By Nathan Worcester and John Haughey
PALM BEACH, Fla.—Former President Donald Trump warned that the United States had sunk to the level of the “old Soviet Union” during a speech given from the ballroom of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach on April 4, hours after pleading not guilty to felony charges brought New York prosecutors.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” Trump said, speaking to the cheers of a fired-up, invite-only audience of about 500 about two hours after returning from Manhattan.
“The only crime that I’ve committed is to fiercely defend our nation,” he said.
Bragg’s 34-count indictment, made public at an arraignment on Tuesday, charges Trump with falsifying business records. Every count is a felony, each carrying a one to five year sentence.
The charges relate to former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s payment of $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about an alleged affair she had with Trump, who denies this. The payment was made weeks before the 2016 presidential election. New York prosecutors allege that Trump directed Cohen to pay Daniels and then illegally disguised this payment of a monthly retainer for legal services—a violation of state and federal election laws.
In his speech, Trump maintained his innocence, saying Bragg has “no case” against him.
“As it turns out, everyone who has looked at this case, including RINOs, and even hardcore Democrats, says there is no crime and it should never have been brought. Never have been brought.”
“It’s an insult to our country,” he added, “and the world is already laughing at us.”
He also alleged Bragg was a “criminal,” citing leaks of the indictment ahead of the arrangement.
“At a minimum, he should resign,” Trump said, drawing perhaps the loudest cheers during the former president’s 20-minute speech.
Republicans and analysts say the unprecedented move to indict a former president sets Trump up as a martyr and represents a turning point in the country, where the legal system can be weaponized against political opponents.
Trump echoed this view, describing Bragg’s case, along with several other criminal and civil investigations against him, as “massive election interference at a scale never seen before in our country.”
“They can’t beat us at the ballot box. So they try to beat us through the law,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Trump voluntarily surrendered to Bragg’s office after traveling via motorcade through the city where he grew up and made his name in real estate.
Meanwhile, both supporters and opponents of Trump demonstrated outside the Manhattan courtroom.
Discusses Other Investigations
Trump’s speech ran through a laundry list of past and present investigations aimed at him.
“From the beginning, the Democrats spied on my campaign,” he said.
He also referred to the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story prior to the 2020 presidential election, saying that it could have made a difference in that race.
“They have really stepped up their efforts by indicting the 45th president of the United States,” he stated to applause from the crowd.
In addition, the former commander-in-chief discussed the 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago by the FBI.
“We were raided by many gun-toting FBI agents, who took whatever they wanted,” Trump said.
Trump also drew attention to Bragg’s campaign for the district attorney position, in which the pursuit of the former president was a central theme.
Bragg, said Trump, “campaigned on the fact that he would get President Trump.”
He also described the judge in his current case, Juan Merchan, as a “Trump-hating judge.” He noted that Merchan’s daughter worked on Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign.
Trump also mentioned New York Attorney General Letitia James’s civil lawsuit aimed at Trump and his family, arguing that his evidence would disprove her allegations that his financial records were falsified.
“She’s put our family through hell,” he said, adding that “our heads are held very, very high.”
Trump dwelled on what he characterized as a broad decline for the United States under the Joe Biden presidency.
“We are now a failing nation. We are a nation in decline. And now these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement. We can’t let that happen,” he said.
He claimed the Russia-Ukraine war would not have occurred if he had been at the helm. He also alluded to Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons amid the war, which he claimed, “could very well lead, under the Biden administration’s leadership, to an all-out nuclear world war 3.”
Trump also warned that the U.S. dollar could soon cease to be the global reserve currency.
“Right now the USA is a mess,” he said. “Our economy is crashing, inflation is out of control.
“Russia has joined with China, can you believe that? Saudi Arabia has joined with Iran. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea formed together as a menacing and destructive coalition [that] would have never happened if I were your president.”
The former president ended his speech on an upbeat note.
“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,” he declared to cheers from his audience.
Allies Stand Firm Behind Trump
Inside the ballroom, the energy was high among supporters backing the embattled presidential candidate.
Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a staunch Trump ally who earlier in the day appeared at a rally outside the Manhattan courthouse decrying the indictment, said she “definitely” prefers being at Mar-a-Lago than in New York City.
“I thought he was absolutely accurate in everything that he said,” Greene told The Epoch Times after Trump’s speech. “What he is talking about is true and every American knows it. It is a sad day in America.”
“We’re seeing lawfare being weaponized to stop a political opponent. It is an injustice.”
She lamented that “If this is the new normal, America is over with.”
The Georgian lawmaker said she hasn’t spoken with Trump yet but noted they would speak later. But she called on every Republican politician and candidate to “step up and support” the former president. They benefited from him, she said, so they need to “come out and support him.”
On Trump, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, another longtime ally, told The Epoch Times: “I love the man for what he has done. The enemies that he has are also America’s enemies.”
She echoed Greene’s call for supporters to rally behind the former president.
“Show local support for President Trump—wear your MAGA hat. This is our time to speak out and support our country.”