Trump to hold 2024 rally in Waco under shadow of possible indictment
Written by ABC AUDIO on March 25, 2023
(WACO, Texas) — Former President Donald Trump will address supporters in Texas on Saturday as he faces a possible indictment.
The rally at Waco Regional Airport is being billed by his team as the first of his 2024 campaign, though he’s held smaller events in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina since launching his White House bid back in November.
It will be Trump’s first campaign event since he claimed last weekend he would be arrested this past Tuesday in connection to a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential race.
The campaign won’t be deterred by the prospect of charges stemming from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation, those in Trump’s orbit told ABC News, adding it may be an opportunity to rile up his base.
The former president has taken on a defiant attitude as he assails Bragg and encourages protest on his social media. In one post, he warned of “potential death and destruction” if he were to be indicted. As ABC News has previously reported, the DA has been presenting a case for some time and the grand jury is expected to reconvene on Monday.
The tone of Trump’s posts makes Waco a noteworthy backdrop for Saturday’s rally. The Texas town was the site of the 1993 face-off between government agents and the Branch Davidian religious sect. The 51-day siege resulted in the deaths of 82 Branch Davidians — at least two dozen of whom were children — as well as four federal agents.
The campaign stop is coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the deadly standoff, which lasted from Feb. 28 to April 19, 1993.
“Waco is kind of the genesis of a lot of the discontent about government and the use of violence to be able to react to it,” Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, told ABC News.
Steven Cheung, the Trump campaign’s spokesman, told the New York Times the location was selected “because it is centrally located and close to all four of Texas’ biggest metropolitan areas — Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio — while providing the necessary infrastructure to hold a rally of this magnitude.” The statement made no mention of Waco’s history.
When asked by Newsmax whether he was “stoking the fire of Waco” by holding his rally there Saturday, Trump dodged.
“I hear there’s tens of thousands of people,” Trump told the rightwing outlet Friday night, though it is unclear how many participants are expected to attend. “The line is already miles long trying to get in.”
“We’re gonna have a great time in Waco,” he added.
Musician Ted Nugent, who said he will be performing at the rally, tweeted he’s going to “unleash a firebreathing Star-Spangled Banner” and referred to McLennan County, where Waco is located, as “the epicenter of conservative American Dream spirit/values.”
But Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, noted the choice of Waco for the rally’s setting in her effort to undercut the rally by encouraging people to register but not show up.
“Donald has a rally in Waco this Saturday. It’s 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,” she tweeted Thursday, encouraging her followers to reserve tickets and “make sure most of the seats are empty when the traitor takes the stage.”
Amid the chatter over Waco’s history, Rottinghaus noted the city also encompasses the traditional traits for a campaign stop: It’s located in a county Trump won by 23 points in 2020 and is close enough to urban areas to potentially draw a large crowd that is favorable to the former president.
“Donald Trump needs to defend the South and Texas is fertile ground for a stand,” Rottinghaus said.
The Lone Star State will play an important role in the Republican primary, as it has the second-highest number of delegates. Republicans in Texas will cast their votes for the party’s presidential nominee on March 5, 2024, alongside several other states as part of the cycle’s Super Tuesday.
Trump and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley are so far among some of the candidates to officially throw their hat in the ring for the party’s nomination, but others — including former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — are considered likely contenders.
ABC News’ Olivia Rubin contributed to this report.
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