USA TODAY International Edition
Trump attacks DeSantis, probes at rally in Waco
Former President Donald Trump replayed his greatest hits Saturday evening in Waco, Texas, during his first major campaign stop of the 2024 presidential race.
In a speech that lasted about 95 minutes, Trump railed against the Biden administration, his likely top GOP opponent in 2024 and the legal woes he faces.
The former president steered clear of addressing the deadly Waco siege nearly 30 years ago that experts in political violence feared may have informed his decision to hold the rally there.
Here are takeaways from Trump’s first major campaign rally:
Trump slams investigations at Waco rally
At his first major 2024 campaign rally, Trump focused less on what he would do for America as president and more on what America could do for him.
“Every piece of my personal life, financial life, business life and public life has been turned upside down and dissected like no one in the history of our country,” Trump told his supporters.
The former president, who is facing a possible indictment in connection with a Manhattan hush- money probe, railed against the Manhattan district attorney’s office and again denied having an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels.
He attacked – but did not name – Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who was targeted this week with a threatening letter that contained an undisclosed substance. The letter “was immediately contained,” the office said.
Trump vows ‘ retribution’
During the week, Trump repeatedly urged his supporters to protest the investigations in New York and elsewhere, exhortations that some lawmakers interpreted as calls to violence. Trump did not specifically make such a plea during his appearance in Waco.
However, undertones of violence did emerge throughout the speech. He promised to be an agent of “retribution” if reelected as president, and told the crowd at one point: “Either the deep state destroys America or we destroy the deep state.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick takes credit for Waco location
Trump did not mention the Waco siege of 1993 – a botched government raid in the city that ended in dozens of deaths nearly 30 years ago – that extremism experts speculated informed his decision to hold the rally there.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a prominent Trump supporter who addressed the rally, used a barnyard epithet to describe claims that the former president went to Waco because of the violent events there.
Patrick, who ascended the rally stage as the PA system played a Brooks & Dunn song called “How Far to Waco,” said he picked the site because the people of the region represent “the American values and the Texas values and the godly values of this country ... that’s that reason he’s here.”
Trump vs. DeSantis ramps up
Trump also used this first rally of his 2024 campaign to make his most public attack on his biggest political threat: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Sticking with the nickname “DeSanctimonious,” Trump took credit for DeSantis’ success in Florida and criticized him for being a “disciple” of former House Speaker Paul Ryan, a vocal critic of Trump.
“I’m not a big fan,” Trump said of DeSantis, who is widely believed to be the former president’s greatest competition for the Republican presidential nomination.
DeSantis, who has not formally declared his candidacy but is expected to do so in May or June, has dismissed Trump’s attacks as “background noise.”