A subdued former President Donald Trump lashed out on Tuesday at New York prosecutor Alvin Bragg for bringing criminal charges against him and declared himself the victim of election interference without offering evidence.
"I never thought anything like this could happen in America," Trump told supporters gathered at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida. "The only crime that I've committed has been to fearlessly defend our nation against those who seek to destroy it."
Earlier, Trump pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, as prosecutors accused him of orchestrating payments to two women before the 2016 election to suppress publication of their sexual encounters with him.
Trump, running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, on Tuesday night in Florida gave a relatively short speech, 25 minutes, compared to his rally speeches that can sometimes last two hours.
Despite launching a tirade against prosecutors, he did not call for new protests from his supporters. And while he is expected to return to the campaign trail soon, he gave no details of that.
Trump, 76, reached deep into his well of personal grievances to declare himself hounded by political opponents using the legal system against him to try to stop him from winning back the White House in 2024.
Trump accused Manhattan District Attorney Bragg of being out to get him "before he knew anything about me." He said the judge in the case, Juan Merchan, is "a Trump-hating judge." But he did not offer any evidence to support his claim that they were taking their actions in order to undermine his White House bid.
ATTACKS LEGAL CASES
Trump took fresh shots at all the various legal cases against him, from the handling of classified documents that were taken to Mar-a-Lago when Trump moved out of the White House in early 2021, the probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol and the election interference case he is facing in Georgia from the 2020 election.
Trump expressed particular concern about the case of the document being investigated by special counsel Jack Smith, who he called a "lunatic" several times.
He said the cases amount to an attempt to thwart his third run for the presidency, calling it "massive election interference at a scale never seen."
Gathered before him in a gilt-edged ballroom at Mar-a-Lago were a number of combative, diehard Trump backers, including Republican lawmakers Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, long-time operative Roger Stone, pillow maker Mike Lindell, former U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and Trump sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
Trump's wife, Melania, was not seen in the ballroom.
SHOW OF SUPPORT
Among the hundreds, there was Nathan Mitchell, 18, the incoming president of the Florida Atlantic University's college Republicans club.
He said he was there to support a man who represents "the best chance that America has to become great again."
Of the accusations brought against Trump, Mitchell said, "It humiliates us all in front of the world."
Wearing a black leather biker vest, with a "Born to Ride" patch above the number 45, Alex Gonzalez, 45, who operates a security company in Palm Beach said he was there to show the former president that the people believe in him.
"It's all a charade, man, it's all a witch hunt," Gonzalez said of the indictment. "Trump should not be held above the law - if he does something wrong he should be held liable like anybody else. But this is BS and everybody knows it."