Trump brands indictment 'baseless' in first public address since charges unsealed

Donald Trump brands the charges against him 'ridiculous' in a speech to Georgian Republicans on Saturday

Former US President Donald Trump has branded a federal indictment's allegations against him 'baseless, in his first public appearances since the charges were unsealed.

He became the first ever US president to face criminal charges on a federal level, but used a speech on Saturday to frame the action as a “ridiculous” attack on his supporters.Trump was set to speak to friendly Republican audiences in Georgia and North Carolina on Saturday as he tried to rally his base to his defence.

About 100 supporters, some waving “Witch Hunt” signs, showed up to the Columbus airfield to greet Trump as he arrived.

Speaking at the Georgia Republican Convention, Trump told the crowd: “They’ve launched one witch hunt after another to try and stop our movement, to thwart the will of the American people."

He added: "In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you.”

This image, contained in the indictment against Trump, shows boxes of records stored in a bathroom and shower at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Credit: Justice Department via AP

Trump, who remains the front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination despite his mounting legal woes, was making his first public outings since the indictment to speak at the two state party conventions this weekend,

He doubled down on claims he is the victim of a politically motivated “witch hunt” by Democratic President Joe Biden’s Justice Department.

The indictment unsealed Friday charged him with 37 felony counts in connection with his hoarding of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Trump is accused of willfully defying Justice Department demands to return classified documents, enlisting aides in his efforts to hide the records and even telling his lawyers that he wanted to defy a subpoena for the materials stored at his residence.

Boxed of records stored on the stage in the White and Gold Ballroom at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. Credit: AP

The indictment includes allegations that he stored documents in a ballroom and bathroom at his resort, among other places.

The federal charging document alleges that Trump not only intentionally possessed classified documents but also boastfully showed them off to visitors and aides.

The indictment is built on Trump’s own words and actions as recounted to prosecutors by lawyers, close aides and other witnesses, including his professing to respect and know procedures related to the handling of classified information.

Charges against him, under the Espionage Act, include making false statements, conspiracy to obstruct justice and wilfully retaining national defence secrets.

Prosecutors noted that “tens of thousands of members and guests” visited the Mar-a-Lago social club between the end of Trump’s presidency in January 2021 through the August 2022 search.

On stage in Georgia, Trump told supporters the charges were 'baseless'. Credit: AP

Speaking on Saturday, Trump said his political enemies had launched “one hoax and witch hunt after another” and claimed the charges against him were politically motivated.

“The ridiculous and baseless indictment of me by the Biden administration’s weaponized Department of Injustice will go down as among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country,” Trump told Georgia Republicans.

Trump is due to make his first federal court appearance on Tuesday in Miami. 

It is one in a string of legal battles for Trump, but is widely viewed to be the most perilous.

The most serious charges he faces carry potential prison sentences of up to 20 years each.

However first-time offenders rarely get anywhere near the maximum sentence and the decision would ultimately be up to the judge.

In March, he was indicted in New York in a hush money scheme stemming from payouts made to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign.

He faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that also could lead to criminal charges.

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