‘Rigged’: Trump attacks judge and courts in first post-conviction rally | Donald Trump

In his first campaign rally after being convicted of 34 felonies, former president Donald Trump recalled how he just went through a “rigged” trial with a “highly conflicted” judge despite there being “no crime”.

The court cases Trump faces have become a mainstay of his campaigning throughout the last year, where he frequently tells his followers that the charges are a form of election interference and designed to tamp down the Maga movement.

“Those appellate courts have to step up and straighten things out, or we’re not going to have a country any longer,” he said.

Trump spoke at a Turning Point Action event in sweltering Phoenix, at Dream City church, a megachurch where he and Turning Point have held rallies in the past. The extreme heat led to some waiting outside for the venue to open to need medical attention for heatstroke.

Trump held a rally at the same church in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, when church leaders claimed to have an air-purification system that killed 99% of the Covid-19 virus. Turning Point Action is the campaign arm of Turning Point, the conservative youth group founded by Charlie Kirk, a figure in the Maga movement.

The former president also took aim at Joe Biden’s recent executive order limiting asylum seekers, which Trump called “bullshit” and said he would rescind on his first day in office, should he win. He condemned Biden on immigration and ran down Trump administration border policies, saying his Democratic rival could solve immigration problems by reinstating all of his old policies.

“Arizona is being turned into a dumping ground for the dungeons of the third world,” Trump said.

While immigration is a top issue for voters nationwide, it is especially acute in a border state like Arizona, which Trump hit on in his speech. He wistfully recalled the days of former Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio, infamous for his strict immigration policies that led to frequent lawsuits and financial settlements, and brought Arpaio on stage for impromptu remarks.

Trump kissed Arpaio on the cheek, then said: “I don’t kiss men, but I kissed him. We had a real border with this guy.” Arpaio called Trump his hero.

Arizona is a key battleground this year, as Trump tries to win back the once solidly red south-western state from Biden, who beat him by about 10,500 votes. Election denialism has gripped the state for years – some Republicans who lost their races in 2022 midterms still have not conceded and have filed lawsuits to try to reverse the results.

The Democratic National Committee put up a billboard in Phoenix on Thursday that is the first paid ad from the party to focus on the former president’s convictions, Meidas Touch News reported. The ad says: “Trump already attacked Arizona’s democracy once. Now he’s back as a convicted felon. He’s out for revenge and retribution. Trump: unfit to serve.”

For the Trump faithful, the convictions have become a point of ire against the other side and something akin to pride. Shirts and signs at the Phoenix rally said “I’m voting for the convicted felon”.

Supporters at the Trump event in Phoenix on Thursday. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

Trump repeated claims of a stolen election, saying the Democrats “used Covid to cheat” in 2020. He welcomed Kari Lake, the losing gubernatorial candidate in 2022 who is now running for Senate, and Abe Hamadeh, the losing attorney general candidate now running for Congress, claiming that they won their races but their elections were rigged.

He directed people to a “Swamp the Vote” website after talking about how certain groups need to vote more consistently, such as gun owners and evangelicals. The site, paid for by the Republican National Committee, includes links for people to register and pledge to vote. “Do your part to guarantee we win by more than the Margin of Fraud by casting your vote and taking responsibility for ensuring every Republican and Trump voter in your household casts theirs too,” the site says.

The end of the campaign event included a Q&A with audience members, who asked about border issues, drugs and cost-of-living issues. He said he would “get rid of inflation” in part by drilling to bring energy prices down. Cost-of-living concerns come up with voters frequently, Trump said; he used a regular-size container of Tic Tacs beside a mini version to demonstrate the effects of inflation.

“People that made the same amount of money live half as well because the inflation is so high,” he said, adding that inflation is a “country-buster”.

Trump’s answers often implored his supporters to vote him back in to solve whatever issue they were facing, though they were scant on details. How would he help restore access to healthcare in rural areas in Arizona, where the nearest hospital can be more than an hour away? He’ll handle it, because rural America loves him, he said.

One woman who said she works with senior citizens who struggle to pay their bills and must choose between food or medication asked Trump what he would tell them.

“Vote for Trump,” he responded.

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