Former President Donald Trump’s return to the rally stage on Saturday became a litany of his election grievances and baseless claims of fraud.
“This was the scam of the century and this was the crime of the century,” Trump told a crowd of thousands at Ohio’s Lorain County Fairgrounds.
The event was held to support Max Miller, a former White House aide who is challenging Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez for his congressional seat. Gonzalez was one of 10 GOP House members who voted to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the deadly 6 January insurrection at the Capitol building. Trump has vowed to back those who run against them.
And while he praised Miller as an “incredible patriot” and a ”great guy” who “loves the people of Ohio,” Trump spent much of the rally fixating on the 2020 election, which he insists he won, dismissed by many officials, his own attorney general and numerous judges.
“The 2020 presidential election was rigged,” he told the crowd, which at one point broke into a “Trump won!” chant. “We won that election in a landslide.” In reality, President Joe Biden’s victory was thoroughly validated by the officials who reported finding no systemic fraud.
Saturday’s focus on the election lies of 2020 began even before Trump arrived.
The pre-show included a PowerPoint-style presentation by a man who claims an algorithm was used to manipulate the election results. And Mike Lindell, the My Pillow founder-turned-conspiracy theorist who has spent millions trying to prove the election was stolen, was hailed as a hero by some in the crowd, who chanted his name and jockeyed for photos as he milled around.
When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Republican from Georgia known for her incendiary rhetoric, asked the crowd who their president is, they boomed loudly, “Trump!”
“President Trump is my president, too” she said.
The event had many of the trappings of the rallies Trump held as a candidate and as president. There was the eclectic playlist, the same stage design, and many familiar volunteers.
Trump even reprised his performance of “The Snake,” a song he has used as an allegory for illegal immigration, and the crowd chanted “Lock her up” at the mention of Hillary Clinton, the Democrat he defeated in 2016.
Still, traffic through the afternoon was backed up from the fairgrounds into town, where pro-Trump signs dotted residents’ lawns. On street corners, vendors sold “Trump 2024” flags and other merchandise as supporters arrived.
“I just love him,” said Karen Barnett, 60, who drove from Dayton, Ohio and arrived at the fairgrounds around 3 am after hopping in her car with “no sleep, nothing” when she heard the line was growing.
Trump is planning a flurry of public appearances in the coming weeks. He’ll hold another rally in Florida over the July Fourth weekend unattached to a midterm candidate and will travel to the southern border in the coming week to protest Biden’s immigration policies.
The rally came as Trump, who has continued to tease the possibility that he will mount a comeback run for the White House in 2024, faces immediate legal jeopardy.
Manhattan prosecutors informed his company on Thursday that it could soon face criminal charges stemming from a wide-ranging investigation into the former president’s business dealings.
Trump has said he is committed to helping Republicans regain control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.
So far, nine of the 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment have drawn primary challengers.
Others were attending their first rallies, having felt compelled to turn out in the election’s aftermath.
They included Chris Laskowski, 55, who lives in Medina, Ohio. “We miss him,” she said. “I think they robbed him of the election and he’s still our president.”
She wasn’t alone.
“He’ll be back in August,” predicted Peggy Johnson, 60, who had traveled from Michigan to attend what she said was her seventh Trump rally. “He actually is president now.”