Former President Donald Trump is set to hold a campaign rally Saturday in Waco, Texas – returning to the trail amid his warnings of “death & destruction” resulting from investigations into his actions.
The rally at the Waco Regional Airport is a return to the mega-rallies reminiscent of Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns, as the Republican field for the 2024 presidential race begins to take shape.
The former president’s return to his favorite event staging comes as he is faced with investigations in New York City over a hush money payment, Georgia over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith over classified documents the FBI found at Mar-A-Lago, his attempts to steal the 2020 election and his role in the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
In recent days, the former president has made increasingly bellicose remarks about those probes, including predicting last week his own indictment and arrest in Manhattan – something that has not come to pass – and urging supporters to protest.
Raging against Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg on his Truth Social social media platform Friday, Trump said criminal charges could lead to “potential death & destruction” and “could be catastrophic for our Country.”
“PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT!,” Trump said in another post.
On Thursday, he said Bragg “would rather indict an innocent man and create years of hatred, chaos, and turmoil, than give him his well deserved ‘freedom.’ The whole Country sees what is going on, and they’re not going to take it anymore. They’ve had enough!”
The Manhattan grand jury investigating Trump did not conclude this week. In other probes, Trump’s defense attorney Evan Corcoran appeared Friday before a federal grand jury in Washington, where he was expected to answer questions in the classified documents probe that the former president unsuccessfully fought to hold back. And a federal judge ordered several former Trump aides, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, to testify before a grand jury as part of the criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
At the same time Trump attacks those investigating him, he is ramping up attacks on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – who early polls suggest could be the former president’s top rival for the 2024 Republican nomination.
DeSantis has not yet entered the race. But with a new book and increased out-of-state travel, the former House Freedom Caucus member appears to be inching closer to a presidential bid.
He has also demonstrated a willingness for the first time this week to brawl with Trump.
While accusing Bragg over overreach, DeSantis needled Trump in front of a crowd in Panama City, Florida, on Monday, working the details of the $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 election into his remarks. DeSantis said he doesn’t “know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.”
Trump adviser and spokesman Jason Miller tweeted that DeSantis “has finally shown his true colors. An establishment Never Trumper who despises the MAGA base and was faking it the entire time.”
In an interview with British television host Piers Morgan, DeSantis brushed off Trump’s attempts to twist his name into an unflattering nickname.
“You can call me whatever you want,” said DeSantis, who was re-elected in a landslide in 2022 despite the GOP’s worse-than-expected performance nationwide, “just as long as you also call me a winner.”
In an effort to draw contrast over the coronavirus pandemic, Trump on Friday posted a video on Truth Social in which DeSantis touted Florida’s efforts to test for Covid-19, alongside Trump’s own skepticism about the need for tests.
Trump also previewed lines of attack he could use again on Saturday in Waco – one that echoed progressive criticism of DeSantis’ record as he moves toward a presidential run.
On Thursday, Trump posted on Truth Social that he had gotten more votes in Florida running for president than DeSantis did running for governor – without mentioning that DeSantis won re-election in a midterm year, in which fewer voters historically cast ballots – and accused the Florida governor of backing GOP proposals to narrow entitlement programs.
Trump wrote that DeSantis “is, for a Republican, an average Governor, he got 1.2 million less Votes in Florida than me, he fought for massive cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and wanted the Social Security minimum age to be raised to 70-years-old, or more. He is a disciple of Paul Ryan, and did whatever Ryan told him to do…”
DeSantis said in a Fox News interview earlier this month that Republicans will not “mess with” Social Security.
Ahead of the Waco rally, Trump’s niece Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist and strident critic of the former president, on Twitter urged people to reserve seats without showing up – a ploy reminiscent of a 2020 Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where teens on TikTok said they were responsible for Trump’s failure to deliver a massive crowd because they had registered huge numbers of tickets as a prank.
The Waco rally comes 30 years after the federal and state law enforcement raid on the Branch Davidian doomsday cult’s compound in Waco – a 51-day siege that resulted in the deaths of 86 people and has since come to be viewed on the far right as a symbol of government overreach.
Trump has not linked the campaign rally with the Waco siege. The location is accessible to many of Texas’ population centers – less than a three-hour drive from Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.
But Mary Trump maintained on Twitter that the former president’s decision to hold the rally in Waco represented “a ploy to remind his cult of the infamous Waco siege of 1993, where an anti-government cult battled the FBI. Scores of people died. He wants the same violent chaos to rescue him from justice.”