COLUMBUS, Ga.–Two days after learning that he will face 37 counts of federal charges over his handling of government documents, former President Donald Trump expressed his resolve to stand strong—and so did his supporters.
“The ridiculous and baseless indictment by the Biden administration’s weaponized Department of Injustice will go down as among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country,” he told a capacity crowd of about 3,000 people who gathered for the GOP convention on June 10.
Trump and others allege that his indictment was timed to divert attention from an emerging alleged bribery scandal centering on Democrat President Joe Biden—information that House Republicans are prying loose after the FBI kept details of its investigation into the claims under wraps for six years.
“Biden is trying to jail his leading political opponent, just like they do in Stalinist Russia or Communist China,” Trump told the audience.
Trump’s historic indictment in Florida, which he revealed on June 8, touched off vigorous debate from the left, right, and center.
As details began to emerge on June 9, some legal analysts said they think the indictment may be fatally flawed because it fails to acknowledge the unique records privileges that are, by law, conferred upon presidents.
But other pundits and ordinary citizens began predicting that Trump is headed to prison. Some called for him to abandon his presidential run. Trump says that won’t happen.
“As everybody in this absolutely packed house knows, I have put everything on the line,” Trump told the convention, drawing loud applause. “I will never yield.”
At times, Trump appeared lighthearted despite the gravity of his legal troubles. He performed his well-known arm-pumping “dance” moves at least twice—upon landing at the Columbus airport and before exiting the stage at the Convention and Event Center.
“He’s so used to them coming after him, I’m not sure that it fazes him anymore,” convention attendee Doug Collins, 67, of Calhoun, Georgia, told The Epoch Times.
As a prelude to his speech, Trump played a new one-minute campaign video that likened Democrat prosecutors and his political opponents to “a pack of rabid wolves.”
The former president recounted that he has been impeached twice, had his campaign spied upon and, according to a report last month, was the target of a years-long Russian collusion investigation that never would have been launched if the FBI had followed its own rules.
This spring, Trump was indicted on 34 state charges for allegedly falsifying business records in New York–a case said to be based on a questionable legal theory. Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case, the nation’s first-ever indictment of a former president; Trump made history again when he was indicted in the federal records case.
Collins thinks the 37-count federal charges will be tossed out if there’s any such thing as justice in America.
“People see what’s happening,” he said. “They see political persecution of President Trump while people on the other side, like Joe Biden, did similar things with records—or worse—and they’re not getting indicted.”
Biden remains under investigation for classified records found in various locations from his time as U.S. senator and vice president.
‘We Stand With You’
Trump traveled to Georgia with Walt Nauta, a personal aide who was also charged in connection with the documents case.
Both are scheduled to make their first court appearance on the charges in Miami on June 13.
But while visiting Georgia on June 10, Nauta and Trump made a quick stop at a Waffle House after the former president’s speech.
Trump picked up the tab for about 75 guests who were invited to greet Trump. Among them was Cliff Rhodes, 45, a pharmacist from Carrollton, Georgia.
“People were like standing in there in their seats, like up on the stools … People were yelling, ‘We love you. We stand with you. We know what you’re going through,’” Rhodes told The Epoch Times.
Trump made a brief statement, telling supporters: “We did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Basis for Indictment Debated
The indictment asserts otherwise.
It accuses Trump of possessing sensitive information about the “defense and weapons capabilities” of the U.S. and foreign countries, including nuclear programs and “vulnerabilities.”
The indictment also alleges that he interfered with investigators and unlawfully shared some of the sensitive information.
However, attorney Kash Patel, a former member of the Trump administration, told EpochTV that indictments are purposely worded so that the allegations appear strong and shocking; he previously crafted such documents in his role as a prosecutor.
After dissecting the indictment, Patel and others challenge the indictment’s contention that Trump illegally possessed and/or shared National Defense Information or NDI under The Espionage Act.
Patel points out that the Presidential Records Act allows ex-presidents to possess documents, whether classified or not. And Trump has publicly stated he declassified the records that the FBI found in an Aug. 8 raid at his estate at Mar-A-Lago, Florida.
