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Trump heads to Jersey Shore to rally ‘mega crowd’ during weekend break from hush money trial

WILDWOOD, N.J. (AP) — After a long week in court, Donald Trump is headed to the Jersey Shore. And he is greeted by thousands of his friends.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, attracted what his team called a “mega-crowd” of “tens of thousands” to a Saturday evening rally in the southern New Jersey resort town of Wildwood. The meeting took place 150 miles (241 kilometers) south of the New York City courthouse, where he had to spend most weekdays in silence during his hush-money trial.

The beachside meeting, by Rep. Jeff Van Drew, RN.J. described as the largest political rally in the state’s history, was intended as a show of force at a critical moment for Trump, who faces dozens of felony charges. four separate criminal cases, with the elections less than six months away. There is a real possibility that Trump could be a convicted felon on Election Day.

Hours before he was to take the stage, thousands of Trump loyalists, wearing “Never Surrender” T-shirts and red “Make America Great Again” hats, crowded the sand between the boardwalk and carnival rides to celebrate the former Republican president to greet.

“The average American people are behind him 100 percent,” said Doreen O’Neill, a 62-year-old nurse from Philadelphia.

“They have to cheat, smear and humiliate him every day in court,” O’Neill said. “This country will go crazy if they steal the election again.”

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Trump’s extraordinary legal troubles, including three other unrelated criminal cases, have become a central theme of the campaign.

Trump has repeatedly accused the Biden administration and Democratic officials in New York of using the legal system to block his return to the White House. Prosecutors allege the former president broke the law by covering up an affair with a porn actor that allegedly damaged his first presidential bid.

And while Trump will almost certainly address his legal troubles on Saturday, a judge’s silence order — and the threat of prison time — will limit Trump’s ability to publicly comment on witnesses, jurors and some others related to the New York trial. York, which is expected to last. a large part of the month. The judge in the case has already fined Trump $9,000 for violating the order and warned that jail time could follow if he does not comply with the order.

Trump’s responsibilities as a defendant have limited his ability to win over voters during his campaign.

He spent last week’s day off in the general election battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan. And he campaigned on Saturday with tens of thousands of voters in New Jersey, a reliably Democratic state. Parts of New Jersey have deep red enclaves, and the southern coastline in particular attracts tourists and summer homeowners from neighboring Pennsylvania, a major swing state.

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President Joe Biden, meanwhile, opened his weekend with a series of fundraising events on the West Coast.

He avoided Trump’s legal challenges — as he has consistently done — while addressing donors in Seattle. Instead, the Democratic president focused on Trump’s recent interview with Time magazine, in which the Republican former president said states should have the choice of prosecuting women for abortions or monitoring their pregnancies.

Saturday’s visit to the New Jersey Shore resort was not Trump’s first.

While president, Trump held a rally there in January 2020 to thank Van Drew, the New Jersey congressman who had just left the Democratic Party for the Republican Party in rebuke for the former president’s first impeachment.

Trump at the time drew crowds along the streets, filling bars and supporting scores of vendors in what is typically a sleepy city in winter. This time the summer season is upon us for the resort known for its wide beaches, board games and shops.

Wildwood is located in New Jersey’s 2nd District, which Van Drew has represented for three terms and covers all or part of six counties in southern New Jersey. It was true for Trump in 2016 and again in 2020, after previously supporting Barack Obama.

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Trump will return to the courtroom next week, when the prosecution’s key witness, Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer-turned-enemy, is expected to take the witness stand. Last week, he was visibly angry at times as he was forced to sit through testimony from former porn actor Stormy Daniels, who described a sexual encounter with the former president in shocking detail.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying internal corporate records of the Trump Organization. The costs arise from paperwork such as invoices and checks that were considered legal costs in the company’s records. Prosecutors say these payments were largely refunds to Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, who paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet.

The prosecutor could drop his case by the end of this week. It is unclear whether Trump himself will take the stand when the defense presents its case.

Back on the Jersey Shore, 65-year-old Pat Day said she felt some urgency to see Trump in person Saturday.

“We want to see Trump before they take him out,” said Day, who was visiting from the Florida Keys. “I’m worried. They’re going to do everything they can to prevent him from being re-elected.”

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