Trump heading to Jersey Shore to rally ‘mega crowd’ in weekend break from hush money trial

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — After a long week in court, Donald Trump is heading to the Jersey Shore. And his campaign says he’ll be joined by “tens of thousands” of his friends.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, expects to draw what his team is calling a “mega crowd” to a Saturday evening rally in the southern New Jersey resort town of Wildwood. It will be held 150 miles (241 kilometers) south of the New York City courthouse where he has been forced to spend most weekdays sitting silently through his felony hush money trial.

The beachfront gathering is designed to serve as a show of force at a critical moment for Trump, a presidential candidate known for drawing huge crowds.

Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said the “tens of thousands” expected attendees would be a notable contrast to the number that typically show up for President Joe Biden’s political events, which Miller described as being only “eight circles, two of which are empty.”

Trump’s gathering in deep-blue New Jersey comes less than six months before Election Day.

The former president’s extraordinary legal woes, which include three other unrelated criminal cases, have emerged as a central focus of the campaign.

Trump has repeatedly accused the Biden administration and Democratic officials in New York of using the legal system to block his return to the White House. Prosecutors allege the former president broke the law to conceal an affair with a porn actor that would have hurt his first presidential bid.

And while Trump will almost certainly seize on his legal woes Saturday, a judge’s gag order — and the threat of jail — will limit Trump’s ability to comment publicly on witnesses, jurors and some others connected to the New York trial, which is expected to consume much of the month. The judge in the case already has fined Trump $9,000 for violating the order and warned that jail could follow if he doesn’t comply.

Trump’s responsibilities as a defendant have limited his ability to win over voters on the campaign trail.

He spent last week’s off-day from court in the general election battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Michigan. And he’s expecting to face a massive crowd Saturday in New Jersey, a reliably Democratic state. Parts of New Jersey have deep-red enclaves and the southern shoreline in particular draws tourists and summer homeowners from neighboring Pennsylvania, a key swing state.

Saturday’s visit to the New Jersey Shore resort isn’t Trump’s first.

While president, Trump held a rally there in January 2020 to thank Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, R-N.J., the congressman who had just left the Democratic Party for the GOP as a rebuke for the former president’s first impeachment.

Trump drew a crowd at the time that lined the streets, filled bars and supported numerous vendors in what is usually a sleepy city in the winter. This time, the summer season is around the corner for the resort known for its wide beaches and boardwalk games and shops.

Wildwood is in New Jersey’s 2nd District, which Van Drew has represented for three terms and covers all or part of six counties in southern New Jersey. It went for Trump in 2016 and again in 2020 after earlier backing Barack Obama.

Trump is set to return to the courtroom next week, when key prosecution witness Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer-turned-foe, is expected to take the witness stand. Last week, he was visibly angry at times as he was forced to sit through testimony from former porn actor Stormy Daniels, who described a sexual encounter with the former president in shocking detail.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying internal Trump Organization business records. The charges stem from paperwork such as invoices and checks that were deemed legal expenses in company records. Prosecutors say those payments largely were reimbursements to Cohen, Trump’s attorney, who paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet.

The prosecution could rest its case by the end of the week. It’s unclear if Trump himself will take the stand when the defense presents its case.


Peoples reported from New York.

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