'Our country is going to hell': Trump says his only crime is 'fearlessly defending America' in defiant Mar-a-Lago speech

5 April 2023, 02:02 | Updated: 5 April 2023, 07:27

Donald Trump lashes out at prosecutor and judge after court appearance

By Emma Soteriou and Kieran Kelly

Donald Trump has hit out at New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg for bringing criminal charges against him in a defiant first speech at Mar-a-Lago following his arrest on Tuesday.

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Opening his address to a crowd of 500 supporters in Mar-a-Lago, the former US president said he "never thought anything like this could happen in America" and that he was the victim of election interference.

He slammed several investigations that had been carried out against him, including the examination of whether he tried to illegally overturn election results in Georgia and a federal investigation into the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

He said the "only crime" he had committed was "to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it".

The 76-year-year-old said: "This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election and it should be dropped immediately."

"The criminal is the district attorney because he illegally leaked massive amounts of Grand Jury information for which he should be prosecuted, or at a minimum he should resign," he said.

Read more: Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 34 hush money charges after historic arrest in New York

Read it in full: Donald Trump indictment charging him with 34 felony counts

In a personal attack on Judge Juan Merchan's family, Mr Trump described him as a "Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and a family whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris."

Speaking of his own, he acknowledged Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump who were in the crowd.

However, his wife Melania Trump was nowhere to be seen.

Trump in court
Trump in court. Picture: Alamy
Trump's Supporters Welcome Him Back to Florida
Trump's Supporters Welcome Him Back to Florida. Picture: Getty

Mr Trump arrived back in Florida on Tuesday evening after his whirlwind trip to New York where he pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records.

The former president was surrounded by members of his inner circle and fans as he returned from New York to Florida.

The full details of the charges show that the charges are related to payments made between February and December 2017 - some of which relating to adult film star Stormy Daniels, with whom he allegedly had an affair in 2006.

He denies having a sexual relationship with the actress.

Mr Trump was formally arrested and processed when he arrived from Trump Tower on Tuesday, with officials taking his fingerprints in the courthouse.

His next court date has been set for December 4.

Trump's speech to supporters
Trump's speech to supporters. Picture: Alamy

As he flew back to Florida following the hearing, Mr Trump blamed Mr Bragg for shutting New York down and bringing in "38,000 NYPD officers".

In a statement on social media site Truth Social, he added: "The hearing was shocking to many in that they had no 'surprises' and therefore, no case."

It came after he was warned by the judge over his use of language and social media posts during the arraignment.

Mr Bragg told courts his concerns about the former president making threatening posts to his social media accounts warning of "potential death and destruction" in the lead up to the case.

Trumpâs Supporters Welcome Him Back to Florida
Trumpâs Supporters Welcome Him Back to Florida. Picture: Getty

The judge said he would not issue a 'gag order' on the former president to stop him and his lawyers from speaking about the case in public.

Speaking outside the courthouse, his lawyer Susan Necheles said: "[Mr Trump]'s not going after the judge. He noted there were some issues that might cause a conflict."

Another lawyer for Mr Trump, Joe Tacopina, also denied that his client had threatened Alvin Bragg in a social media post, saying he "wasn't swinging a baseball bat".

Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives will investigate the Manhattan DA's funds for what Trump supporters see as a "partisan and political witch-hunt" against Mr Trump, congresswoman Mary Miller has said.

"Congress must defend our sacred nonpartisan justice system and the Rule of Law from this unprecedented attack," Ms Miller said.

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