Donald Trump has reprised his election grievances and baseless claims of fraud as he returned to the rally stage, holding his first campaign-style event since leaving the White House.
“This was the scam of the century and this was the crime of the century,” the former US president told a crowd of thousands Saturday at Ohio’s Lorain County Fairgrounds, where he began making good on his pledge to exact revenge on those who voted for his historic second impeachment.
The event was held to support Max Miller, a former White House aide who is challenging Republican Anthony Gonzalez for his congressional seat.
Gonzalez was one of 10 GOP House members who voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol building. Trump has vowed to back those who run against them.
And while he praised Miller as an “incredible patriot”, Trump spent much of the rally fixating on the 2020 election, which he insists he won, even though top election officials, his own attorney-general and numerous judges have said there is no evidence of the mass voter fraud he alleges took place.
Trump has been consumed with ongoing efforts to overturn the results in various states, and has even publicly entertained the idea he could be reinstated, even though no legal basis for doing so exists.
“The 2020 presidential election was rigged,” he told the crowd, which at one point broke into a “Trump won!” chant.
“We won that election in a landslide.” In reality, President Joe Biden’s victory was thoroughly validated by the officials who reported finding no systemic fraud.
The event had many of the trappings of the rallies Trump held as a candidate and as president. The crowd even chanted “Lock her up” at the mention of Hillary Clinton, the Democrat he defeated in 2016.
The rally, held five months after Trump left office under a cloud of violence, marks the beginning of a new, more public phase of his post-presidency. He will hold another rally in Florida on the July 4 weekend and will travel to the southern border in the coming week to protest Biden’s immigration policies.
The rally came as Trump, who has teased the possibility of a White House run in 2024, faces immediate legal jeopardy. Manhattan prosecutors informed his company on Thursday that it could soon face criminal charges stemming from a wide-ranging investigation into the former president’s business dealings.
Although Trump remains a deeply polarising figure, he is extremely popular with the Republican base, and he has said he is committed to helping Republicans regain control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.
However, his efforts to support candidates to challenge incumbent Republicans who have crossed him put him at odds with other Republican leaders who have been trying to unify the party after a brutal year in which they lost the White House and failed to gain control of either chamber of Congress.
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