Montgomery, Alabama — Former President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail Friday night for the first timein federal court Thursday on charges that he attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, downplaying the indictment against him as "ridiculous" and "an act of desperation."
"The only civil rights that have been violated in this matter are my civil rights," Trump argued before a crowd of roughly 2,700 attendees at the Alabama Republican Party summer dinner.
During his roughly 40-minute speech, the former president renewed his attacks on Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, calling him a "deranged, sick person," and accusing federal and local prosecutors, without providing any proof, of "election interference."
"Every one of these many fake charges filed against me by the corrupt Biden DOJ could have been filed two-and-a-half years ago," Trump said. "But they waited and waited until I became a dominant force in the polls."
Trump pleaded not guilty in a Washington courtroom Thursday to one count each of 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. It is his third indictment on criminal charges in the past four months.
In April, the Manhattan district attorneyTrump with 34 counts of falsifying business records for an alleged "hush money" payment scheme. In June, Trump was indicted by Smith following an investigation into his of classified documents after leaving office.
"Any time they file an indictment, we go way up in the polls," Trump said. "We need one more indictment to close out this election.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willisa charging decision this month in her investigation into 2020 election interference in the state of Georgia. Road closures will take effect around the courthouse beginning next week in preparation, according to the Fulton County Sheriff's Office.
Ahead of his appearance, the Trump campaign released a new ad dubbed the "Fraud Squad" which negatively depicts Smith, Willis and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. The ad is expected to run nationally, including in Washington, Atlanta and New York, according to a Trump aide.
Some GOP supporters at Friday's dinner told CBS News they believe the charges against the former president could boost his chances for re-election in 2024.
"It's just a witch hunt. They don't go after the administration in office now like that," said June Ezell, who bought a table for the event with her husband.
The former president rolled out several endorsements Friday from Alabama state and congressional leaders, including Sen. Tommy Tuberville who introduced Trump on stage.
"He's had a tough week," Tuberville told the crowd. "We need to stand by him."
— Fin Gomez contributed to this report.
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