Former President Donald Trump turned his first remarkson criminal charges in Manhattan into a campaign-style speech, suggesting the charges against him are the latest move by his critics to stop him from becoming the 47th president of the United States.
Hours earlier Tuesday, the former president appeared in court and somberly pleaded "not guilty" to 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. Trump is the first former president in U.S. history to be charged with a crime.
"I never thought anything like this could happen in America," Trump told a supportive crowd at his Mar-a-Lago resort. "Never thought it could happen. The only crime that I've committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it."
Trump cast the indictment as Democrats' latest attempt to kneecap him, citing previous "fraudulent investigations" related to Russia and Ukraine, and "impeachment hoax one" and "impeachment hoax two." Trump said his opponents have "really stepped up their efforts by indicting the 45th president of the United States."
He then went on to attempt to discredit the election investigation against him in Georgia and special counsel Jack Smith's investigations into Trump's handling of classified documents and the events of Jan. 6, 2021. He called Smith a "lunatic," and also claimed the judge presiding over his case in Manhattan is a "Trump-hating judge."
The former president went beyond his legal woes to weigh in on foreign affairs, telling supporters that if he were still president, Russia's war on Ukraine never would have happened. He also blasted the current state of the economy and high inflation, calling the U.S. a "nation in decline."
"With all of this being said and with a very dark cloud over our beloved country, I have no doubt, nevertheless, that we will make America great again," Trump said to close out his speech.
Supporters in the crowd included his family members Donald Trump Jr., Tiffany Trump, Eric Trump, and Lara Trump, along with GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kari Lake, who lost the recent Arizona governor's race.
Trump'swas handed up by a grand jury that had been convened by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who said in a statement that Trump "repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal crimes that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election." The former president has denied all wrongdoing and called the Manhattan district attorney's case a "witch hunt."
The indictment was announced last week, following an investigation related to falsification of business records for "hush money"to an adult film star in 2016. Trump has denied the affair.
New York City and the U.S. Secret Service tightened security ahead of the arraignment, with NYPD officers out in full force and barricades lining the streets near the courthouse.
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