Jun 11, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump ratchets up his rhetoric in North Carolina

Republican presidential candidate former president Donald Trump delivers remarks in Greensboro, North Carolina. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Greensboro, N.C. — Former President Trump capped off an action-packed day post-indictment by casting a 37-count federal indictment as a "demented persecution of our movement."

Why it matters: Trump's final appearance before appearing in court next week is an indication of how he plans to campaign as his legal programs continue to unravel — by portraying the indictments as attempts to stop him from returning to the White House.

What we're watching: In a winding 90-minute keynote speech at the North Carolina GOP convention where two of his other competitors also spoke, Trump took his rhetoric up a notch, telling the audience: "You're watching Joe Biden try to jail his leading political opponent."

  • "They're going after me for the Espionage Act. That's like the creation of missiles in your basement!"

He turned quickly to the discovery of documents with classified markings at President Biden's old office and his home in Delaware.

  • "Joe Biden had troves and troves of documents from his time as Senator. I watched [Democratic Senator] Dick Durbin get angry about it...And they come after me."
  • Trump continued to insist that his team cooperated with the National Archives, accusing the agency — without evidence — of conspiring with the FBI.
  • "Never forget what the demented persecution of our movement is all about!"

The big picture: He gave a similar speech in Georgia earlier Saturday, where he characterized his campaign as "the final battle."

  • Trump made himself highly visible Saturday, making an impromptu stop at a Waffle House, greeting police officers, signing baseballs and photos, and taking every opportunity to greet supporters in front of the cameras.
  • On the plane from Georgia to North Carolina, Trump told Politico he would continue running for president even if he were to be convicted in the classified documents case.

The intrigue: Deborah Reynold Alexander, 73, a Republican attendee at the convention, told Axios that the indictment means Trump "shouldn't be president because it will be an exercise in futility."

  • "I heard him speak here [in North Carolina] in 2015 and he talked about everything that is near and dear to my heart, including bringing jobs back to North Carolina."
  • "Now he just talks about himself," Alexander says of Trump plans, adding she plans to support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Others believe the indictment will coalesce Trump's support.

  • Martie Cochrane, 61, told Axios: "People have a heart that truly believes he is not guilty and their hearts will lean toward feeling sorry for him and feeling like he's gone through enough already."
  • Cochrane ticks off a number of Trump's actions while in office — tax cuts, the renegotiated NAFTA, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem — many of which Trump touted on stage Saturday.

Go deeper:

  1. Why Trump can legally run for president despite indictments
  2. U.S. secrets were everywhere at Trump's club
  3. Special counsel: "We have one set of laws in this country"
Go deeper