Former President Donald Trump was set to take the stage in Georgia Saturday for his first live comments since the unsealing of a 49-page, 37-count federal indictment accusing him of mishandling classified documents.
More than 3,500 Republican state party delegates and guests are expected to pack the Columbus Convention and Trade Center in Columbus, Ga. to hear Trump speak at their annual GOP convention — sans Gov. Brian Kemp, a longtime Trump critic.
It is the first of two campaign-style stops for Trump, who remains the front-runner in the Republican presidential primary race despite his cascading legal woes.
The federal case unsealed in Miami on Friday came after a federal grand jury heard evidence that Trump illicitly retained classified documents and kept them at his Mar-a-Lago home.
The charges, including the willful retention of national defense documents and conspiring to obstruct justice, follow Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s April indictment for Trump’s alleged falsification of business records.
Those two cases may soon be joined by additional indictments: in Georgia over accusations of election interference, and in Washington, D.C. for the former president’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
In messages to supporters Saturday, Trump sought to use the prosecutions as fuel for his quest to win the Republican presidential nomination once again.
“I could throw in the towel tomorrow, close down my 2024 presidential campaign, and all charges against me would magically be dropped!” he wrote in a fundraising email.
Doing so, he added, “would be turning my back on our country” — casting his expected Tuesday arraignment as an attack on America itself.
Meanwhile, Trump made a string of posts on social media, including one all-caps missive claiming that “AMERICA WENT TO SLEEP LAST NIGHT WITH TEARS IN ITS EYES” over the indictment, which some Republicans have denounced as a politically motivated power grab.
But Kemp’s pointed absence signaled rifts within the Republican Party over Trump’s candidacy, particularly in the must-win swing state of Georgia, which the former president narrowly lost to President Biden in 2020.
A poll released Friday by Kemp’s Hardworking Americans PAC found that Trump would have the support of just 42% of likely Georgia voters in a rematch against Biden — fully six points less than the 48% support that a generic Republican candidate would receive in such a race.
The statewide survey of 600 voters, taken before news of the indictment dropped, found that Trump would barely edge out Biden 42% to 41% if the presidential election was held today, while any other GOP candidate would beat the incumbent by 10 points, 48% to 38%.
The poll had a 4% margin of error.
After the Georgia speech, Trump was scheduled to head to North Carolina to campaign at that state’s annual Republican convention.