2024 Election: Donald Trump campaigns in Arizona following hush money conviction

Donald Trump returns to the campaign trail Thursday with a trip to Arizona, his first appearance in a battleground state since he was convicted in a hush money scandal.

Trump spoke at a town hall in Phoenix organized by Turning Point, a conservative youth organization that has seen its influence rise alongside Trump’s takeover of the GOP.

Trump responded defiantly to the verdict against him a day after a New York jury found him guilty last week of a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through a hush money payment to a porn actor. But he has not spoken directly to the swing-state voters who will decide the November election.

He appears to have found a friendly audience at Turning Point. Led by Charlie Kirk, the group has harnessed the energy of young people drawn to Trump’s Make America Great Again movement by cultivating conservative influencers and hosting glitzy events. And it’s made Kirk and his allies wealthy.

Nowhere is Turning Point’s influence greater than in Arizona, the group’s adopted home state, where its loyalists have taken on prominent roles in the state GOP but have struggled to win general elections. Turning Point’s slate of conservative candidates lost in the 2022 midterms, including Kari Lake, who lost the race for governor and is now running for U.S. Senate.

The group is looking to expand its influence this year to other battleground states and got a boost when Trump ousted former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel in February. She was replaced by Trump’s hand-picked successor, his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who has spoken positively about working with Turning Point.

Trump calls case against him ‘politically motivated’

During the town hall, Trump repeated his critiques of the case against him, and called for his conviction to be overturned on appeal. He is expected to appeal the convictions.

"Those appellate courts have to step up and straighten things out or we’re not going to have a country anymore," Trump said.

Trump's conviction infuriated his supporters, who pumped tens of millions of dollars into his campaign in the immediate aftermath. Trump blames his conviction on President Joe Biden, though the case was brought by the locally elected district attorney in New York, and many of his allies are calling for revenge.

Line forms as supporters gather

Some people arrived at the town hall venue early in an effort to ensure they can get inside the venue, which can hold 3,000 people, to see Trump.

"I’m here to support our 45th President, to thank him for coming here after what happened to him in New York," said one Trump supporter, identified only as ‘Marcia.'

"A lot of fun to go to Trump rally. For those people haven’t been there before: you meet a lot of great people, so I’m used to getting here early, and I’d like to try and get a seat upfront," said another Trump supporter, identified only as ‘Blake.’

The line to get in was twisting and turning, but went nowhere fast. On a day of excessive heat, however, it also meant that close to a dozen people were rushed to the hospital, as some suffered heat exhaustion under the sweltering sun.

Meanwhile, a handful of protesters also showed up, One woman, identified only as ‘Susan,’ brought with her a sign that reads "Make America Gullible Again."

"I’m nervous about the MAGA crowd," said Susan, who describes herself as an independent voter. "II’m kinda like nervous but, I think that says a lot right there."

Biden campaign responds to Trump visit

Officials with President Joe Biden's re-election campaign responded to Trump's Phoenix visit on June 6, calling the former president "too extreme" to be in office again.

The campaign pointed to Trump's 34 felony convictions for falsifying business records, raised concerns of political violence, and pointed to Trump's alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021 capitol attack, along with efforts to overturn the results from 2020's presidential election.

People with the Biden campaign say they are worried that Trump being in office could threaten the rights and freedoms of Arizonans.

"He has made it clear that his main goal as President is to use his power to systematically dismantle and destroy our democracy," said Yolanda Bejarano, Chairwoman of the Arizona Democratic Party. "He's promising to be a ruler, and use the United States Government to exact retribution on his political enemies."

Arizona a battleground state

President Joe Biden won Arizona in 2020 by about 10,000 votes. It was, along with Georgia, one of two states decided by less than half a percentage point and is expected to be close again this year. Recent polls have Trump leading President Biden by four points in Arizona.

Arizona Republicans have enthusiastically embraced Trump’s unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. State lawmakers commissioned an unprecedented partisan recount that confirmed his loss. Cochise County officials in southern Arizona are facing criminal charges for refusing to certify the 2022 midterm election results.


Arizona fake electors case: Kelli Ward, Rudy Giuliani plead not guilty to felony charges

Kelli Ward and Rudy Giuliani pleaded not guilty Tuesday to nine felony charges stemming from their alleged roles in an effort to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Arizona to Joe Biden.

Hours before Trump is scheduled to speak, Jake Hoffman, a Republican state senator who is also a top Turning Point consultant, will be arraigned for his role in an alleged plot to overturn Trump’s loss in Arizona. Hoffman is accused of being a fake elector who signed a document falsely claiming to represent Arizona in the Electoral College.

Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, is scheduled for arraignment in the same case on Friday.

Despite the state’s importance on the presidential map, Trump has not campaigned in Arizona since 2022, when he held a rally to support his slate of midterm candidates, all of whom ended up losing.

Trump’s trip west includes several private fundraisers and a rally on Sunday in Nevada, another battleground state he lost narrowly in 2020.


New York, NY - May 31 : Former President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference from the lobby of Trump Tower the day after being found guilty on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree at Manhattan Criminal Court, in Ne (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)