Former President Trump responded to being indicted on Tuesday with an angry speech in which he painted a dark vision of the country and unloaded a litany of conspiracy theories, some familiar and some novel. Cheered on by MAGA movement celebrities, he railed against President Joe Biden and criticized, at length and with specifics, the various prosecutors investigating him.
“I never thought anything like this could happen in America, never thought it could happen,” Trump said, adding, “The only crime I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”
Trump made his primetime speech on Tuesday night at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida. He had flown back to the club promptly after his appearance at a courthouse in New York City earlier in the afternoon, where he was indicted on 34 felony charges related to falsifying documents in conjunction with an alleged hush money scheme. At Mar-a-Lago, after denying that he had committed any crime, Trump, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, immediately launched into a conspiracy-filled rant wherein, for nearly 30 minutes, he attacked his political rivals and all of the prosecutors investigating him.
“From the beginning, the Democrats spied on my campaign. Remember that?” Trump asked. “They attacked me with an onslaught of fraudulent investigations.”
To some extent, he played the hits. Among other things, Trump described the efforts to impeach him for his role inciting the violent January 6 attack on the Capitol as a “hoax.” He also called his impeachment for allegedly withholding aid from Ukraine in an effort to extract political favors a “hoax.” Trump repeatedly, falsely suggested he won the 2020 election and claimed Biden benefited from “millions of votes illegally stuffed into ballot boxes and all caught on government cameras.” He also suggested Biden benefitted from “collusion” between the Justice Department, FBI, and Facebook who, Trump claimed, conspired to suppress information about the “Hunter Biden laptop from hell.”
Along with all of these nefarious plots against him, Trump suggested the country was “going to hell” under Biden with “raging crime statistics,” a “crippled” economy, and a military that has “now gone woke at the top levels.” Trump declared it is “the most embarrassing time in our country’s history, in my opinion,” and warned we are on the brink of “all-out nuclear World War III.”
“It can happen,” Trump said. “We’re not very far away from it, believe it or not.”
It was the full array of MAGA movement obsessions ripped straight from internet comment sections and conspiracy forums. The audience at Mar-a-Lago included many prominent true believers, such as former Arizona gubernatorial candidate and election conspiracist Kari Lake, MyPillow entrepreneur Mike Lindell, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who had also given a speech at a pro-Trump rally earlier that day in Manhattan.
In a text message to TPM after the speech, Lindell said the indictment would boost Trump’s current re-election campaign.
“It was great and this attack on our real President solidified him winning in 2024!” Lindell wrote.
Of course, Lindell thinks Trump already won re-election in 2020 and was simply robbed. So, TPM asked, how could Trump’s position possibly be any more solid this next time around?
“We are getting rid of the electronic voting machines!!” Lindell wrote, adding, “Everyone loves our real president Donald Trump … some just don’t know it yet !”
In his speech, Trump specifically focused on the quartet of prosecutors who are currently investigating him: Alvin Bragg, Jack Smith, Fani Willis, and Tish James. In Trump’s telling, all of them are wildly corrupt and unfairly targeting him.
Trump started with Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who brought the felony charges for the alleged hush money scheme. He criticized Bragg’s case, which began before the district attorney took office last year. Trump also attacked Bragg for promising to continue the investigation on the campaign trail.
“He campaigned on the fact that he would get President Trump. … Before he knew anything about me. Didn’t know a thing about me,” Trump said. “It’s an insult to our country as the world is already laughing at us for so many other reasons.”
Trump then turned to Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating his extensive efforts to challenge the election results there, which included a phone call where he pressured the secretary of state to “find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.” Trump accused Willis of “doing everything in her power to indict me over an absolutely perfect phone call.”
“Nobody said, ‘Sir you shouldn’t say that.’ … or hung up in disgust,” Trump said of the Georgia call.
Text messages obtained by TPM last year showed how the secretary of state’s deputy was shocked by Trump’s conduct and pressed to end the call quickly.
At Mar-a-Lago, Trump also took aim at Jack Smith, the federal special counsel who is investigating his role in inciting the violent January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and his handling of classified documents after leaving office. Trump dismissed Smith as “a radical left lunatic known as a bomb thrower,” suggested Smith’s name might be fake, and described the documents probe, which included a raid on Mar-a-Lago last August, as the “boxes hoax.” While Trump admitted he took documents from the White House, he maintained they were held in a “very secure storage room” and insisted he had “the right to declassify documents and the process is automatic,” a rationale that has been rejected by legal experts.
“The next thing I know, we were raided by many gun-toting FBI agents,” Trump said. “Everybody was in shock.”
Trump also suggested Biden had similarly stowed away documents. In the wake of the Mar-a-Lago raid, both Biden and Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, voluntarily consented to searches and proactively turned over classified documents in their possession. This is a marked contrast with Trump who rejected efforts to retrieve documents and was served with a search warrant. As he argued Biden was “absolutely inexcusable,” Trump made a pronounced and racially charged emphasis on the Washington D.C. neighborhood where Biden’s office was located.
“Joe Biden took massive amounts, more documents, even removed many boxes to Chinatown. You believe that?” Trump asked.
Trump also honed in for about five minutes on New York Attorney General Tish James, who has accused him of fraud in an ongoing $250 million lawsuit focused on his real estate business. Along with defending his business practices, Trump attacked James for vowing to go after him as she campaigned for the position in 2018 and suggested her job performance was spurring people to leave New York.
“This is a persecution, not an investigation,” Trump said of James. “She’s put our family through hell. It’s cost hundreds of millions of dollars to defend, but our heads are held very, very high.”
In a text message to TPM, James, who was at a reception for a union organization on Tuesday night, said she did not watch Trump’s speech.
“I am on Long Island at a labor event,” James said.