Former President Donald Trump is campaigning for Republicans on Saturday in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in what will be his first rally since federal agents searched his Florida home last month.
Trump will speak at the Mohegan Sun Arena in support of Doug Mastriano, who is running for governor against Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Schapiro, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, who takes on Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman in the US Senate race.
Oz and Mastriano stoked the crowd ahead of Trump’s speech as they criticized Biden and a host of Democratic policies ranging from COVID to immigration.
“I think the only thing Joe Biden has built better is the Republican Party,” Oz said.
Supporters of the former president stood in the parking lot hours before Trump was due to take the stage.
Trump’s appearance in Pennsylvania comes just days after President Joe Biden’s successive visits to the battlefield state in which he denounced Trump and his fellow “MAGA Republicans” as a dominant force in the current GOP and a threat to American democracy. .
“Too much of what is happening in our country today is not normal,” Biden said in a prime-time speech from Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Thursday. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
Biden’s souped-up rhetoric comes as he seeks to recast November’s election as a choice between those who want to save the “soul of the nation” or those he believes pose a threat to democracy.
Trump supporters who queued to see the former president make remarks criticized Biden’s rhetoric, saying it has only given them more energy ahead of the midterm elections. Evy Mecjes and Debbie Latsha called Biden’s speech “very divisive”.
“We are the bad guys now. We are the terrorists of the United States of America,” Mecjes said.
Latsha said Biden’s speech showed how “afraid” Democrats were about the power Trump still has over the Republican Party.
“They are a little bit afraid of all the people who are rising up and having their eyes opened, who are waking up to what is really happening in our government,” Latsha said. “So let’s see if we can take them down a little bit more and divide people a little bit more. I mean, there was nothing even about that.”
They defended Trump supporters and pointed to school closures during the pandemic and inflation as examples of how Democrats have hurt Americans.
“People are rioting because we’re angry about how our government is treating us and you know, President Biden doesn’t speak on behalf of the people,” Mecjes noted.
Biden will be back in Pennsylvania on Sunday, spending part of his Labor Day weekend in Pittsburgh.
While Republicans generally prefer to regain control of both Houses of Congress this mid-cycle, recent legislative victories for Democrats and some positive economic news have increased Democrats’ chances of maintaining their majority.
Amid these high stakes, Trump’s rally also comes as the fallout continues from the August 8 FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate, where agents recovered classified documents as part of an investigation into his handling of presidential data after his departure from office.
Attorneys for the Justice Department and for Trump faced off in court on Thursday over whether there should be a court-ordered independent review of the Mar-a-Lago documents by a special master. The judge, Aileen Cannon, has yet to rule on the case.
On Friday, Judge Cannon unlocked a detailed inventory showing what the FBI seized during the search. The list states that some documents with classification markings, ranging from confidential to top secret, were found mixed with newspaper clippings, photographs and other documents.
The inventory also revealed that the government had seized dozens of folders that were empty but with “CLASSIFIED” banners on them or marked “Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide”.
Trump denies wrongdoing as he publicly fights back against the search.
Those who queued to hear him speak on Saturday believed Trump had been unjustly attacked.
“I don’t feel like he did anything wrong. I think it will eventually work out, but they just want to turn people against Trump,” said Barbara, a voter from Mountain Top, Pennsylvania.