Thus, several legal experts assert that there is no support for an espionage charge; some say the Espionage Act does not apply to the president of the United States.
During his speech, Trump said, “This whole fake indictment, they don’t even once mention the Presidential Records Act,” which he maintains is the controlling law.
Craig Schneider, an alternate delegate to the convention, told The Epoch Times that he has a 20-year career in military intelligence, which taught him details of the government’s document-classification rules.
The process is complex but, bottom-line, “I can tell you this, the President of the United States is the ultimate classification authority. If the President of the United States says, ‘This document is no longer classified,’ guess what? It’s no longer classified. Because there’s no authority above him.”
Two-Tiered Justice System
Meanwhile, Biden also possessed classified documents from his time as a U.S. senator, which is supposed to be prohibited, Trump said. Biden has many more records, so much so that the documents Trump possessed amounted to “peanuts,” the former president said.
“Biden didn’t have any authority and he had no right to possess those documents,” Trump said. “Yet nothing happened to ‘Crooked Joe.’”
That is just one example of our nation’s two-tiered justice system, which allows some politically well-connected people to avoid punishment while others are targeted for political reasons, Trump said.
Trump scoffed at the notion that he tried to steal documents that he wasn’t supposed to take. “When I was moving to Florida, boxes were openly sitting on the White House sidewalk,” said Trump, who recently posted a photo of those boxes on his Truth Social platform.
Yet, despite his openly taking the records, “Mar-A-Lago was raided by gun-toting FBI agents,” Trump said. The Georgia audience booed its disapproval of the raid.
Trump said the prosecutor who advanced the case against him was Jack Smith, who he called a bad “Trump-hater.”
“This is a sick nest of people that needs to be cleaned out immediately,” the former president said. Many people in the audience rose to their feet and cheered when Trump said that and vowed to reform the U.S. Department of Justice.
Georgia Issues Unresolved
Throughout his speech, Trump touched on issues specific to Georgia, where Trump and his supporters allege that election irregularities may have shifted vote totals unfairly to Biden in the 2020 election.
Trump said there are statistical arguments supporting his contention.
“We won Alabama in a record number, we won South Carolina in a record number,” he said. Yet skilled political analysts told him that it was not possible to win both of those states “and then lose Georgia by just a tiny little bit,” Trump said.
Schneider, the alternate delegate, said his experience as a poll watcher during the 2020 election supports Trump’s claims of election irregularities. DeKalb County poll-watchers were not allowed “anywhere near the ballots.” Poll officials kept people far away from the ballots, citing a desire not to spread COVID germs, he said. But one worker who did get closer was able to see that ballots cast for Biden had no creases in them, even though they were supposed to have been mailed-in, Schneider said.
Trump remains under investigation for a phone call he made, challenging the election results in Georgia.
He added that Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis has been ignoring skyrocketing violent crimes in her community. She “is spending all of her money, all of her time trying to ‘get Trump,’” he said.
“I had every right to complain that the election in Georgia was, in my opinion, rigged,” Trump continued. “I thought the results were ridiculous and so did many other people.”
Trump said that many other people were listening in on the phone call he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the 2020 election. Call participants included high-powered lawyers from all sides. Yet not a single one of them objected to Trump’s statements, he said.
“If they heard something wrong, they had an obligation to say something on the phone,” Trump said.
“The day that you’re not allowed to complain about an election, then we are indeed Communist China,” he said.
Amid his arguments against the Georgia election results, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) took to the stage and gave a short speech to support Trump, sparking a chant from the audience: “Four more years!”
Trump wrapped up his speech with a litany of policies he intends to enact under his “Agenda 47” plan. Many actions would be taken to tighten the U.S. border, stop the war in Ukraine, and boost the national economy, Trump said.
“The USA is a mess,” he said. But Trump said that as president, he would look to fixing the problems.
Looking ahead to 2026, he said, “I will lead a massive, yearlong salute to America” to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the nation’s founding with the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
The Associated Press contributed.