Trump Heads to Georgia and North Carolina for His First Post-Indictment Public Remarks
In his first two campaign stops since facing federal charges, Donald J. Trump on Saturday will begin publicly prosecuting the case against the prosecutors prosecuting him.
Mr. Trump’s two speeches at the Georgia and North Carolina state G.O.P. conventions were planned before he was indicted on Thursday. The appearances on Saturday afternoon and evening will allow the former president to rally support before throngs of activists and elected officials as the most popular Republican in the country and the front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination.
Mr. Trump’s indictment, the details of which were unsealed on Friday by the Justice Department, has dominated the political landscape, forcing many of his rivals into the sometimes uncomfortable position of defending the politician they are trailing in the polls. In the unsealed indictment, federal prosecutors revealed for the first time how Mr. Trump had remained in possession of some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, showing them off to visitors.
“This indictment will be another political Rorschach test in that what you see depends on where you stand,” said David Urban, a former top adviser to Mr. Trump in his 2016 campaign.
The papers Mr. Trump kept included plans for retaliating to a foreign attack and details of American nuclear programs, according to the indictment. One image displayed boxes stacked next to a toilet in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom.
“Secret,” he bragged in a taped conversation, according to the indictment. “This is secret information. Look, look at this.”
Several people close to Mr. Trump and his team privately acknowledged the facts in the case were damaging. But they were uncertain it would have any more impact on Republican voters than a number of other scandals that did little to change public opinion.
Mr. Trump’s team is preparing to march forward, claiming he is being victimized.
The former president, who was already said to be angry on Thursday night in the first hour after the indictment, was enraged when the charges were unsealed and shared with him on Friday, according to a person who spoke with him. He returned from the golf course in time to watch Jack Smith, the special counsel bringing the charges, speak on television, the person said. The indictment was filled with information from people who work with him, and Mr. Trump had already been skeptical of some aides who might have revealed certain details to the special counsel, the person said.
Kari Lake, the failed Arizona candidate for governor who headlined a Georgia Republican Party dinner on Friday, said that no one in the G.O.P. base trusts the charges.
“We see it’s just a bunch of bogus lies,” said Ms. Lake, who clings to the falsehood that her own election was stolen in 2022, in addition to Mr. Trump’s in 2020. “He’s the front-runner and they have to constantly throw things in front of his path to stop him.”
Ms. Lake said Republican mistrust of the nation’s institutions runs deep. “We’ve learned that the F.B.I. is corrupt, the C.D.C., the F.D.A., the C.I.A.,” she said. “We’ve just learned a lot over the past few years.”
Mr. Trump has attacked Mr. Smith, the special counsel, as “deranged, a “psycho” and a “lunatic.”
Even more aggressive Trump pushback is expected in Georgia and North Carolina. The Trump team is hoping for live television coverage, which has been a rarity in his 2024 run, and sees the two appearances as a valuable opportunity for free coverage.
While many leading Republicans snapped in line behind Mr. Trump the moment he revealed that he was being indicted on Thursday, party strategists have concerns about how the charges will shape any potential general election matchup with President Biden. The last two midterm elections and Mr. Trump’s own 2020 loss show that his combative approach to politics — and the accumulation of allegations against him, including his indictment in April by a Manhattan grand jury — has turned off independent and swing voters.
Michael Caputo, a former senior Trump adviser who is now an executive at Americano Media, a new conservative Hispanic media outlet, said the charges “virtually assure” that Mr. Trump will win the Republican nomination in 2024.
But they could have the opposite effect in a general election contest with Mr. Biden, he said, even as he dismissed the charges as part of a Democratic conspiracy.
“It will be the new ‘Russia collusion hoax,’” Mr. Caputo said, using a phrase that Republicans have used in deriding the investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign conspired with Russian officials and whether he obstructed justice. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. It’s to have him under investigation.”
In Bedminster, N.J., Mr. Trump reacted to his indictment with a sense of angry defiance, according to two people who interacted with him. He still made time for the golf outing on Friday, joined by a Republican member of Congress from Miami, where he is slated to appear in court on Tuesday. Cable coverage included helicopter shots of Mr. Trump making his way down the fairway.
“It’s not really a different day for President Trump,” one of Mr. Trump’s attorneys, Alina Habba, said on Fox News in the hours after his indictment. “This is something he’s gone through before.”
Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.
Shane Goldmacher is a national political reporter and was previously the chief political correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times, he worked at Politico, where he covered national Republican politics and the 2016 presidential campaign. @ShaneGoldmacher
Jonathan Swan is a political reporter who focuses on campaigns and Congress. As a reporter for Axios, he won an Emmy Award for his 2020 interview of then-President Donald J. Trump, and the White House Correspondents’ Association’s Aldo Beckman Award for “overall excellence in White House coverage” in 2022. @jonathanvswan
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