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During his second campaign-style rally after his presidency ended in January, Donald Trump raged against New York prosecutors targeting his Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, who pleaded not guilty this week to a range of criminal charges related to a years-long tax fraud probe.
After his company’s longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg pleaded not guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday, the former president dismissed the case as “prosecutorial misconduct” but appeared to acknowledge the charges against him and his company.
“You didn’t pay tax on the car or a company apartment ... you didn’t pay tax, or education for your grandchildren,” he said at his rally in Sarasota, Florida on 3 July. “Does anybody know the answer to that stuff?”
The president held his rally across the state from emergency crews still searching for survivors in the wake of a building collapse north of Miami.
Governor Ron DeSantis – a staunch ally of Mr Trump – did not attend the rally, and the governor’s aides allegedly asked the former president to postpone the event as the tragedy unfolds.
At least 24 people are dead and crews are searching for at least 121 people at the site of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside.
Following a brief moment of silence for the victims, Mr Trump – echoing his dark American vision from his July 4 remarks at Mount Rushmore in 2020 – listed a series of baseless claims suggesting his supporters are under attack in his apocalyptic vision of the state of the US: “religious liberty is being crushed,” “dissenters are being persecuted,” and “bloodthirsty criminals” are taking over American cities.
In rambling remarks over more than 90 minutes, the former president revived his voter fraud lies and a “stolen” election narrative that suggested Joe Biden is not the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election.
He condemned the president’s immigration policies and a rise in migrants to the US-Mexico border following a crisis point in Mr Trump’s own administration, and he lambasted “critical race theory” as “pure, plain racism”.
Mr Trump also said the president’s infrastructure plan would “annihilate America’s suburbs” – reviving his racist fear mongering over plans to eliminate barriers to racial segregation in suburban housing.
He also claimed, without any apparent self-awareness, that Republicans have been targeted by “disinformation” which he described without a trace of irony as “if you say it enough and keep saying it ... they’ll start to believe you.”
Read live updates from The Independent as they happened