Former President Trump is gearing up to hold his first rally of the 2024 presidential cycle on Saturday as he grapples with a potential indictment.
Trump will travel to friendly territory in Waco, Texas, for the campaign event, which is set to be in stark contrast to his campaign’s more low-key events so far this cycle.
However, Saturday’s rally will take place as a Manhattan grand jury weighs Trump’s role in a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
“He’s hitting the rally circuit at the right time,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist.
“When you look at how he’s trending in the polls, plus it looks like Bragg’s case is dead in the water, he’s got momentum,” he added, referring to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), who is investigating Trump for potential financial crimes related to the hush money payments.
Trump sent the political world into a frenzy last week when he wrote on Truth Social that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday. However, with no indictment this week, the focus will shift to next week when the grand jury reconvenes.
On Friday ahead of the rally, Trump warned of “potential death & destruction” if he is indicted.
“What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country?” Trump wrote on Truth Social early on Friday.
The same kind of foreboding rhetoric could continue into Saturday’s rally.
“I think voters want to see what Donald Trump’s plan is if he returns to office,” said Brian Seitchik, a GOP consultant and Trump campaign alum. “I think what we’re going to get is the latest example of the injustices President Trump has to endure. We’re going to hear more about what he doesn’t get enough credit for.”
Trump is also grappling with three other legal battles. One of Trump’s lawyers, M. Evan Corcoran, spent Friday in federal court in Washington, D.C., after he was ordered to answer questions before a grand jury investigating the potential mishandling of classified documents at Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago. The former president is also facing a second Washington, D.C., investigation into his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol.
And earlier this week, the former president’s legal team moved to put an end to an investigation in Georgia looking into Trump’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The former president’s legal team blasted the probe as “confusing, flawed, and, at times, blatantly unconstitutional” in a 50-page filing on Monday.
The former president has spent much of this week on his social media website Truth Social attacking the investigations into him and claiming that they are politicized. On Thursday, Trump called for the removal of every law enforcement official investigating him.
A slew of Republican leaders and officials, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), have also echoed Trump’s claims that the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into him is politicized.
“This one seems to be the weakest and the easiest to politicize and that mission of politicizing this investigation and sort of coupling all of them together into one big ‘they’re just trying to screw me effort,’ this is the best one to do that with,” Seitchik said.
“I don’t prescribe to the notion that this is a good thing. I don’t see how being indicted is ever a good thing,” Seitchik added.
But O’Connell described “the Bragg saga” as “a gift to Donald Trump.”
“It shows you what Republicans are talking about when they say two tiers of justice and the idea that members of the Democratic Party will use the legal system to go after political opponents. That’s what truly animates Republicans,” O’Connell said.
In addition to spending time this week commenting on the three investigations, the former president has also attacked his chief potential rival in the Republican presidential primary, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Trump swiped at DeSantis earlier this week after the Florida governor used his response to the news of a potential Trump indictment to spotlight the allegations against the former president.
“Ron DeSanctimonious will probably find out about FALSE ACCUSATIONS & FAKE STORIES sometime in the future, as he gets older, wiser, and better known,” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post that linked to a story making claims against DeSantis.
The attacks come as Trump continues to lead DeSantis in primary polling, but DeSantis consistently comes in second place. Observers note that the rally, coming before DeSantis officially launches his presidential campaign, is a prime time for Trump to attack him.
“There’s no question that he is going to use this time between now and when DeSantis officially announces to define Ron DeSantis and if he didn’t do that it would be political malpractice,” said one Republican strategist. “You want to define your opponent before your opponent can define themselves.”
“We all know that Trump has a very special way of doing that,” the strategist added.
But, so far, compared to his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, Trump’s 2024 campaign events have been decidedly more low-key and scripted.
“I suspect they are trying to script him a bit more and have him focus on what they write and draft,” said a second GOP strategist. “You’ve seen a renewed emphasis on that with him of late.”
“But I think if he has a feeling one way or another on the indictment or feels chippy on DeSantis or you fill in the blank, I think it will be a combo of boring, scripted, and off-the-cuff haymakers,” the strategist continued. “As we’ve seen with him, he can do both of those in the same sentence.”
The location and timing of the former president’s first campaign rally of the 2024 cycle have also raised some eyebrows. The rally coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Waco Seige, which took place just outside of the Texas city. The standoff, in which 86 people were killed, was between the federal government and a religious cult known as the Branch Davidians.
However, the Trump campaign has brushed off the notion that the rally and the anniversary are connected. Greene, Democrats offer tale-of-two-jails after visit with Jan. 6 defendants House slated to take up major energy package next week
“President Trump is holding his first campaign rally in Waco in the Super Tuesday state of Texas because it is centrally located and close to all four of Texas’ biggest metropolitan areas—Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio—while providing the necessary infrastructure to hold a rally of this magnitude,” said Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman. “This is the ideal location to have as many supporters from across the state and in neighboring states attend this historic rally. It also happens to be the home to the Baylor Bears, one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in America.”
The second GOP strategist likened the decision to hold the rally in Texas to baseball’s spring training season.
“Teams go to Florida and Arizona during spring training to play exhibition games, not necessarily start their starting pitcher for nine innings but to test things out,” the strategist said. “If you were going to go test out your organization and your message and just try to get back on track, going to a friendly place like Texas probably isn’t a bad way to do it rather than trying to dive into Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Nevada.”