Trump sidesteps looming criminal probes as he goes after DeSantis in Iowa speech

The former president makes his case in Iowa as the 2024 campaign kicks off in earnest

Eric Garcia
Tuesday 14 March 2023 10:18 GMT
Pence: 'History Will Hold Donald Trump Accountable' For Jan. 6 Capitol Attack

Former president Donald Trump barely mentioned the multiple criminal probes that he faces as he appeared in Davenport, Iowa.

Mr Trump delivered his first major speech in Iowa on Monday as the 2024 campaign kicks off in earnest.

“We stand up to the crooked Democrat prosecutors.” he said. “All over the country, if I fly over a state that happens to be Democrat. ‘Let's call them into a grand jury.’ They have never, nobody's ever weaponised like this group of people. They're maniacs.”

Mr Trump faces four major investigations, and earlier on Monday the former president’s former lawyer testified before a grand jury in New York City. The Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has invited Mr Trump to testify before the panel, an indication the office is seeking an indictment against Mr Trump.

Jack Smith, the special counsel the Justice Department appointed, is investigating the president both for his actions around the January 6 riot and for keeping classified documents from his presidency at his private residence at Mar-a-Lago. He also faces an investigation from Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis for his actions trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state. Lastly, the Manhattan District Attorney is investigating his hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Mr Trump.

On Monday, Mr Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen testified before a grand jury in the Manhattan probe. But Mr Trump turned down an offer to testify before a grand jury, ABC News reported.

Throughout his speech, he rattled off his record and how various aspects of his presidency benefited Iowans and farmers, saying that is why he won the state twice. Mr Trump also repeated his lie that Democtrats stole the 2020 presidential election.

While Mr Trump billed his speech an address about education, he only briefly the topic du jour. During that brief moment, he said he would abolish the Department of Education. He said he would sign legislation to end federal funding for schools that push “critical race theory” or teaching about transgender people.

At the same time, Mr Trump also took time to hit his main potential opponent in 2024: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, referring to him as either “DeSanctis” or “DeSanctimonious”

“Ron DeSanctis strongly opposed ethanol,” he said in referrence to ethanol subsidies, which are incredibly popular in Iowa because of the corn industry. “He strongly opposed to ethanol and fought against it at every turn. And he's gonna do that again.”

Last week, the governor visited Iowa as he prepares a likely presidential run of his own. Mr Trump compared him to previous Republican establishment figures like former House Speaker and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 presidential nominee who has since become a critic of Mr Trump.

“And to be honest with you, Ron reminds me a lot of Mitt Romney,” Mr Trump said. “So I don't think you're going to be doing so well here but we're going to find out.”

Similarly, Mr Trump said that he would protect federal entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare and also noted how and contrasted himself with Mr DeSantis, whom he accused of wanting to curtail the programs.

“He wanted the minimum retirement age to be lifted to people that are 70 years old, a substantial increase over what it is right now,” Mr Trump said. “That's a big increase and he also voted to severely cut Medicare. I will not be cutting Medicare and I will not be cutting Social Security.”

Iowa remains a must-visit state for Republicans as it has long held the nation’s first presidential nominating contest with the Iowa caucuses. But Democrats have sought to change its primary calendar to have South Carolina go first followed by states like Georgia and Michigan.

Mr Trump, for his part, said he would keep Iowa as the first contest for the GOP side.

“I said we're doing it that's where it's going to be teach where it's going to be for a long time,” he said. “Long as I'm around.”

The former president has already visited New Hampshire and South Carolina with some Republicans already getting behind him. Earlier this month, he gave the closing speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

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