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'Gloves are off': Trump attacks Biden, sweeping criminal charges at raucous New Jersey rally

WILDWOOD, N.J. 鈭扐ngered by his criminal indictments, former President Donald Trump declared Saturday during a campaign rally that 鈥渢he gloves are off鈥 and promised a brutal election against President Joe Biden, one centered on rooting out what he called America's 鈥渆nemies from within.鈥

It was another sign the election is on a dark path, even as Trump was often lighthearted during a nearly 90-minute speech to a raucous Wildwood, New Jersey, crowd numbering in the tens of thousands.

Trump boasted about drawing bigger crowds than Bruce Springsteen, a favored son of the state, claimed he will win New Jersey despite it going for Biden by 16 points in 2020 and joked about eating a hot dog because it's among the foods least affected by inflation.

The big, boisterous rally was a show of force in a blue state, and at a time when Trump is on trial just a few hours away in New York City in a case stemming from hush money payments to an adult film actress.

Trump fans from across New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York packed the beach in the popular Jersey Shore town, crowding onto a stretch of sand bordered by amusement rides on two sides, the ocean on one and a boardwalk with shops and carnival games on the other.

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Trump spoke in front of a giant Ferris wheel, roller coaster, water slide and other rides. The former president injected his mix of increasingly apocalyptic rhetoric into the festival atmosphere.

Donald Trump enters the stage as Trump holds a rally on the beach in Wildwood, NJ on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

He lamented what he described as the 鈥減lunder, rape, slaughter and destruction of" American communities, saying 鈥渙ur country鈥檚 in trouble, it鈥檚 in big trouble.鈥

Trump鈥檚 2024 campaign has drawn attention for some of the harsh language he is using that echoes authoritarian leaders, calling his opponents 鈥渧ermin鈥 and saying immigrants are 鈥減oisoning the blood of the country.鈥

On Saturday he said America is less threatened by outside forces than the 鈥渆nemies from within.鈥

鈥淲e have enemies on the outside and we have enemies from within,鈥 he said. 鈥淭he enemies from within are more dangerous to me than the enemies on the outside. Russia and China we can handle, but these lunatics within our government that are gonna destroy our country, and probably want to, we have to get it stopped.鈥

Trump said Biden is 鈥渟urrounded by fascists,鈥 using a term the former president鈥檚 critics have used to describe him after he sought to overturn the 2020 election and after a crowd of his supporters stormed the 91影视 Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 in an attempt to stop the election from being certified.

Trump's efforts to overturn the last race for the White House resulted in two criminal indictments. He also is facing charges for allegedly mishandling classified documents.

Trump said Saturday that he is going harder at Biden because he blames the president, without evidence, for his indictments.

鈥淚 talk about him differently now because now the gloves are off. He鈥檚 a bad guy, should鈥檝e never done that because it鈥檚 so bad for our country,鈥 Trump said in blaming his criminal cases on Biden.

Biden spokesperson James Singer in a statement called Trump "a danger to the Constitution and a threat to our democracy, promising to rule as a dictator on 鈥榙ay one,鈥 punish those who stand against him, condone violence done on his behalf, and put his own revenge and retribution ahead of what is best for America."

New Jersey is a deep blue state that hasn鈥檛 voted for a Republican for president since 1988, raising questions about the wisdom of a Trump rally in the area. Trump claimed the state is in play, though it's widely expected to favor Biden again this year.

Wildwood is a Republican enclave within New Jersey, close to where Trump is on trial in New York City and near the former president鈥檚 estate in Bedminster.

It also is close to Philadelphia, a crucial source of votes in swing state Pennsylvania. The rally drew coverage in the Philadelphia media market, and attendees from the city and surrounding suburbs.

Trump mentioned Pennsylvania repeatedly in his speech.

鈥淲hose from Pennsylvania?鈥 He asked. 鈥淚 went to school in Pennsylvania.鈥

John Llewellyn, 57, drove from the Philadelphia area with his wife and daughter to attend the rally. Wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jacket, the postal worker said he voted for Trump the last two elections and plans to again.

Supporting Trump means being 鈥減art of a movement. It鈥檚 part of a family,鈥 Llewellyn said.

The southern Jersey Shore includes Atlantic City, where Trump operated casinos, and Llewellyn said he views it as 鈥渒ind of like his home turf.鈥

Llewellyn slammed Trump鈥檚 criminal cases as 鈥渢rumped up charges鈥 just to throw him off his game鈥 and said he believes unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Home builder Mark Bass, 64, also drove from the Philadelphia area for the rally to 鈥渟upport America, first and foremost, and support probably the best president we鈥檝e had in several decades.鈥

If Trump goes to jail, Bass predicted 鈥渉e鈥檒l gain more popularity and gain more votes.鈥

Many rallygoers wore shirts with Trump鈥檚 mug shot from his indictment in Georgia and the words 鈥淣ever Surrender.鈥 Others wore shirts supporting those arrested for rioting in the Capitol building.

Attendees cheered as Trump鈥檚 plane 鈥 dubbed 鈥淭rump Force One鈥 鈥 flew over two hours before the rally began.

Planes trolling Trump 鈭 and one praising him 鈭 also crisscrossed the sky trailing banners.

One read 鈥淪COTUS justice can鈥檛 wait鈥 while another said 鈥淛ack Ciat said don鈥檛 vote Trump he鈥檚 embarrassing,鈥 an apparent reference to New Jersey Republican candidate for governor Jack Ciattarelli, who criticized Trump during his first campaign before backing him in 2020.

Another banner flying behind a plane read 鈥淕od bless D Trump.鈥

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum warmed up the crowd. Burgum is on Trump鈥檚 short list of potential running mates, and the former president teased a potential Trump/Burgum ticket.

鈥淵ou won鈥檛 find anybody better than this gentlemen in terms of his knowledge鈥 so get ready for something, OK. Just get ready," Trump said.

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