Top Gun, Taylor Swift and 'witch hunt' banners: Donald Trump's first campaign rally gets underway

Former US president Donald Trump hopes to win his third consecutive Republican presidential nomination. Credit: AP

By ITV News Washington DC Producer Will Tullis

As the late afternoon sun shone down on the Texan city of Waco, an expectant crowd began to wonder when their hero would appear.

Then, Donald Trump's jet came into view - accompanied by the sound of the Top Gun theme tune - in a spectacle many have come to expect from the former US president.

Trump held the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign on Saturday (March 25). With the prospect of criminal charges - and possible arrest - looming, the 76-year-old took aim at those investigating him.

"Our opponents have done everything they can to crush our spirit and break our will," he said.

"But they’ve failed. They’ve only made us stronger."

Trump faces possible criminal charges in New York relating to "hush money" paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to his successful 2016 presidential campaign. A Manhattan grand jury could vote to indict the former president as soon as next week.

In Georgia, a special grand jury is investigating whether Trump interfered in the 2020 election after he called a state official and asked them to "find" 11,780 votes - enough to overturn his loss there.

Trump denounced the investigations as "bull", a feeling echoed by supporters around him who held up banners reading "witch hunt". Investigators were derided as "henchmen" of the Democrats.

"The thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced," he said.

"We must stop them and we must not allow them to go through another election where they have yet another tool in their tool kit," Trump added, repeating unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Trump arrived in Waco on 'Trump Force One', his private plane. Credit: AP

The spectre of January 6 loomed over the rally from the offset. Trump defended supporters who were arrested for storming the US Capitol in 2021. He opened Saturday's rally with "Justice For All", a song that features a choir of men who were imprisoned for their role in the insurrection. Trump himself features in the song, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

He told the crowd that the song is currently number one in the US Billboard charts, ahead of pop stars Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.

The choice of venue for his first 2024 campaign rally was also significant. The rally was held in Waco, on the thirtieth anniversary of a deadly stand-off in the city between federal police and members of the Branch Davidians cult.

More than 80 members of the cult and four federal agents were killed. Waco has since become a focal point for much of the American far-right, some of whom see the cult members as defenders of gun ownership rights.

A spokesperson said Waco was chosen due to its convenient location.

After a two hour speech, Trump left the stage and boarded his jet ahead of a pivotal week. In the coming days, the man vying for the White House could become the first former president in US history to face criminal charges.

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