Trump accuses Biden of ‘running a Gestapo administration’ during private donor retreat

Entering the fourth week of his hush-money trial in New York, Donald Trump over the weekend sharply escalated his attacks on the justice system, telling donors at a private event in Florida that President Joe Biden is “running a Gestapo administration.”

His remarks came just days after the former president was held in criminal contempt in New York for violating a judge’s gag order, and with the ongoing proceedings in the case constraining him for four days each week to a New York courtroom.

Pinned down in that trial — and facing dozens of criminal charges in four separate cases altogether — Trump is increasingly casting himself as the victim of the judicial system.

“These people are running a Gestapo administration, and it’s the only thing they have, and it’s the only way they’re going to win,” Trump said during a sprawling, nearly 90-minute speech at a donor retreat in Palm Beach on Saturday, referring to the secret police during Nazi Germany. “But it doesn’t bother me.”

“If you care too much, you tend to choke,” he said.

Trump during his speech in Palm Beach hammered Democrats broadly, discussed his golf game and asserted that he’s doing well in the polls. But he came back to the criminal indictments often and, without providing evidence, accused the White House of orchestrating the cases against him.

“Until I got indicted, I was respectful of the office of the president,” said Trump, who tried unsuccessfully to overturn the results of the 2020 election. “Once I got indicted, I said, ‘well now the gloves have to come off.’”

His comments drew loud applause from the audience. At one point, one attendee said, “Donald J. Trump is the person God has chosen.”

The former president also brought up the federal case against Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who the Justice Department indicted on Friday for allegedly accepting $600,000 in bribes from two foreign entities. Cuellar, a moderate Democrat whose district is on the border with Mexico, has said he’s innocent of the charges.

“He got indicted for political reasons because of stuff at the border,” Trump said of Cuellar. “What they’ve done is weaponize the government to go after political opponents.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The donor retreat was hosted by the former president’s campaign and was expected to be attended by at least 400 people. Among the special guests listed were a handful of potential vice presidential contenders, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina and J.D. Vance of Ohio. Also listed were Govs. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, among others.

At one point, Trump called out some of his potential running mates as well as various senators, including Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. During the speech, Trump praised many people who are believed to be in the running to be his vice presidential pick, including Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who he called one of the greatest senators, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) who he called very smart and Vance, who Trump said initially didn’t support him but later came around and has become “one of the great senators.”

He appeared to single out Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio for special praise, saying: “People love Marco, and I love Marco, he’s a talented guy. And every time they say ‘Is he being considered,’ I say absolutely,” according to audio of the event.

He also defended South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has been under fire for more than a week after it was revealed that, in her book, she recounted how she killed a 14-month-old dog.

“She’s been with me and a supporter of me and I’ve been a supporter of hers for a long time,” he said.

Trump also brought on stage Rod Blagojevich, the controversial former Democratic Illinois governor whose prison sentence for corruption was commuted by Trump.

Blagojevich, who describes himself as a “Trump-ocrat,” was invited by the campaign to attend the event and was surprised to be called on stage, according to a spokesperson for the former governor. He has not spoken to Trump about any vice presidential consideration.

Campaign officials on Saturday also told donors that Trump’s political operation raised more than $76 million in April. The figures were announced to donors by campaign officials Susie Wiles, Chris LaCivita and Tony Fabrizio.

Trump’s campaign is struggling to catch up to Biden in fundraising. At the end of April, Biden had more than twice the amount of money as the former president.

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