Addressing a standing-room-only crowd Saturday in Columbus, Georgia at, Donald Trump called special counsel Jack Smith, who oversaw the investigation that led to the former president's federal indictment, "deranged" and a "Trump hater."
Smith beganin August 2022 after documents with classified markings from his administration were uncovered at the former president's Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago.
On Thursday a 44-page indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that alleges Trump "endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal retention of classified documents."
Smiththe laws protecting national defense information exist to protect the men and women in U.S. intelligence and in the armed forces as they protected the nation.
"We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone," Smith said.
The former president, who said on Truth Social that he will plead not guilty at his scheduled arraignment Tuesday at a federal courthouse in Miami, told the packed Georgia convention that the indictment "will go down as among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country."
He said the indictment is "baseless," but at least it's driving his poll numbers and fundraising.
Trump is charged with 31 counts of willful retention of classified documents, as well as one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, one count of withholding a document or record, and four other related charges.
Trump said that federal law enforcement should never have been involved in this matter. He railed against the Biden administration, saying on stage that "Biden's got boxes," and — though no such evidence has emerged — claimed the current president has "got boxes all over the place." Trump also alleged that "Republicans are treated far differently at the Justice Department than Democrats."
Other GOP hopefuls speaking at the convention include former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Hutchinson, who spoke just prior to Trump, addressed the Georgia crowd and said, "We want a Commander in Chief that understands the importance of protecting our secrets and following the law and being respectful."
Trump supporters who spoke included Rep.Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake of Arizona.
Some supporters on the ground agreed with Trump's statements. One supporter, Leata Gleaton, told CBS News, "I don't think it's going to hurt Trump because the indictment is just a hoax." She said that "God is behind Trump," and "If you're a true Republican, you'll vote for Trump."
Jackie McCowen told CBS News, "Each president has done that from the past." She said, "Trump at least had it in a secure spot. It's not like he was selling information or anything like that."
Others were not so sure. One attendee, David Callahan, said he's leaning toward Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. "Trump did a great job exposing the corruption; he was not very effective in unraveling the corruption," he said. "I think DeSantis can put a team together to actually unravel the mess in Washington."
Georgia is expected to be a critical battleground state in 2024, as it was in 2020.
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