Trump rails against border crisis in first campaign event as felon

In his first campaign event since becoming the first U.S. president to be convicted of crimes, Donald J. Trump on Thursday tried to deflect attention from President Biden by equating his border policy to a criminal enterprise.

Widely denouncing migrants who cross the border illegally as violent criminals and terrorists, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Biden’s recent executive order aimed at restricting the crossings, saying it would be ineffective after Mr. Biden n had taken little action in months.

“With his actions at the border, Joe Biden is the ringleader of one of the most despicable criminal conspiracies of all time,” Mr. Trump said at a town hall in Phoenix hosted by Turning Point Action, a conservative group.

Mr. Trump, whom Manhattan prosecutors have charged with criminal conspiracy and who also faces criminal conspiracy charges in a federal election interference case, often defends himself from criticism by dismissing the charges against him, then pointing the finger at his opponents and accusing them of worse transitions.

His speech in Phoenix provided a glimpse of how Mr. Trump will most likely downplay the guilty verdict at his trial in Manhattan by keeping immigration at the center of his efforts to persuade voters in battleground states to do so. return to the White House in November, while defeating the man who thwarted his re-election in 2020.

That strategy could prove particularly effective in Arizona, a border state that Mr. Trump has not visited since 2022. Republican voters voted this week to place a measure on the ballot in November that would make the crossing illegally crossing the border from Mexico a state crime, part of an effort to exploit anti-immigration sentiment in elections.

Mr. Trump has largely taken aim at Mr. Biden’s executive order, which prevents migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border when crossing it, is surging. He accused the president of delaying action until this week in order to curry favor with voters before the election.

“They are proposing this order,” he said. Then, relying on one of his favorite rhetorical devices, he pretended to refrain from describing it with offensive language. “I won’t say it, because I don’t like to use the word ‘bullshit’ in front of these people,” he said.

In response, the crowd gathered inside the megachurch where he was speaking, Dream City Church, began chanting profanities in unison.

Mr. Trump largely reignited familiar criticisms of Mr. Biden’s immigration policies and made a number of unsubstantiated claims about migrants crossing illegally and about the Biden administration. He still insisted, without evidence, that Mr. Biden was “deliberately” encouraging migrants to come illegally in order to turn voters for Democrats.

And he once again claimed, without evidence, that leaders of other countries were intentionally sending prisoners and the mentally ill in caravans across the border. Yet Mr. Trump said that if he were in charge of these countries, he would do the same thing “in a heartbeat.”

Mr. Biden’s campaign was quick to respond.

“Donald Trump blocked the strongest and fairest bipartisan border legislation in a generation – legislation that would have strengthened the nation’s border security and helped stop the flow of fentanyl into this country,” Kevin said Munoz, a spokesperson for Mr. Biden’s campaign, said in a statement, referring to a bill that would have strengthened border security but was blocked by Republicans earlier this year.

Mr. Trump has conjured up an apocalyptic vision for the country, and Arizona in particular, if he does not win in November. “Arizona is becoming a dumping ground for third world dungeons,” he said.

Immigration was a priority for many Trump supporters, both inside and outside the church, where thousands waited for hours in triple-digit heat. The Phoenix Fire Department said 11 people were taken to hospitals to be treated for heat exhaustion throughout the day.

Phoenix residents have blamed a variety of problems — increased crime, homelessness and even overcrowded schools and hotels — on the influx of migrants crossing the border 180 miles to the south.

“There are so many homeless people in Phoenix,” said Debbie Joy, 69. “It impacts everything.” She said she felt like money was being funneled to less important projects like electric vehicles, rather than border restrictions.

Cameron Norlin, 34, said Mr. Biden’s executive order would do little to resolve the “out of control” situation at the border and echoed Mr. Trump’s claims that the action was politically motivated.

“It helps, but it’s more of an election issue that has nothing to do with his desire to solve the problem,” Mr. Norlin said.

After speaking for an hour, Mr. Trump took nearly a dozen questions from the audience, a rare occurrence at campaign events. Immigration and the economy were the dominant themes.

Mr. Trump briefly discussed his trial in New York, in which he was convicted last week of 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal secret payments to a porn star during his campaign. 2016.

His remarks stuck to a typical scenario: that the trial was “rigged” against him, that the judge was “very confrontational” and that the accusations were “made up stuff.” Mr. Trump, who has been charged in four separate criminal cases, said “the appeals courts need to step up and set the record straight.”

Arizona is one of several states that backed Mr. Trump in 2016 but turned to Mr. Biden in 2020, buoyed by changes in suburban Phoenix. Mr. Trump lost the state by more than 10,000 votes, or less than half a percentage point, and the state played a central role in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Trump allies, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, have been indicted for these efforts.

During his remarks, Mr. Trump reiterated his baseless claims of voter fraud in Arizona during the 2020 and 2022 midterm elections, when candidates he supported were defeated.

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