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Trump rails against ‘demonic forces’ and pitches 2024 race as ‘the final battle’ at Waco rally

The Independent logo The Independent 3/26/2023 Josh Marcus and Richard Hall

Donald Trump railed against “demonic forces” and pitched the 2024 presidential race as “the final battle” at the first rally of his third campaign for the White House in Waco, Texas, on Saturday.

Mr Trump opened the rally by playing a song recorded by a choir of men imprisoned for their involvement in the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. He then launched into a speech that echoed the same incendiary language he used in the run-up to that day.

“If we don’t win this election in 2024, I truly believe our country is doomed,” he said, hitting out at “demonic forces” who are “destroying the country.”

“Either the Deep State destroys America or we destroy the Deep State,” the former president said.

“They’re flooding your towns with deadly drugs selling your jobs to China, mutilating your children … setting fire to your life savings, releasing violent criminals to prey on innocent people.”

“I am your warrior. I am your justice. And I took a lot of heat for this one, but I only meant it in the proper way — to those who have been wronged and betrayed, of which there are many people out there, I will be your retribution,” he added.

Mr Trump, who is facing a potential indictment for the payment of hush money to an adult film actress with whom he allegedly had an affair, and is also under investigation for election meddling and mishandling of documents, took aim at the various law enforcement agencies investigating him, describing them as "something straight out of the Stalinist Russia horror show."

“This is really prosecutorial misconduct, that’s what it’s called. The innocence of people makes no difference whatsoever to these radical left maniacs,” Mr Trump said.

“The thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced,” he added.

Queues started to form early on Saturday morning at Waco Regional Airport where field after field was filled with vehicles decked out in Trump flags.

Mr Trump held the rally in the city of Waco on the 30th anniversary of a militarised standoff between federal agents and the Branch Davidian religious sect in nearby Elk, Texas claimed the lives of more than 80 people.

The event partly inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to attack two years later, and for those on the militant fringe of American life, Waco came to serve as a symbol of violent government overreach or the beginning of the end times.

Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at his rally in Waco, Texas (AP) © Provided by The Independent Former President Donald Trump arrives to speak at his rally in Waco, Texas (AP)

Mr Trump also attacked rivals in his own party —including potential primary challenger Ron DeSantis and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell.

Mr Trump used the epithet he has coined for the Florida governor, calling Ron “DeSanctimonious.” Mr Trump said that in 2018, Mr DeSantis begged the then-president to endorse him in the Republican primary for governor in Florida.

“But I’m a loyalist and when a man comes to me with tears in his eyes, he’s had almost nothing in the polls,” he told rallygoers. Mr Trump noted how at the time, Mr DeSantis registered much lower in the polls than then-agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam, who also had a significant money advantage.

“He’s at almost nothing, he’s got no cash,” Mr Trump said.

Mr DeSantis has yet to announce whether he will challenge Mr Trump. But many conservative activists have rallied behind him after he won re-election last year by almost 20 points.

Among the crowd, Mr Trump’s supporters were less than enthused about Mr DeSantis potentially challenging their candidate.

“DeSantis is great, but I think he needs to let Trump do four more years,” Tammy Pavelka of Waco told The Independent. “He’ll take over the next eight.”

From the stage, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell went further, going directly after the Florida Republican and calling him “Trojan horse Ron DeSantis.”

“The best thing he can do is endorse Donald Trump tomorrow morning,” Mr Lindell told the crowd, to applause.

Trump said the next election would be the ‘final battle’ to save the United States (AP) © Provided by The Independent Trump said the next election would be the ‘final battle’ to save the United States (AP)

Mr Trump’s supporters also hit out at the various investigations into him — in New York for campaign finance violations, in Georgia for election meddling, and in Washington for mishandling classified documents.

Many in the crowd held aloft signs "WITCH HUNT" in reference to the probes.

“I don’t think it’ll stick,” Trump supporter Karey Cottrell told The Independent of the potential charges in New York, which are expected to drop sometime next week.

“It’s complete garbage,” she added. “It’s ridiculous. I didn’t think they would stoop this low.”

Many who spoke to The Independent believe that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s probe, into alleged hush money payments made by Mr Trump to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign, is an exercise in partisan politics.

“They’re just attacking him,” said Steve Harris, a retired statistics professor, who lives in Waco. “It’s ridiculous to indict somebody on something when the statute of limitations ran out a long time ago.”

(Manhattan prosecutors will likely argue the statute of limitations hasn’t run out, given pandemic-era legal extensions and Donald Trump’s regular travel in and out of New York, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group.)

The MAGA faithful said that the multiple legal probes against Mr Trump - who has survived two impeachments, a special counsel investigation, and numerous lawsuits and probes throughout his life — will flame out.

“For almost eight years, that’s what they’ve been doing,” rallygoer Tammy Pavelka told The Independent. “He’s draining the swamp, so they’re after him.”

Mention of Mr Bragg, the New York prosecutor, was particularly unpopular at the rally.

“Bragg, he’s just looking for popularity,” Ms Pavelka said.

Another man was seen holding an “Arrest Alvin Bragg” t-shirt.

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