“The district attorney of New York under the auspices and direction of the ‘department of injustice’ in Washington, DC, is investigating me for something that is not a crime, not a misdemeanour, not an affair,” he said, before belittling Ms Daniels’ personal appearance.
For the past week, Mr Trump has been posting increasingly menacing statements about “death and destruction” if he were to be indicted on his social media website, but he avoided any such dire warnings during his speech. And earlier on a sunny afternoon in Waco, Texas, the gathering felt more like the carnival-atmosphere campaign rallies of Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.
Thousands of the former president’s supporters wandered through Trump merchandise tents, where they bought t-shirts emblazoned with “God, guns and Trump” and “Trump won”. Then they packed onto the asphalt tarmac of the local airport hours before Mr Trump’s private jet was scheduled to land.
The crowd – which the Trump campaign estimated will reach 15,000 – offered some boos when Mr Bragg’s name was mentioned, but few seemed all that concerned by the New York investigation.
“There doesn’t seem to be much to it,” said Brian Novie, who lives in nearby Copperas Cove. “And now they seem to be struggling with whether prosecute at all.”
Novie and his friend Richard Tarner, who like Harvey were attending their first Trump rally, bought commemorative t-shirts that read “Trump in Texas: I was there – where were you?” They said that, even with what is likely to be a range of choices in the 2024 Republican primaries, they were sticking with Mr Trump.
“He’s proven he can get things done,” Tarner said, noting that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Mr Trump’s most formidable rival, had yet to demonstrate that he could perform on the national stage.
In the run-up to the Waco rally, a number of media outlets and Trump critics had questioned why the former president was holding his first mega-rally of the 2024 campaign in Waco, where 30 years earlier federal and state authorities engaged in an armed standoff with the Branch Davidian religious cult that ended with the death of 86 people.
It was an incident that helped fuel an anti-government movement in the US, as terms like Nugent’s “jack-booted thugs” were frequently used to describe federal law officers.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told the crowd that such connections were an expletive and “fake news”.
“I picked Waco,” he said. “The president called me several weeks ago and said: ‘I’m coming to Texas. I want you to pick a great town.’
The former president’s plane arrived early evening in the kind of dramatic airfield landing he made a signature of his campaigns in 2016 and 2020. The new “Trump Force One” circled the airfield as the song Danger Zone, made popular by the film Top Gun, blared on the loudspeakers. Meanwhile, a speed-artist painted a scowling portrait of the former president on the stage.