Trump glorifies Jan. 6 insurrectionists while proclaiming innocence to hush money scheme at Texas rally

Former president Donald Trump at Waco rally
As footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is displayed in the background, former President Donald Trump stands while a song, “Justice for All,” is played during a campaign rally at Waco Regional Airport, Saturday, March 25, 2023, in Waco, Texas. The song features a choir of men imprisoned for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection singing the national anthem and a recording of Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Former President Donald Trump appeared to glorify the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol in his name on Jan. 6, 2021 during a campaign rally in Texas on Saturday.

With a hand over his heart, Trump stood at attention when his rally opened with a song called “Justice for All” performed by a choir of people imprisoned for their roles in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Some footage from the insurrection was shown on big screens displayed at the rally site as the choir sang the national anthem and a recording played of Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

The extraordinary display opened Trump’s first rally of his 2024 Republican presidential campaign. He then launched into a speech brimming with resentments and framed the probes, including a New York grand jury investigation, as political attacks on him and his followers.

Facing a potential indictment, Trump took a defiant stance at the rally in Waco, disparaging the prosecutors investigating him and predicting his vindication as he rallied supporters in a city made famous by deadly resistance against law enforcement. Waco is associated with the Branch Davidian cult, which in 1993 engaged in 51-day standoff and deadly siege with U.S. law enforcement that resulted in the deaths of more than 80 members of the religious cult and four federal agents.

The siege has become a touchstone for far-right extremists and militia groups, and was the inspiration for the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City two years later, in April 1995, that killed 168 people in what would be the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil until Sept. 11, 2001.

While Trump’s campaign denied any association between the location choice and the Branch Davidian siege, the former president focused his attention at the rally on getting revenge at those currently investigating him.

“You will be vindicated and proud,” Trump said during the March 25 rally. “The thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced.”

Trump’s event at the airport grounds in Waco was part of a broader effort by the former president to use the potential indictment as a rallying cry for supporters to maintain his status as the GOP frontrunner in what is expected to be a crowded primary. It came one day after Trump raised the specter of violence should he become the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges.

Trump proclaimed his innocence in the Manhattan investigation into a hush money payment made during the 2016 election to porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump years earlier. A grand jury hearing the case is expected to meet again on Monday.

Trump claimed that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg was investigating him “for something that is not a crime, not a misdemeanor, not an affair.”

Some of Trump’s recent rhetoric, including at the rally, has echoed language he used before the Capitol insurrection by a mob of his supporters seeking to stop the transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden, who won the presidential election.

Trump declared Saturday that his “enemies are desperate to stop us” and that “our opponents have done everything they can to crush our spirit and to break our will.”

He added: “But they failed. They’ve only made us stronger. And 2024 is the final battle, it’s going to be the big one. You put me back in the White House, their reign will be over and America will be a free nation once again.”

Trump could soon be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury investigating a $130,000 payment that Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, made as Trump was in the throes of his 2016 presidential campaign. A week earlier, Trump took to the “Truth” social media platform to claim that he would be indicted and arrested by the following Tuesday, March 21 — but that never happened. Bragg would later charge that Trump created a “false expectation” of his impending indictment. 

Trump later reimbursed Cohen and his company logged the reimbursements as a legal expense. Cohen has already served time in prison after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress, among other crimes.