Trump to speak in Georgia in first appearance since indictment

Former President Donald Trump on Saturday will make his first public appearance since he was indicted in federal court, taking the stage in Columbus, Georgia, for the state’s GOP convention. 

The former president has insisted he is “innocent” and posted on Truth Social that he will plead not guilty at his scheduled arraignment Tuesday at a federal courthouse in Miami. The federal charges against the former president stem from the investigation into his handling of sensitive government documents after he left the White House. 

The Justice Department alleges Trump “endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal retention of classified documents,” and charged Trump with 31 counts of willful retention of classified documents, as well as one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, one count of withholding a document or record, and other related charges. 

Trump, who is still the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, was already scheduled to speak to the Georgia GOP convention before he broke the news of his federal indictment. But the indictment news is sure to be a fixture in Trump’s Saturday afternoon address. The former president, not known for sticking to a teleprompter, has been railing against the Biden administration on social media, calling the documents investigation and related charges a “hoax.”

“There’s never been anything like what’s happened. I’m an innocent man, I’m an innocent person,” Trump said in a video posted to Truth Social Thursday night. 

Special counsel Jack Smith, who oversaw the investigation, emphasized Friday that laws protecting national defense information exist to protect the men and women in U.S. intelligence and in the armed forces as they protected the nation. 

“We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone,” Smith said at a news conference after the indictment was unsealed. 

Other GOP 2024 hopefuls aside from Trump are speaking at the convention, including former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake of Arizona are also expected to speak. 

Georgia will be a critical battleground state in 2024, as it was in 2020 and 2022. In 2020, President Joe Biden beat Trump in Georgia, a reality that has miffed the former president and prompted him to ask Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” more than 11,000 votes so he could win the state. A special grand jury in Atlanta that investigated whether Trump and his allies committed any crimes while trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia has by now completed its work. 

Ahead of the Georgia GOP convention, the Hardworking Americans PAC, associated with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, released polling Friday suggesting Georgians have a majority unfavorable view of both Mr. Biden and Trump, and Trump has a .6% lead over the current president. Kemp and Trump clashed over the 2020 election, as Kemp stood by the results and declined to acquiesce to Trump.

“Winning statewide in the Peach State next year as a Republican means following Gov. Brian Kemp’s blueprint — not looking in the rearview mirror,” said Cody Hall, executive director of the political action committee. “The road to the White House runs through Georgia, but it hits a dead end if Republicans nominate candidates next year who struggle to win general elections.”

It will be a brief trip to the Peach State for the former president, who then will head on to Greensboro, North Carolina, for a speech later Saturday. 

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