election in 2020. We’re not going to allow them to rig the presidential election in 2024.”
The theme of persecution was repeated by other speakers at the event. U.S. Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, opened the dinner by defending Trump and his family and said that they’re standing “in the line of fire for all of us and our families.”
“No one man has been more persecuted for standing for this country than Donald Trump himself,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, picked up the theme in introducing Trump. “They are after you,” he said. “They’re after our country.”
Trump also repeatedly referred to DeSantis as “DeSanctimonious” and highlighted his substantial lead in polling in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“He has dropped like a rock, and I hope he stays there,” Trump said.
Trump also made some campaign promises, which included curbing immigration by carrying out the “largest domestic deportation operation” as well as cutting school funding “for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity and other inappropriate racial sexual or political content on our children.” In a nod to local issues, Trump also promised to widen Interstate 65 from Huntsville to Mobile.
Trump also said that he supports exceptions for abortions in three cases: rape, incest and the life of the mother. Alabama has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, where abortions are illegal in the case of rape or incest.
“They’re the extremists, not us,” he said. “You have to fight that issue differently.”
Other criminal charges pending
The former president also faces federal criminal charges in Florida on allegations he kept, and refused to return, classified materials after he left office. In addition, he faces criminal charges in New York State, where he’s accused of falsifying business records by using campaign funds to cover up an affair.
He has pleaded not guilty in both cases.
A sweeping Georgia 2020 election interference probe also could lead to high-profile criminal indictments being handed down for Trump and potentially others in Fulton County Superior Court.
Trump spoke to a friendly audience Friday in a state that gave him 62% of the vote in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. Supporters of the former president said after the dinner that they felt he is the best option of bringing them “back to normalcy.”
“He’s running for us, he’s not running for himself,” said Bash Agricola from Opelika. “I mean, who would take the slings and arrows that he’s taken every day, every hour, for himself when he could just get on a plane and get to a Caribbean island or whatever and enjoy life.”
Algert Agricola, Bash’s husband, said that he feels Trump will reverse so many of Biden policies, which he said have taken this country down.
“We have no border protection, and it’s just like Trump said, when you don’t have any borders and you don’t have an economy, you don’t have a country,” Algert Agricola said. “And I’m confident that he would bring us back to pre-Biden times.”
Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: email@example.com. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.