Trump claims his "persecution" would stop if he didn't run for office

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Former President Donald Trump claimed that if he did not pursue the presidency again, Washington would leave him alone.

"If I announced that I was not going to run any longer for political office the persecution of Donald Trump would immediately stop," Trump said at a rally in Prescott Valley, Arizona, Friday night. "But that is not what I do. I can't do that, I can't do that. Can't do that. Because I love this country and I love you." 

The House select committee investigating the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 held its final hearing for the summer on Thursday, in which it examined Trump's refusal to take any action to urge rioters who had overrun the Capitol to leave. But it was the testimony of former aide Cassidy Hutchinson a few weeks ago that he mentioned Friday.

"Made up story, fiction," Trump said, referring to her statement that he had tried to grab the wheel of a presidential vehicle on Jan. 6, 2021, and demanded that Secret Service drive him to the Capitol, where the rioting had begun.

Trump told the crowd of about 5,000, "They are coming for me because I am standing up for you," adding that America is "doomed" and was in danger of becoming a bigger version of Cuba.

He attacked President Biden's handling of the economy and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, but argued that RINOS — "Republicans in name only" — are worse than Democrats. Reiterating several times his false claim that he won the 2020 election, Trump hinted at a 2024 run. "I might have to do it again," he said.

He criticized Arizona's Republican governor, Doug Ducey and its Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers. Bowers was censured by the state GOP this week for testifying before the Jan. 6 committee about Trump's efforts to persuade him to help overturn the election by replacing Mr. Biden's electors with fake Trump electors. The former president called Bowers a "RINO coward."

"He disgraced himself and the state of Arizona," Trump said of Bowers.

Trump was in Arizona to lend his support to Kari Lake, who's running for governor, and Senate candidate Blake Masters.

When Trump brought Lake onto the stage during his speech, she declared, "we need superman to save us," and added, "for the record, I do believe superman is coming back."

Trump called Lake "fierce" and said she would be a strong defender of election integrity. Lake has been claiming falsely and continues to claim falsely that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. He also introduced Masters Masters, who said that Trump "literally saved this country" and told the crowd that 2022 could've been Hillary Clinton's sixth year in office. The crowd immediately began chanting, "Lock her up."

The former president urged supporters to vote in the Aug. 2 primary and pushed them to vote early. Later, he said there should be same-day voting with paper ballots — although Arizona already uses paper ballots in its elections.

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