Donald Trump has claimed he is the victim of election interference, as he condemned New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg for bringing criminal charges against him – speaking just hours after his arraignment.
The former US president delivered an address to a crowd of some 500 people in his Mar-a-Lago estate ballroom in Florida after flying in from New York.
In his first comments since being charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records, the 76-year-old said he “never thought anything like this could happen in America”.
“The only crime I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it,” he said.
Latest updates: Charges against Trump unsealed; follow live coverage
He then told the crowd that the US “is going to hell”, adding that even people “who are not big fans” of him have said this “should not be happening”.
Trump claimed what he is facing is “election interference” and claims “a local racist district attorney in Atlanta” is trying to “do everything” in their power to indict him.
“This fake case was brought only to interfere with the upcoming 2024 election and it should be dropped immediately,” he said.
Trump went onto say that Hillary Clinton got rid of 33,000 emails and “that was okay”, adding: “But nobody has done it like Joe Biden.”
He claimed that the current US president “had classified documents which he took when he was a senator” – which is a reference to the FBI raid he faced at his Florida estate last year – and that Mr Biden “is not being harassed and hounded like the people who work for me are”.
‘There is no case here’
Drawing his attention back to his indictment, he said “this is a persecution, not an investigation” but “our heads are held very high”.
Trump then told the crowd that pundits and legal analysts have said “there is no case here”.
He said he spent time with a “local failed district attorney” on Tuesday who charged a former president of the US for the first time in history.
“Every single pundit and legal analyst said there is no case. Virtually everyone,” he said.
He said the “criminal is the district attorney” – referring to Alvin Bragg – because he “illegally leaked massive amounts of grand jury information”.
“Hope is never lost because various prosecutors in the DA’s office also quit because they thought I was being treated unfairly,” he said. “How about that? Isn’t that great? I love them. I would like to meet them.
“Meanwhile, overall crime in New York was up 30% last year – much more than that the year before, with felony assaults, robberies and burglaries all up by massive numbers.”
US is a ‘mess’
Trump said that New York is “not the same place that I know”, adding: “This is where we are right now. I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family, whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris.”
He went on to say, “this is where we are as a nation” and the US “is a mess”.
“With all of this being said and with a very dark cloud over our beloved country, I have no doubt that we will make America great again,” he said.
What are the charges Donald Trump faces?
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump personally pleaded not guilty to all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records and conspiracy for his alleged role in hush money payments to two women towards the end of his 2016 presidential campaign – becoming the first former US president to face criminal charges.
Following the hearing in a New York court on Tuesday, he said “nothing was done illegally”.
Trump also accused New York District Attorney Bragg of shutting the city down and bringing in “38,000 NYPD officers” in a statement on social media site Truth Social.
The allegations relate to him falsifying business records “in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from American voters before and after the 2016 election”, according to prosecutors.
The Republican is accused of using a “catch and kill” scheme to identify, buy, and bury negative information about him to boost his electoral prospects.
Prosecutors say he then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, with dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws.
Setting out the case against Trump, Mr Bragg said the former president “repeatedly made false statements on New York business records” and caused others to make false statements.