The Daily Telegraph

Criminal charges would boost my popularity, Trump tells fans

- By Nick Allen and David Millward

DONALD TRUMP pledged to remain in the US presidenti­al race even if he is indicted on criminal charges.

The former president is facing a series of investigat­ions over his attempt to overturn the 2020 election result and his handling of classified informatio­n.

“I won’t even think about leaving,” Trump said ahead of his speech at the Conservati­ve Political Action Conference (CPAC). “Probably it’ll enhance my numbers, but it’s a very bad thing for America. It’s very bad for the country.”

In a marathon speech lasting one hour and 45 minutes, Mr Trump avoided repeating his previous claims that the 2020 election was “stolen”.

He notably did not attack, or even name, rivals for the Republican nomination in 2024, including Ron Desantis, the Florida governor. Instead, he laid out what he would do if elected.

Mr Trump said: “We’re going to have World War Three if something doesn’t happen fast. I am the only candidate who can make this promise – I will prevent World War Three.”

The former president said America should stop spending billions of dollars on defending Ukraine, that he would end the war in “one day” if elected, and demanded that Nato allies pay more towards the cost of the conflict.

He received a rapturous reception, punctuated with chants of “Four more years” by supporters at a packed auditorium just outside Washington DC.

Mr Trump rounded on the Republican Party establishm­ent.

“We had a Republican Party that was ruled by freaks, neo-cons, globalists, open-borders zealots and fools. But we are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush.”

Mr Trump told the crowd: “We are going to finish what we started. We’re going to complete the mission. We’re going to see this battle through to ultimate victory. [2024] is the final battle. I know it, you know it, they know it, everybody knows it. This is it. And if they win, we don’t have a country.”

He added: “In 2016, I declared ‘I am your voice’. Today, I add: ‘I am your warrior. I am your justice.’ And, for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retributio­n.”

CPAC has traditiona­lly been an event where all senior Republican figures, including potential presidenti­al nominees, would speak. However, it has become dominated by Mr Trump and his supporters, even being nicknamed “TPAC”. Mr Desantis and former vicepresid­ent Mike Pence chose to speak at another event in Florida instead.

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