COLUMBUS, Ga. — Former President Donald Trump on Saturday made his first public comments since a federal indictment against him was unsealed a day earlier, calling the charges “baseless” and “ridiculous.”
Speaking at the Georgia Republican Convention in Columbus, Trump said the 37-count indictment, which centers around the alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Florida estate after he left the White House in 2021, was an attempt to hurt his chances of winning another presidential term in next year’s election.
“They’ve launched one witch hunt after another to try and stop our movement, to thwart the will of the American people,” Trump told a crowd of more than 2,000 people at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center. “In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you.
“And I’m just standing in their way.”
Trump remains the front-runner for the GOP 2024 nomination, according to The Associated Press.
Trump had two scheduled appearances planned before the indictment, at GOP state conventions in Georgia and North Carolina, according to The New York Times.
The indictment was unsealed Friday, charging him with 37 felony counts related to the classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, the AP reported. Trump has been accused of willfully defying the Justice Department’s demands to return classified documents, and having aides assist in hiding records, among other charges.
Trump called special counsel Jack Smith, who announced the federal indictment, as “deranged” and accused the Justice Department of being “a sick nest of people that need to be cleaned out.”
“They took one charge and made it 37,” Trump told the audience. “It’s a political hit job.”
The indictment also reportedly alleges that Trump stored classified documents in a ballroom and bathroom at his resort, the AP reported.
On Thursday evening, Trump announced on his Truth Social platform that he was informed that he was being indicted. The Department of Justice did not unseal the indictment until Friday afternoon.
If convicted, Trump could face up to 20 years each but first-time offenders don’t usually get the maximum sentence, according to the AP.