Donald Trump has described being indicted as a “truly great badge of honour” – and suggested further criminal charges could help him win next year’s election.
Speaking to Republicans in Alabama, the former president said he goes up in the polls every time an indictment is filed, describing the allegations against him as “fake” and a “sham”.
Trump also boasted that he is streets ahead of rivals vying for the Republican nomination – declaring: “Nobody even has a chance.”
Accusing Joe Biden‘s administration of trying to interfere with his campaign, he added: “They are trying to say it is illegal to question the outcomes of a bad election.”
Trump vowed to “evict crooked Joe Biden” and “expel thugs and criminals from the halls of power in DC” if he is re-elected as president, and said: “We are going to have to win some battles… our country is going to hell.”
He once again accused his successor of being “the most incompetent and most corrupt president in the history of the United States” – and claimed the “radical left” would not be allowed to “rig the election of 2024”.
Elsewhere in the speech, Trump suggested it “makes no sense” to participate in debates with Republican rivals because they are so far behind in the polls.
“I love to debate – but you know, sometimes you don’t wanna be a fool. You want a smart president, you don’t want a stupid president,” he told the crowd.
The defiant speech comes a day after Trump appeared in a Washington DC court and pleaded not guilty to trying to overturn the 2020 election – later describing it as a “very sad day for America”.
Trump has used his legal woes to ask his supporters for cash – and claimed he could face “561 years in prison for a crime I did not commit”.
The Republican frontrunner has been criminally charged three times over the past four months, and is also facing civil action amid claims he paid “hush” money to a former porn actress in the run-up to the 2016 election.
The most serious charges currently facing the former president is the obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to obstruct, which both carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The charge of conspiracy to defraud the US has a maximum term of five years, while conspiracy against rights has a maximum of 10 years.
Trump has become the first former or current president in history to have been criminally charged, but he has always denied any wrongdoing.
This defiance has supported his 2024 presidential bid.
In one campaign advert shown at the event in Alabama, Trump attacked special counsel Jack Smith, who led the investigation that resulted in the latest charges and the classified documents case.
It also takes aim at Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who charged the former president in a hush money case.
Many Republicans have continued to fund Trump’s campaign, despite the criminal cases.
The next hearing is due to take place on 28 August, five days after the first scheduled Republican primary debate.