WACO, Texas — Former President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the “deep state” at a campaign rally in this town Saturday, amid the 30th anniversary of the federal siege of anti-government cult leader David Koresh’s compound.
“Either the deep state destroys America or we destroy the deep state,” Trump said of his bid for a return to the Oval Office.
During the first major rally of his campaign, Trump addressed thousands of boisterous supporters on the ramp of a regional airport. Before he spoke, his red-white-blue jet circled the crowd before landing and stopping behind his stage.
He referred to the administration of his successor, Joe Biden, as the “Biden regime,” accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg of “prosecution misconduct” in investigating him and said that “the Supreme Court has not had the courage to right the wrong”. of his defeat in 2020.
“When this election is over, I will be the president of the United States,” Trump said. “You will be vindicated and proud, and the thugs and criminals who corrupt our justice system will be defeated, discredited and completely disgraced.”
“I am your warrior. I am your justice. And I have put a lot of effort into this, but I only mean it in the right way – for those who have been wronged and betrayed… I am your retribution,” he added please.
But Trump was also aiming directly at his main rival for the GOP nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has not yet announced whether he will run.
Trump was stunned by DeSantis flirting with a run — even as he helped him win the governorship in 2018. The former president tore up DeSantis for his handling of the COVID pandemic and for previous positions that favored cuts in Medicare and Social Security. He also said Florida’s governor’s narrative about revitalizing the state is fallacious.
“Florida has been tremendously successful for many years, long before this man became governor,” Trump said. “Florida has been successful for decades.”
In remarks to reporters on his plane after the rally, Trump further berated DeSantis, saying, “He has no personality. That’s often bad for a politician.”
He added that if he hadn’t helped him become governor, he would “probably be working in a cigar shop or a law firm.”
A DeSantis spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday night after the meeting.
Beyond the physical backdrop of this small city on the Brazos River, within a three-hour drive of Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, Trump is surrounded by the prospect of indictments in Manhattan, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., over questions about the hush money payment. to a porn star, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the January 6 riot in the Capitol.
Trump walked on stage with the video “Justice for all”. play — a chorus of men incarcerated for their roles in the January 6 riot singing the national anthem, interrupted by Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It also contained images of the uprising.
Trump has railed against government officials investigating him, with increasingly obscure warnings about the “death and destruction” that could follow if he were indicted.
But as much as it is impossible to ignore the obvious spectacle of an anti-establishment candidate inciting thousands of his supporters at the scene of a confrontation between federal agents and anti-government conspiracy theorists, there are more traditional political reasons why Trump chose Waco. chose as the launch point for another round of its signature rallies.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said Saturday that he suggested Waco when Trump called more than two weeks ago to seek his advice.
“I didn’t even know it was the 30th anniversary to be honest with you,” Patrick told a small group of reporters.
As he seeks the GOP’s presidential nomination for the third time in a row, Trump and his team fully understand Texas’ importance in providing delegates to the Republican National Convention. The state is second only to California in the number of available delegates, and it will be more important to the final tally than the first four early states—Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina—combined.
“It’s guaranteed to be a mob for him and it’s part of the success they can have going to red states,” said a former Trump campaign aide. “It’s intimidating. It’s a show of power. Here are 10, 15,000, whatever, people in a room and no one else can.”
It also fits into its basic pattern of picking locations that are outside major cities but accessible to them.
“President Trump is holding his first campaign rally in Waco, Texas’ Super Tuesday state, because it is centrally located and close to all four of Texas’s largest metropolitan areas,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said. “This is the ideal location to bring as many supporters from across the state and in neighboring states to attend this historic rally” as possible.
Trump aides dismiss the possibility that holding a Waco rally on the 30th anniversary of the siege could show sympathy for anti-government voters.
“That sounds like things people in New York or DC who’ve never been to Texas would say,” said a Trump aide.
In addition to Patrick, Trump announced his Texas state leadership team, which includes 12 of the 25 Republican House members from Texas.
He was also joined by Representatives Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., both of whom warmed one of his larger crowds since losing the presidency.
Gaetz said from the stage, and later while posing for photos with the audience, that DeSantis and Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, should support Trump.
But Gaetz dodged a question about whether DeSantis could harm his future ambitions if he runs against Trump.
“I am a legislator,” he said, “not an expert.”