Trump supporters undeterred by legal issues at Waco rally, say legal problems make them adore him more
Trump supporters like him despite his legal issues
Former President Donald Trump’s supporters, including the leader of the infamous Branch Davidian sect, say they’re undeterred by his myriad and looming legal issues. If anything, the troubles make them like Trump more. That much was clear from the reaction to Saturday’s rally in Waco, during which Trump extolled himself as the last thing standing between his followers and the “demonic” forces he claims have taken over the country.
Indicting Trump would distract from corruption in the Biden administration
Browsing MAGA-themed magnets outside the rally’s entrance, Steven Paul, a commercial painter from Irvine, said indicting Trump would be an attempt to distract from what he said is corruption within the Biden administration. Like others on Saturday, Paul said that he didn’t take Trump’s warnings of violence literally — but did not rule out that others did. Echoing Trump’s speech, he and others framed themselves as members of an oppressed and targeted class.
Trump’s legal issues are not a concern for his supporters
Saturday’s rally came days after Trump claimed he was to be arrested on Tuesday by New York City authorities as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged hush payments to former porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump faces a litany of other legal woes, including a rape lawsuit that is headed to trial in April; a Georgia probe into alleged interference in the 2020 presidential election; and two separate Justice Department queries into confidential documents found in his Mar-a-Lago estate and his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Little of it was of real concern to his supporters, who said an arrest would only make them adore Trump more — and feed their belief that he is the leader of their supposedly persecuted movement.
Trump’s claims of legal persecution are a fundraising boon
Trump’s claims of an impending arrest have also been a fundraising boon: He reportedly raised more than $1.5 million in the three days after claiming he’d be taken into custody, and his most ardent supporters have been particularly galvanized by his claims of legal persecution.
The rally was low-energy, says rallygoer
Even so, the vibes Saturday were noticeably low-energy, one longtime rallygoer said. “There’s just not that much excitement today,” said Samantha Drake, who said she’s sold Trump merchandise at hundreds of events across the country. “The energy isn’t as high as I thought it would be.”
GOP leaders stay quiet about Trump’s presidential bid
In Texas, thus far many GOP leaders have stayed quiet about Trump’s presidential bid, though some back his campaign and others have broken with him in favor of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, long rumored to be considering a run. Trump still has overall favorable ratings among Texas GOP voters, with 56% of Republicans surveyed saying the former president should run again, according to February polling from the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
Branch Davidians fear rally could be taken as endorsement of extremist claims
The siege was a galvanizing moment for modern-day white supremacist and anti-government movements and has been cited as inspiration for domestic terrorists — including Timothy McVeigh, who protested outside the Waco standoff and, four years to the day after it ended in a deadly blaze, bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Like other extremism experts, she feared the rally could be taken as an endorsement of anti-government and extremist claims about government overreach in Waco.
Branch Davidian leader believes Trump is making a statement with his rally location
The leader of the Branch Davidians said he believed Trump was making a statement with his rally location. “He is making a statement, I believe, by coming to these stomping grounds, where the government and the FBI laid siege on this community — just like they laid siege on Mar-a-Lago,” Charles J. Pace, the current leader of the Branch Davidian sect, said in a Saturday morning interview at the site of the standoff. “He’s making a statement. He’s not coming right out and saying, ‘I’m doing this because I want you to know what happened there was wrong.’ But he implies it.”
Trump supporters hail him as a messianic figure
Back at the rally, Trump supporters similarly hailed him as an almost messianic figure, the greatest hope in what they believe is an existential war with evil incarnate.