Trump to Rally His Base as Threat of Indictment Looms: What to Watch

Former President Donald Trump is holding his first major 2024 campaign rally in the same Texas city where federal law enforcement raided a cult headquarters 30 years ago, as a possible criminal indictment of him looms.

(Bloomberg) — Former President Donald Trump is holding his first major 2024 campaign rally in the same Texas city where federal law enforcement raided a cult headquarters 30 years ago, as a possible criminal indictment of him looms. 

The New York grand jury deciding whether to charge Trump with crimes related to hush-money payments paid to an adult film star won’t consider the matter again until at least Monday. But Trump has issued a steady stream of social media posts and press releases attacking not only Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, but the other state and federal prosecutors who are investigating him in New York, Washington DC and Georgia, so he will probably make the legal jeopardy he faces a primary target of his remarks.

Here are five things to watch in the former president’s rally on Saturday:

Crowd Size

Texas doesn’t hold its GOP presidential primary until next March, but Trump is staging his first big 2024 rally in a Republican state that Trump carried in 2016 and 2020 and where the weather is forecast for near 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). He’s hoping to show off a large and supportive crowd and show political strength in his third White House bid. 

The former president will want to show that his base supports him in the face of the potential indictment and that his improved standing in some recent polls is real. “THIS IS A BIG ONE!!!” Trump said in a post on his Truth Social platform on Wednesday promoting the rally.

The rally will be at Waco Regional Airport, just 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) from where the ATF and FBI laid siege to the Branch Davidian cult headquarters beginning on Feb. 28, 1993, on suspicion that children were being abused inside. Impatient for the siege to end, the agencies drove tanks into the building on April 19 and the cult members burned it down. Seventy-six people died in the incident.

Indictment Fallout

Trump has been railing against the investigations against him being driven by what he calls a Democratic-run Deep State trying to stop him from returning to power. The Texas audience is likely to be receptive to his claims of government overreach, especially those who were around for the deadly federal raid.

The former president can rail again about “witch hunts” and “hoaxes” with the multiple state and federal probes he faces. But watch for him to really emphasize how he’s being unjustly prosecuted by Bragg. 

Trump has called Bragg, who is Black, “an animal” backed by the billionaire financier and Democratic political donor George Soros, who is Jewish, and said that Bragg is “doing the work of Anarchists and the Devil” as part of an effort by Democrats to prevent him from returning to power.

He’s also escalated his talk of protests and violence reminiscent of the Jan. 6 insurrection, with a social-media post after midnight on Friday warning that indicting him could mean “potential death & destruction” and would be “catastrophic for our Country.”

Trump’s Energy

Trump launched his campaign amid intra-party criticism for the greater-than-expected losses among candidates he endorsed in the 2022 midterm elections. The announcement in a ballroom at Mar-a-Lago was widely derided as lackluster, and some of Trump’s other early 2024 campaign events were panned by critics as low-key, low-energy affairs.

The former president will want to show that he can deliver a high-energy performance at a massive rally — as well as highlight his defiance against prosecutors. Trump is a more animated campaigner when he’s aggrieved, and that also animates his supporters.

The DeSantis Factor

Trump has stepped up his attacks in recent weeks on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who’s widely expected to run in 2024 and is his strongest potential rival. Trump’s dubbed the conservative governor “Ron DeSanctimonius,” challenged his record responding to the coronavirus pandemic and criticized him for votes he took in Congress to reduce spending on Medicare and Social Security.

After largely avoiding Trump’s attacks, DeSantis has started to respond, which could prompt Trump to escalate his attacks. The Florida governor jabbed at Trump for the probe of the hush-money payment at a press conference on Monday, and he leveled his sharpest criticism of the former president to date in an interview this week with the British journalist Piers Morgan.

Campaign Messaging

The rally will be a test of whether Trump has a new forward-looking campaign message for 2024 or whether he’ll revert to his litany of the ways he says Democrats are “destroying” the US and how he can be its savior. 

But all of his public statements recently have focused on what he sees as Democratic prosecutors out to get him — and by extension his supporters. 

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