Trump calls indictment ‘baseless’ as he hits campaign trail

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The former US president blasts federal indictment as ‘a political hit job’ as he rallies support at Republican conventions.

Former United States President Donald Trump has criticised his federal indictment by the Department of Justice as “ridiculous” and “baseless” during his first public appearances since the charges were unsealed, painting the 37 felony counts as an attack on his supporters.

Speaking at Republican state conventions in Georgia and North Carolina on Saturday, Trump cast the indictment as an attempt to damage his chances of returning to the White House as he campaigns for a second term.

“They’ve launched one witch-hunt after another to try and stop our movement, to thwart the will of the American people,” Trump alleged in Georgia, later telling the crowd, “In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you.”

The indictment unsealed on Friday afternoon charges Trump with willfully defying Justice Department demands that he return classified documents, enlisting aides in his efforts to hide the records, as well as telling his lawyers that he wanted to defy a subpoena for the materials stored at his residence.

The indictment includes allegations that he stored documents in a ballroom and a toilet at his Mar-a-Lago resort, among other places.

Mar-a-Lago
Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort [Marco Bello/Reuters]

Trump is due to make his first federal court appearance on Tuesday in Miami.

‘I’ll never leave’

Trump remains the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican Party nomination despite his mounting legal woes, which include criminal charges filed against him in March in New York.

Trump said he will remain in the race even if he is convicted.

“I’ll never leave,” he told US-based news site Politico in an interview on board his plane after his speech in Georgia. He also predicted that he would not be convicted and sidestepped questions about whether he would pardon himself if he won a second term.

Trump was given a hero’s welcome at the party convention in Georgia, where he drew loud applause as he slammed the investigation as “a political hit job” and accused his political enemies of launching “one hoax and witch hunt after another” to prevent his re-election.

Republican state convention
People listen to Trump during the Georgia Republican convention in Columbus, June 10, 2023 [Megan Varner/Reuters]

“The ridiculous and baseless indictment by the Biden administration’s weaponised Department of Injustice will go down as among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country,” he said.

He also used his remarks to rail against President Joe Biden and his 2016 Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, accusing them of mishandling classified information and insisting he was treated unfairly because he is a Republican.

Trump also lingered on Georgia’s role in his 2020 defeat, repeating unfounded claims that he had won the state and defending his efforts to overturn Biden’s victory, which is the subject of another ongoing investigation, this one by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Willis has suggested that any indictments would likely come in August.

At the heart of the investigation is a recorded phone conversation in which Trump urges Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” – just enough to overtake Biden and overturn Trump’s narrow loss in the state.

Trump has defended the phone call as “perfect” and, on Saturday, lashed out at Willis and the special counsel in the Mar-a-Lago case.

He was charged alongside valet Walt Nauta, a personal aide who prosecutors say moved boxes from a storage room to Trump’s residence for him to review and later lied to investigators about the movement.

Nauta travelled with Trump, appearing by his side at a Georgia Waffle House stop where the former president signed autographs, posed for photos and told supporters, “We did absolutely nothing wrong.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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