Their confidence in Trump remains unwavering.
Supporters of Donald Trump, the former US president, gathered in their thousands on Saturday at a rally in the rain in Florida, oblivious to criminal charges against his company.
Two days earlier, the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, had pleaded not guilty to tax evasion charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney (DA). The New York case may just be the tip of a legal iceberg that threatens Trump himself.
Interviews at the rally with some of the ex-president’s most ardent fans put this hypothesis to the test. Some actually shrugged their shoulders and continued. Others echoed Trump’s view that the charges were politically motivated. More than one prefaced their answer with the words âthat’s bullshitâ.
From everything, it was clear that the accusations fit perfectly into an existing narrative in which Democrats, the media and the “deep state” have been trying to demolish Trump since he launched his candidacy with an escalator at Trump Tower in 2015. Brand new accusation is simply interpreted as another data point to strengthen this case.
Anthony Cabrera, 19, student wearing a “Make America great again” [Maga] cap, spoke for a lot when he said, âI have no opinion. You hear about it and move on with your day.
But with some prompting, he clarified, âI think it’s all about advertising. The Manhattan district attorney has been trying to get something for ages. It’s a trophy.
And if Trump ends up in the dock, will the Maga Army rally to his defense? Cabrera said: âI have no doubts. You see the crowd here. Trump has a lot of very enthusiastic support. Such an escalation for political reasons will not be good for the country. “
Supporters of former President Donald Trump attend a rally at the Sarasota Fairgrounds, Ringling Brothers Winter Quarters and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Photograph: Octavio Jones / Reuters
Eddie Gottsman, 67, a retired manager, has been outspoken. âI think that’s bullshit,â he said. âIt’s a witch hunt. The way they have treated Trump over the past four years, it is evident that they are prepared to overturn it. He scares them. I know he will run in 2024 and, if he does, he will win.
There is a lot of speculation that Weisselberg, who was taken to court in handcuffs, could “turn around” to save his own skin. But Gottsman said, âI don’t think so because Trump has nothing to hide. He’s always three steps ahead of them no matter what they try to do. The Russian collusion was just a hoax, all made-up lies.
Ashley Ballinger, 38, a business owner, agreed. âI think the witch hunt continues,â she said. âThey’ve been trying to get him for years and they still have nothing on him. This gentleman has worked for him for years. Trump takes care of his people and they take care of him.
Trump has accused New York State Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance of partisanship because both are Democrats. But Ballinger said, âIt’s Republicans and Democrats: they’re all in the same boat, they’re all politicians. He’s a threat to them and we are all a threat to them and that’s what scares them.
On the eve of Independence Day. The second âSave America! Trump’s post-presidential rally was held at the Sarasota Fairgrounds, perhaps appropriate for a man often described as a carnival barker or a clown. For over 60 years, Sarasota has been the winter home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. But John Ringling, “King of the Sawdust Ring,” lost his fortune and went through hard times.
The new circus came to town with a man who played guitar and sang “You can stick your poison vaccine in your ass”; a Trump impersonator in a baggy suit, red tie, blonde wig and orange makeup prancing across the field; a 10-foot-tall Trump statue with giant outstretched hands; a man wearing a “Trump 2024” cap and a Confederate vest; an eight-year-old black boy wearing a t-shirt that said, âTrump won.
But it only became the biggest spectacle in the world when a small plane, presumably belonging to a constituent of Biden, flew over the sky with the words “Loser-Palooza” parading in lights under its wings.
There was food, fireworks and flags rumbling, “Fuck you and fuck you for voting for him!” Warm-up acts including Matt Gaetz, a member of Congress from Florida under investigation for alleged sex trafficking, and Trump’s son Don Jr, who said of the Manhattan district attorney’s case: ” The political persecution will continue because we are no different from Russia, we are no different from the mullahs in Iran.
A giant Donald Trump loomed over his supporters at the rally, co-sponsored by the Florida Republican Party. Photography: Eva Marie Uzcategui / Getty Images
Trump himself launched a tirade against the accusations, insisting they were part of a five-year campaign against him that included the investigation into Russia which he said cleared him of any collusion . He accused Democratic prosecutors of “bribing and arming the
law” against opponents while allowing violent crime to skyrocket.
âThis is the kind of persecution they are doing, for example in New York, that you would see in third world countries,â he said. “It is reminiscent of a Communist dictatorship targeting its political opponents … There is no depth the radical left will not go to stop our Make America Great Again movement.”
Trump complained that New York prosecutors did not attack a single financial firm after the 2007-08 financial crisis and did not target Democrat Hillary Clinton or Biden’s son Hunter. “They leave the Democrats alone no matter how bad they are, but they mobilize all the powers of government to come after me, my family, my wonderful employees and my company only because of politics … The more I fight for you, the harder they come after me.
He went on to suggest that the charges against Weisselberg relating to non-payment of taxes on a company car and apartment that made it easier for him to get around were trivial. He also claimed he did not know if Weisselberg had done anything wrong with taxes on his grandchildren’s private education, asking the crowd, âDoes anyone know the answer?
Such sentiments resonated with his diehard supporters. Garry Petty, 44, director of a pest control and fertilizer company, said, âI think that’s bullshit. They have been chasing him since the day he ran for President and they have found nothing. Washington hates Trump because he is not a politician. He’s a businessman who doesn’t need their support or their money and scares them.
“If he had done something wrong, they would have dug it up by now.” If they found something on him, we could handle it – oh, we were wrong – but I don’t think that will happen. They’re going to have to keep trying and I’m sure they will. They are terrified that he will run away again; that’s why they started to heat up.
But if Trump goes to court, Perry – wearing a “Hillary Clinton killed my friend” t-shirt – isn’t planning any violent protests. âI think the right is the reasonable half of the country. Take a look at who has committed the looting and riots over the past year – it’s not us. In fact, far-right white nationalists have been linked to a wave of racist and anti-Semitic violence.
The rally came days after the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg pleaded not guilty to tax evasion charges brought by the Manhattan district attorney. Photograph: Octavio Jones / Reuters
Opinions were divided by age, sex and race. Liz Ulibarri, 57, who works in a metal shop, said: âI think the accusations are made up out of thin air and the Democrats are desperate to attribute something to it. They decided to try to bring him down, but everything they tried failed. In five years, how many things has he been accused of and how many have been invented from nothing? “
Could Weisselberg, accused of having accepted âextraordinaryâ social benefits, could he turn against his boss for nearly half a century and reveal dark secrets? Ulibarri said: âI don’t think Allen Weisselberg has any dark secrets to tell. They try to make him pay for taking gifts. Is it insignificant?
Dolly Schacht, 67, a business owner, also remained loyal. âIt’s a stunt,â she said. âI didn’t start to be interested in politics before Trump. I listened to it and it was all I wanted. He spoke out against corruption in government and it was scary. I also think we want a businessman to run the country rather than a politician who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
When asked if she was troubled by potential corruption within the Trump Organization, Schacht replied, âIt will be less than politicians. I think the government is forcing businesses to be a bit corrupt.
What if Trump found himself handcuffed? âPeople will definitely support him,â she said, pointing to the crowd. “Here we are. We’ve seen him go through so much. I think Democrats have hurt themselves more than they helped themselves. Trump may be a talker and an antagonist, but he loves the people. American. “