President Donald Trump accused New York prosecutors of behaving like a ‘communist dictatorship targeting political opponents’ as he railed against criminal charges leveled against his company during a rally in Florida.
He unloaded his fury after a week that included seeing an employee paraded into court in handcuffs with a fiery rally speech on Saturday night in Sarasota, Florida.
Trump hit all his favorite targets, from immigration to fake news, but reserved special fury for prosecutors in New York.
‘It’s reminiscent of a communist dictatorship targeting their political opponents … fabricating charges to try and silence them, abusing the justice system and leaking out information on a daily basis to the press, to engage in flagrant character assassination,’ he said to cheers.
But he said the ‘witch hunt’ that began when he first ran for office would backfire, cementing his support.
‘In America people will not stand for it,’ he said.
The Florida trip was his second campaign-style rally since leaving office, a mass gathering of the MAGA faithful as he seeks to retain his grip on the Republican Party and boost allies before next year’s midterm elections.
Before the rally began, Trump told Newsmax that he had spoken to Florida governor Ron DeSantis and had told him not to attend the event, and instead stay in Miami where he is dealing with the aftermath of the Surfside condo collapse.
He said: ‘He is working very hard. He is doing a very good job. He should be there. I told him: ‘You should be there, this is not that important for you’. He of all people should be there.’
The rally, billed as a Fourth of July celebration, drew tens of thousands of people to a grassy fairground, braving first blistering temperatures and then torrential Florida rain.
‘Democrats are mobilizing every power of government to come after me, my family, my wonderful employees’
The rally was a chance for Trump to respond to the events of Thursday, when Trump’s namesake company and chief financial officer pleaded not guilty to 15 criminal charges brought by prosecutors investigating suspected tax fraud.
They alleged that Allen Weisselberg had failed to pay tax on $1.7 million of perks – including Mercedes cars, an apartment and tuition fees for his grandchildren.
The Trump Organization and Weisselberg, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to what a New York prosecutor called a ‘sweeping and audacious’ tax fraud, arising from a probe into Trump’s business and its practices.
Trump told thousands of supporters: ‘They go after good hard working people for not paying taxes on a company car. Or a company apartment. Or education for your grandchildren. But they indict people for that.
‘But for murder or for selling massive amounts of the worst drugs in the world, that’s ok.
‘Think of how unfair it is. Never before has New York City and their prosecutors criminally charged a company or a person for fringe benefits. Murder is OK, human trafficking is no problem, but fringe benefits you can’t do.’
He added: ‘It’s really called prosecutorial misconduct. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.’
He railed against the charges in New York and compared the prosecutors to Third World dictators.
‘This is the kind of persecution they are doing – as an example in New York and they’re doing it all over – that you would see in a Third World nation. This isn’t for us, it’s reminiscent of a communist dictatorship targeting your political opponents for really it is, think of it, prosecution. They prosecute people, good people, fabulous people, people who love our country.’
Trump said financial companies that caused the financial crash, or Democrats like Hillary Clinton or Hunter Biden were never investigated.
‘They leave Democrats alone no matter how bad they are but mobilize every power of government to come after me, my family, my wonderful employees and my company solely because of politics,’ he said.
‘They want to do things to hurt us.’
Trump’s audience lapped up his attacks, booing the villains of the story and cheering Trump’s defiance.
Supporter Russell Kasper, 45, said the timing of the court appearance, just as the former president, returns to the rally stage was suspect.
‘It’s very odd timing,’ he said.
‘I’m not someone who thinks Trump is perfect or who has never done anything wrong – but it looks as if they are out to get him.’