Waco, Texas — Former President Donald Trump promised that “2024 will be the final battle” and that he will overcome the accusations against him, as he held his first official campaign rally in Waco, Texas, on Saturday.
“They’re not coming after me — they’re coming after you and I’ll stand in their way because in 2024, we’ll have the greatest victory of them all,” Trump told the exuberant crowd of several thousand at the Waco Regional Airport.
Although the rally had been previously scheduled, it came just one week after Trump posted on social media that he expected to be arrested last Tuesday. However, the week came and went without any indictment or arrest, but that didn’t deter the crowd in Waco.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been investigating Trump for allegedly falsifying business records in connection to a “hush money” payout made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Trump has maintained his innocence and has denied ever having a relationship with Daniels.
At Saturday’s rally, he said “I never liked ‘horse face,'” in apparent reference to Daniels, and then said, “We have a great first lady,” referencing his wife, Melania Trump.
“And people see it’s bull****, and they go and they say, unfair! But it takes place by the Department of injustice,” Trump said.
In a nearly 90-minute speech, Trump said the “biggest threat” to the U.S. isn’t China or Russia, but American leaders including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a fellow Republican, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, President Biden, and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“In many ways, these sick people are more of a threat, because we can deal with China,” Trump said.
The former president blamed the Biden administration for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin “didn’t want to do it” and “wanted to get a piece” of Ukraine.
“Now it looks like he’ll end up probably getting the whole thing,” said Trump, who claimed he can end the war after winning the 2024 election, and before taking office.
He took a few swipes at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another potential 2024 Republican candidate. The former president blasted DeSantis for, in his estimation, failing to return his loyalty. Trump endorsed DeSantis before his successful gubernatorial bids in 2018 and 2022.
Trump suggested DeSantis isn’t doing well in the polls, and said Florida was successful for “many years,” and “long” before DeSantis became governor.
“Florida’s been successful for decades,” he said.
Some in the crowd said they liked DeSantis, but didn’t want him to take on Trump in 2024.
“I really like [DeSantis], he’s doing so much in Florida,” said Judy Campbell, who drove more than six hours with her husband, Ken, for the rally. But both Campbells, who are retired, said they want DeSantis to wait.
“I liked him until this” recent sniping with Trump, Ken said.
“Love DeSantis,” attendee Karrie Olivarez told CBS News. “But I think Trump’s the only one that can turn this country around and get it going right back on track.”
The Manhattan D.A.’s investigation is one of several investigations into Trump. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee probes into Trump’s handling of classified documents, and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump did not directly reference the Jan. 6 attack, or his supporters who have been arrested in connection to it, although he walked out to the national anthem being sung by the “J6 choir.”
A Trump supporter, Dolores Duderstadt of San Antonio, called those who are in prison due to Jan. 6 convictions or guilty pleas “political prisoners.”
Some Trump supporters at Saturday’s rally brushed off the Manhattan D.A.’s investigation as “political.”
“All politically motivated, every bit of it,” Olivarez said.
“I think Alvin Bragg should be arrested and thrown in prison,” Trump supporter Darwin Vanvaale said. “We’re tired of Trump taking all the slings and arrows.”
Trump’s rally came during the 30th anniversary of the Waco standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidians, a religious sect. The 51-day siege began on Feb. 28, 1993, and resulted in the deaths of 86 people.