Trump bemoans indictment as ‘political hit job’ as he hits the campaign trail with indicted aide

Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail Saturday, accompanied by indicted aide Walt Nauta, as the former president cast his own federal indictment as “election interference” and told Georgia Republicans it represented an abuse of power by the Biden administration.

“This is a political hit job. Republicans are treated far different at the Justice Department than Democrats,” said Trump, who offered no evidence for his claims at a state GOP convention in Columbus.

The remarks were his first public response since the DOJ unsealed its indictment laying out the government’s case that the former president and an aide mishandled classified documents.

Trump aide Walt Nauta, who was indicted alongside the former president, is seen on the tarmac with Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in Columbus, Georgia, on June 10, 2023.
Trump aide Walt Nauta, who was indicted alongside the former president, is seen on the tarmac with Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in Columbus, Georgia, on June 10, 2023.

Trump, who is seen as the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, faces a total of 37 counts, including 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information. Nauta, the Trump “body man” or personal aide, who is regularly at the former president’s side, faces six counts, including several charges related to obstruction and concealment.

In a roughly 80-minute speech in Georgia, Trump denied any wrongdoing and described the probe as “a sad day for the country.”

“Our people are angry,” he said of his second indictment in less than three months, with investigations into election interference efforts in Georgia and his actions surrounding January 6, 2021, in Washington threatening to pose further legal troubles.

Trump told the Georgia audience that any other Republican at the top of the party’s 2024 ticket would face similar scrutiny and legal challenges.

“Somebody else? They’re not going to withstand that fire,” he said.

The former president expanded on that message during remarks at the North Carolina GOP convention in Greensboro later Saturday.

“I stand before you today as the only candidate who has what it takes to smash this corrupt system and to truly drain the swamp,” Trump said, “and I’m the only one that they don’t want to do it.”

Multiple battles

Saturday’s speeches in Georgia and North Carolina demonstrated how Trump is responding – with fiery political attacks on Biden’s Justice Department in front of friendly audiences – as he mounts battles on both the political and legal fronts.

“The ridiculous and baseless indictment of me by the Biden administration’s weaponized department of injustice will go down as among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country,” the former president said.

Trump’s remarks were reminiscent of his first rally after last summer’s FBI search of his Mar-A-Lago estate. Speaking to supporters in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in September, Trump accused Biden of weaponizing federal law enforcement in what he said was “one of the most shocking abuses of power by any administration in American history.”

Trump speaks in Columbus, Georgia, on June 10, 2023.
Trump speaks in Columbus, Georgia, on June 10, 2023.

The former president is scheduled to appear Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Miami, where he will be read the charges against him. He told Politico on Saturday that he doesn’t anticipate taking a plea deal if offered one and again vowed to stay in the 2024 race, even if convicted.

On Saturday in Georgia, he again described special counsel Jack Smith as “deranged” and said the case against him was a “joke.”

Smith spoke publicly on Friday at the Justice Department following the unsealing of the indictment and said his office would seek a “speedy trial.” He urged Americans to read the indictment in full to understand the “gravity of the crimes charged.”

News of Trump’s indictment Thursday was met at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey with a belief that he would benefit politically as conservatives rallied around him.

Trump spent Friday morning in Bedminster playing golf with Florida Rep. Carlos Gimenez as his allies made rounds of phone calls to shore up support for the former president.

After the indictment was unsealed Friday, concern began to settle in, a source familiar with the mood at Bedminster told CNN, as Trump aides began to acknowledge the legal implications. His team still thinks Trump will likely benefit politically – at least in the short term – the source said, but aides have grown more wary of how the indictment will play out legally.

Trump has long avoided legal culpability in his personal, professional and political lives. He has settled a number of private civil lawsuits through the years and paid his way out of disputes concerning the Trump Organization. As president, he was twice impeached by the Democratic-led House but avoided conviction by the Senate.

But after leaving office, the Justice Department’s criminal investigations into the alleged retention of classified information at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election cast dark clouds over the former president. Smith’s investigation into January 6, 2021, and efforts to overturn the election is still ongoing.



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