Donald Trump is set to return to the campaign stage, if not the campaign, on Saturday with a rally in Sarasota, Florida.
There are no national elections in the US this year, but the former president maintains control over the Republican party before the 2022 midterm elections and is toying with a bid for the presidency in 2024, despite mounting problems. legal in New York and elsewhere.
On Thursday, the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded not guilty to criminal charges brought by the Manhattan district attorney, regarding suspected tax fraud.
Trump accused prosecutors of being politically motivated, saying: “The Republican Party should not allow this to happen. It is a radical left shame on our country, and no one should tolerate it, not even the Democrats. Republicans must fight back. This will destroy our country! “
But his refusal to leave the political scene is seen by many as dangerously divisive. Following coverage of the Sarasota event, Trump told supporters that it could be “seen on OAN and Newsmax,” two far-right television networks.
The rally was billed as a July 4 celebration with fireworks and was expected to draw several thousand in a state that Trump won by more than three points in 2020.
Trump lost that contest to Joe Biden by more than 7 million ballots nationally and by 306-232 in the electoral college, a resounding beating, which he called crushing when he favored Hillary Clinton in 2016, which he nonetheless claims which was the best. result of electoral fraud.
It wasn’t, but Trump’s lie dominates the Republican Party, fueling the deadly assault on the United States Capitol on January 6 and attempts in GOP-controlled states to limit access to ballots and facilitate revocation. of the electoral results.
This week, Trump He said Fox News anchor Sean Hannity had decided if he would run again in 2024, saying, “Not that I want to. The country needs it. We have to take care of this country. It’s not fun, fighting constantly, always fighting. “
It also followed “a significant announcement about his efforts to protect the first amendment rights of Americans,” which he said he would make at his golf course in Bedminster, NJ, on Wednesday.
According to a Reuters poll, 53% of Republicans believe Trump won the election and blame his defeat on illegal voting. A quarter of the public thinks Trump won.
Earlier this week, Trump visited the US-Mexico border and accused Biden of neglecting national security. He held his first comeback rally last weekend in Wellington, Ohio, supporting a former White House aide’s top challenge to Anthony Gonzalez.
González was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to accuse Trump of inciting the Jan.6 attack, Trump’s second impeachment trial, a unique achievement.
Trump has vowed to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted to send him to trial in the Senate. Seven Republicans voted his guilt, not enough to convict him.
In Ohio, he repeated the old lines and repeated his lie about the election, says Utah Sen. Mitt Romney in comparison to professional wrestling: “entertaining” but “not real.”
Many Republicans believe them. An Ohio aide, Gary Bartlett, 65, and a retired manual worker at General Motors, told The Guardian that he voted for Democrats until Trump was traded in 2016. He also said the 2020 election was stolen.
“There were too many things on television that showed polling places and too many rumors,” he said. “When I drive through Ohio and other states, I see Trump posters everywhere. There’s no way Biden got that many votes. “
Before the Florida rally, Jack Brill, chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party, told Reuters that he expected Trump to galvanize his supporters ahead of the midterm elections and a run for gubernatorial in which prominent Trump supporter Ron DeSantis, will seek a second term.
A significant number of Republican voters see DeSantis as an attractive option for 2024. The 42-year-old has been at the forefront of Republican-led struggles against coronavirus shutdowns, racial justice protests and expanded access. to the ballots.
In an informal 2024 poll of potential candidates at a conservative conference in Denver in June, DeSantis finished ahead of Trump, 74% to 71%. DeSantis’ office has said it is focused on winning re-election in Florida.
DeSantis will not be attending Trump’s rally in Sarasota. His office said he planned to spend the weekend in Surfside, where rescuers have spent more than a week searching for survivors in the rubble of a condo building collapse that killed at least 22 and left dozens missing.