Former President Donald Trump on Saturday said the tax fraud charges against his company were just his political enemies’ latest attempt to “take him out.”
He predicted it would fail.
At a Save America rally in Florida, Mr. Trump told the crowd of tens of thousands that the indictments revealed, not misconduct by the Trump Corporation, but the duplicity of New York prosecutors.
“Never before has New York City and the prosecutors or perhaps any prosecutors criminally charged a company or a person for fringe benefits,” he said. “Murder is OK. Human trafficking, no problem. But fringe benefits — you can’t do that.”
He said the indictments handed down by a Manhattan grand jury Wednesday were the latest political attack that followed the Russia collusion probe and two House impeachments.
“They throw it my way solely because I have been fighting for you against the corrupt establishment,” Mr. Trump told the cheering crowd.
New York prosecutors charged the Trump Corporation and its chief executive officer, Allen Weisselberg, in connection with an alleged 15-year tax fraud scheme. Prosecutors accused the longtime CEO of pocketing more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation through lavish fringe benefits, including apartments, cars and school tuition for his grandchildren.
The case will be difficult to prove. Mr. Weisselberg so far has refused to cooperate with prosecutors and his attorneys vowed to fight the charges. However, the charges and threat of prison time up the pressure on the 73-year-old Mr. Weisselberg to implicate Mr. Trump to cut a deal with prosecutors.
The case, which has dogged Mr. Trump and his company for two years, is led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats.
At the rally that marked the Independence Day holiday, Mr. Trump also told supporters to harness their patriotism for a fight to retake control of the country.
He described a nation in turmoil since he was replaced by President Biden, including a tidal wave of illegal immigration, soaring crime rates and an education system overtaken by critical race theory.
“In just five months the Biden administration has launched an all-out assault on everything we cherish and we value,” Mr. Trump told the massive crowd in Sarasota, Florida. “Our country is under assault like never before. Religious liberty is being crushed. Nobody took care of religious liberty like we did.”
He said his followers had numbers and enthusiasm that would turn the tide against the Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.
“Together we will take back the House, we will take back the Senate, and we will take back America,” said Mr. Trump.
It was Mr. Trump‘s second campaign-style “Save America Rally” since he moved out of the White House. His first foray back onto the rally stage took place a week earlier in Cleveland, where he called Mr. Biden a “total catastrophe.”
In Sarasota, as he did in Cleveland, Mr. Trump stoked his supporters’ belief in unproven claims that Democrats stole from him the 2020 presidential election.
He said Democrats and the liberal news media continue to target him because he is a threat, which he said was evidenced by the 75 million votes he garnered in 2020.
“And by the way, it’s probably a lot more than that,” Mr. Trump said to cheers from the crowd.
Mr. Biden won the White House with a little more than 81 million votes, though many of Mr. Trump’s supporters believe both the popular vote and Electoral Collage tally were rigged.
Mr. Biden won the Electoral College 306 to 232, with 270 needed to become president.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did not attend the rally because of the ongoing rescue recovery effort at the deadly condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida.
Earlier, The Washington Examiner reported that sources said Mr. Trump rebuffed a request by Mr. DeSantis to postpone the event because of the tragedy in Surfside, which is about 200 miles southeast of Sarasota.
A spokesman for Mr. DeSantis, who is a top prospect for the 2024 GOP presidential race, said the story was not true.
Shortly before the rally, Mr. Trump told Newsmax that had spoken to Mr. DeSantis and urged the governor to remain in Surfside.
“He of all people should be there,” Mr. Trump said.