MIAMI — Former President Donald Trump complained bitterly about the investigations he’s facing in a speech Wednesday, accusing his successor, Joe Biden, of “destroying the rule of law” and neglecting deeper problems the nation confronts.
Speaking at the end of a conference aimed at building Latino support for conservative policies, Trump devoted a chunk of his address to his legal difficulties involving sensitive records that he took from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and a separate lawsuit filed against him by New York state prosecutors.
Trump said that in searching his home in Palm Beach, which doubles as a private club, investigators treated him differently from past presidents going back to George H.W. Bush. All were shown more deference in how they treated their records upon leaving office, Trump argued.
“Now the failing Biden regime wants to start investigating me, and the only reason is because I’m leading everyone in the polls, both Republicans and Democrats,” said Trump, who has sent strong signals that he plans to run again for president in 2024.
He repeated a debunked claim that former President Barack Obama moved millions of pages of presidential records to an “unsafe” building at the end of his term in 2017. After Trump first made the allegation, the National Archives released a statement saying Obama never had control of those records. All were in the government’s custody and stored in accordance with archival standards, the agency said.
“No other president has been harassed and persecuted like we have,” Trump said.
Trump delivered the keynote address after a two-day conference here hosted by the America First Policy Institute, a tax-exempt group run by former Trump administration officials. About 450 people attended his speech and gave Trump a warm reception.
Before Trump took the stage, Abraham Enriquez, the president of Bienvenido, a conservative Latino group, dismissed the “left” as being “obsessed with calling us breakfast tacos.”
That was a reference to first lady Jill Biden’s remark in San Antonio over the summer that Hispanics in Texas were as “unique” as “breakfast tacos.” Through a spokesman, she later apologized for the comment, which she made to a Latino civil rights group.
Trump spoke about Latinos’ pronounced financial gains during his presidency, an economic argument that seems to have gained traction with the crucial voting bloc. A recent NBC News/Telemundo poll showed that Republicans have been chipping away at Democrats’ traditional advantage among Latino voters, for whom inflation and jobs loom as urgent issues.
Enriquez described Trump as the country’s “first Latino president in U.S. history.”
Trump painted a dark picture of the U.S. under Biden’s presidency. The Biden administration’s priorities, Trump said, are upside down. He cited the continuing scourge of foreign drug cartels as an example.
“They raided Mar-a-Lago, but the cartels, they have their own Mar-a-Lagos — those are fine,” he said. “Leave them alone. Let them continue to destroy our country.
“Think how sick it is — what’s happening in this country,” he added. “We’re a country of investigations. We don’t talk about greatness anymore. Everybody gets investigated. … The cartels — nothing’s happening to them. But they go after politicians!”
Although Trump objected to what he called the “weaponization” of law enforcement, a former federal prosecutor has said something similar happened when Trump was in power. Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, writes in a new book that the Justice Department under Trump sought to protect his political interests. After Berman’s office had prosecuted a pair of Trump loyalists, he wrote, a Justice Department official called him and urged him to “even things out” before the midterm elections in 2018 by charging a former Obama White House official, Gregory Craig. Craig was never charged.
Trump denounced New York Attorney General Letitia James, who sued him last month alleging that he had fraudulently inflated his net worth to get favorable loan agreements. He called James a “totally corrupt, horrible human being” and said he is now adding up “the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes I’ve paid over the years in New York City.”
He suggested he might have an odd bedfellow in New York’s Democratic former governor Andrew Cuomo, another James critic. James’ office led an investigation that concluded Cuomo had sexually harassed or inappropriately touched 11 women. Cuomo resigned soon after the report was issued, and he filed an ethics complaint against James last month.
Trump told the audience that James “did get Cuomo to resign.”
“Very interestingly, a lot of people are angry about that,” said Trump, who often criticized Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic when both were in office. “People like Cuomo; some people.”