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Away from his New York trial, Donald Trump's campaign rallies are business as usual

Donald Trump's first campaign rallies since the start of his criminal hush money trial in New York barely mentioned the reason for his absence from the campaign trail.

But in lengthy speeches in Waukesha, Wis., and Freeland, Mich., Wednesday, Trump continued to escalate his rhetoric around what a second term would look like — and the consequences he foresees if he doesn't win.

Trump echoed comments he made in a TIME Magazine interview that published earlier this week outlining an aggressive take on the presidency, including a push to revive the authority to withhold congressionally appropriated funds and give police further immunity from prosecution to crack down on immigrants and perceived crime hotspots.

Many of his signature proposals and policies mentioned frequently at campaign events were on display: increased oil drilling, a rollback of President Joe Biden's economic policies, including the Inflation Reduction Act and a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill; and the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

He also mentioned recent protests roiling college campuses around Israel's military action in Gaza in response to an Oct. 7 attack on the country by Hamas.

He called on those schools to "vanquish the radicals and take back our campuses for all of the normal students" while making inflammatory remarks about refugees from the conflict as part of his hardline immigration views.

In his Wisconsin speech, Trump implied Palestinian refugees resettled in the U.S. would bring "jihad" and warned of an "Oct. 7-style attack" as he reiterated his proposal to enact a travel ban from majority-Muslim countries and vowed to oversee "the largest deportation in the history of our country."

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on Wednesday in Waukesha, Wis. The Wisconsin campaign stop is his first official rally since the start of his trial in New York over campaign finance violations related to payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Morry Gash / AP
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AP
Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on Wednesday in Waukesha, Wis. The Wisconsin campaign stop is his first official rally since the start of his trial in New York over campaign finance violations related to payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Over the course of nearly three hours of speaking between the two rallies, very little time was spent mentioning the ongoing trial in New York, where on Tuesday Trump was held in contempt of court for violating a gag order against comments about witnesses and jurors in the case.

In Wisconsin, Trump mentioned a "crooked judge" and the Georgia prosecutor overseeing a separate racketeering case stemming from the failed effort to overturn his 2020 election defeat, but largely reflected upon the polling boost the criminal charges brought him.

In Michigan, Trump was more expansive with his displeasure. He decried a "fake trial" in New York and said the judge was unconstitutionally stopping him from speaking, while arguing the multiple criminal cases against him "bullshit."

"As you know, I have come here today from New York City, where I'm being forced to sit for days on end in a kangaroo courtroom with a corrupt and conflicted judge enduring a Biden sideshow trial, at the hands of a Marxist district attorney, Soros-backed, who's taking orders from the Biden administration," Trump complained.

The New York trial has sidelined much of Trump's ability to campaign and take advantage of earned media coverage through interviews, social media posts and reactions to other news of the day. Bad weather forced the campaign to reschedule a rally on April 20 in North Carolina at the last minute.

But time away from the trail has not changed Trump's message or delivery in a race that he says will determine if the country survives.

At the evening Michigan rally, Trump repeated stories about Mexico providing troops to patrol the border with the United States, hypothesizing war in Ukraine and conflict in the Middle East would never have happened if he was in charge and warning that Biden winning in November would "destroy" the country.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Stephen Fowler
Stephen Fowler is a political reporter with NPR's Washington Desk and will be covering the 2024 election based in the South. Before joining NPR, he spent more than seven years at Georgia Public Broadcasting as its political reporter and host of the Battleground: Ballot Box podcast, which covered voting rights and legal fallout from the 2020 presidential election, the evolution of the Republican Party and other changes driving Georgia's growing prominence in American politics. His reporting has appeared everywhere from the Center for Public Integrity and the Columbia Journalism Review to the PBS NewsHour and ProPublica.