Trump goes after the judge and prosecutors in his hush money case in last rally before trial begins

Apr 14, 2024, 11:00 AM

Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally....

Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, July 29, 2023, in Erie, Pa. Trump plans to hold a rally Saturday, April 13, 2024, in northeast Pennsylvania, his last before his criminal hush money trial begins on Monday. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

SCHNECKSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Saturday lit into New York prosecutors and the criminal hush money case they brought against him during his last rally before what he called a “communist show trial” begins Monday.

“I will be forced to sit fully gagged. I’m not allowed to talk. They want to take away my constitutional right to talk,” said Trump, who has been barred from publicly discussing potential witnesses and jurors but not the judge or prosecutors.

“I’m proud to do it for you,” Trump told a crowd in northeast Pennsylvania. “Have a good time watching.”

Trump spoke as Israel was fighting off a retaliatory drone attack from Iran that threatened to tip into a regional war in the Middle East. After a short mention of the attack, which he claimed wouldn’t have happened if he were president, Trump turned to an extended tirade against his own legal troubles.

He went after Judge Juan M. Merchan, whom he called “corrupt,” and District Attorney Alvin Bragg, declaring himself a victim of Democrats bent on blocking his return to the White House.

Trump is navigating four separate criminal prosecutions while running to avenge his loss to President Joe Biden, creating an unprecedented swirl of legal and political chaos.

Jury selection starts Monday in New York in his trial where he is charged with seeking during his 2016 campaign to bury stories about extramarital affairs by arranging hush money payments.

It will be the first criminal trial ever of a former U.S. president. And it will limit Trump’s availability on the campaign trail, though he is expected to speak to the media after court often and has for months fundraised and campaigned on the felony charges he faces.

Trump spoke at the Schnecksville Fire Hall in Lehigh County, where a long line formed outward three hours before Trump’s planned appearance. It was Trump’s third visit this year to the vital swing state, one that could decide who wins this year’s presidential race. He also plans to attend a fundraiser in nearby Bucks County before the event.

Pennsylvania is a critical battleground in the rematch between Trump and Biden, with both candidates expected to visit the state frequently through November. Trump flipped the state to the Republican column in 2016 but lost it four years after to Biden, who was born in the northeast city of Scranton and has long talked about his roots in the city. Biden plans to deliver a major address Tuesday in Scranton on tax fairness.

Bob Dippel, 69, retired after working as a chief financial officer for several small businesses. He said he didn’t think the upcoming trial “would matter too much” to independent voters because “people are starting to see the mockery being made” of the legal system.

Biden has argued Trump’s lies about losing the 2020 election are dangerous for the country. He has said Trump poses a fundamental threat to democracy and U.S. alliances abroad — rhetoric that Trump has argued applies to Biden.

“We’re going to win in the biggest landslide in history, because we’re the ones who are fighting to save our democracy and Joe Biden is a demented tyrant,” Trump said.

Iran’s attack on Israel, in apparent retaliation for a strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus that killed 12 people, may once again push foreign policy and the Middle East into the center of the presidential campaign.

It marked the first time Iran has launched a direct military assault on Israel, where officials have vowed to strike Iran directly in response to any attack from Iranian soil.

Prior to Saturday, Trump has recently said Israel needs to ” finish up ” its offensive in Gaza, warning the country is “absolutely losing the PR war ” as deaths mount and images of mass destruction proliferate. Israeli forces are going after Hamas after militants staged an Oct. 7 attack in which they killed an estimated 1,200 people and took 250 hostages.

“Get it over with, and let’s get back to peace and stop killing people. And that’s a very simple statement,” Trump said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt earlier this month. “They have to get it done. Get it over with, and get it over with fast because we have to — you have to get back to normalcy and peace.”

Trump recently said that any Democratic-leaning voters who support Israel should back him instead, as Biden has criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions in his war against Hamas. The Republican said Wednesday that “any Jewish person who votes for a Democrat or votes for Biden should have their head examined.”

During his presidency, he moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and facilitated the normalization of relations between Israel and several Arab states through a series of agreements known as the Abraham Accords. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, a move that Israel welcomed.

The deal lifted sanctions on Iran, which agreed in exchange to limit its nuclear program and allow inspections. Trump said it was too generous to Iran, while supporters of a deal said it was the best option to forestall a nuclear-armed Iran.
Cooper reported from Phoenix.

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Trump goes after the judge and prosecutors in his hush money case in last rally before trial begins