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In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

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In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

Jun 06, 2024 | 9:40 pm ET
By Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
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In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix
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Former President Donald Trump speaks at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 6, 2024, in his first campaign event since being convicted in New York of 34 felony counts related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from telling people about their sexual relationship. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Former President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Phoenix on Thursday, his first since being convicted in a New York court, speaking to a crowd of supporters, many holding campaign signs featuring his mugshot

The “town hall” event was organized by Phoenix-based Turning Point USA and the event was held at a local church that is a frequent partner of the right-wing organization. The church’s private school, which has collected nearly $1 million in school vouchers, is a Turning Point Academy affiliate.

Trump was found guilty of 34 felony counts on May 30 by a New York jury in a trial in which the former president was accused of falsifying business records to illegally influence the 2016 election, which he won. The business records related to hush money payments he made to porn star Stormy Daniels to cover up a sexual encounter the two had nearly a decade earlier. 

Trump found guilty on 34 felony counts in NY hush money trial

In a long-winded speech to supporters prior to taking questions from audience members, Trump made spurious accusations against President Joe Biden and his administration, claimed elections were “rigged” and made allusions to a racist conspiracy theory about immigrants. 

“I just went through a rigged trial in New York, with a highly conflicted — and I mean highly conflicted — judge, where there was no crime,” Trump said to the crowd. “It was made up, fabricated stuff.”

Trump was found unanimously guilty by 12 jurors at the end of the five-week-long trial. They convicted him of every charge prosecutors brought against him.

The former president spent much of his time speaking about immigration, claiming that Biden is bringing in immigrants in order to obtain their votes. That, he falsely claimed, is the only explanation for the rise in immigration to the United States

Non-citizens are not allowed to vote in the United States and never have been. 

“Arizona is being turned into a dumping ground for the dungeons of the third world,” Trump told the crowd, adding that he intends to create the “largest domestic deportation operation in the history of the world” if he is elected. 

In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 6, 2024, in his first campaign event since being convicted in New York of 34 felony counts related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from telling people about their sexual relationship. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

An attendee at a campaign event for former President Donald Trump at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 6, 2024. The event was Trump's his first since being convicted in New York of 34 felony counts related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from telling people about their sexual relationship. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 6, 2024, in his first campaign event since being convicted in New York of 34 felony counts related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from telling people about their sexual relationship. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

An attendee at a campaign event for former President Donald Trump at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 6, 2024. The event was Trump's his first since being convicted in New York of 34 felony counts related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from telling people about their sexual relationship. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

An attendee at a campaign event for former President Donald Trump at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 6, 2024. The event was Trump's his first since being convicted in New York of 34 felony counts related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from telling people about their sexual relationship. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

An attendee at a campaign event for former President Donald Trump at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 6, 2024. The event was Trump's his first since being convicted in New York of 34 felony counts related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from telling people about their sexual relationship. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

An attendee at a campaign event for former President Donald Trump at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 6, 2024. The event was Trump's his first since being convicted in New York of 34 felony counts related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from telling people about their sexual relationship. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

In first rally since being convicted, Donald Trump rails against immigration in Phoenix

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Dream City Church in Phoenix on June 6, 2024, in his first campaign event since being convicted in New York of 34 felony counts related to paying hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to keep her from telling people about their sexual relationship. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Trump made a number of spurious claims, including that the Biden administration is “aiding and abetting” human traffickers. Biden signed an executive order this week that has divided his party as some argue that the order goes too far in restricting immigration. 

The executive order blocks migrants’ access to the asylum system when illegal border crossings exceed 2,500 a day. The order comes as Congress has had multiple failed attempts at passing immigration reform measures, including a bipartisan bill, with most Republicans voting against the measure due to opposition from Trump

He vowed to rescind the executive order on “Day 1” if elected, a promise that elicited a thunderous cheer from the audience. Speaking from the stage that the church’s pastor uses to address congregants each week, Trump called the order “bullsh—,” prompting the audience to chant “bullsh—” repeatedly. 

The former president also advocated for sentencing drug dealers to death, claiming that China’s use of the death penalty for drug dealers, which has also included a United States citizen, has created a China with “no drug problem.” 

“You’ll never solve the problem without the death penalty,” Trump said, adding that he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who told him they don’t have a drug problem because of the country’s use of capital punishment. 

Much of the deadly opioid fentanyl comes into the U.S. from China

After his speech, Trump took questions from the audience, the bulk of which focused on either the border or immigration. 

Outside the church, several hundred people began waiting in line as early as 9 a.m., hoping to catch a glimpse of the former president. 

A long line of several hundred people stretched across the lawn in front of the church at 11 a.m., an hour after the doors opened to let people in, with event staff handing out water as temperatures climbed into the triple digits. 

Many waiting in line were Phoenix natives, but some had traveled for the event.

Claire, a 15-year-old who arrived in Phoenix with her parents from Washington state on Wednesday night, said that although she is not yet a voter, she wanted to be around people who shared her ideas.

“At the school I go to, there’s only one other conservative person who thinks like me,” she said. “All of the other kids are listening to their parents. I think it’s important for people like us to stand up for the truth, even though we can’t do anything immediate to contribute to that.

Phoenix residents T. and Cliff Jennings came to the event to express their support for Trump. Like many others at the event, Trump’s felony conviction did not change their decision to vote for him in November.

“Just because he was convicted doesn’t mean he’s guilty,” Cliff said. “It’s a very sad time for America. We’ve stooped to a new low. They’re desperate.” 

For 18-year-old Joseph Gatesman of Phoenix, this will be the first chance to vote. He said he’ll cast his ballot for Trump.

“It’s an odd feeling saying that I want to vote for somebody who has been criminally tried, accused, and soon to be sentenced,” Gatesman said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow. But at the end of the day, we have three options…Biden is so old. If he were to win again, I’d be surprised if he makes it.”

Biden, 81, is the oldest president in American history. If elected, Trump, who is 78, would surpass Biden to become the oldest president.

As the town hall got underway inside, event staff cut off entry at around 2 p.m. after the venue reached capacity, with several hundred people still waiting in line. Although a large crowd of people gathered in front of the church doors, many people left as the temperature climbed toward 110 degrees.

Several people were seen being wheeled away from the church on stretchers, but the Phoenix Fire Department could not immediately confirm exactly how many people suffered heat-related injuries.

Democrats, who paid for billboards near the event that highlighted Trump’s conviction, had strong words for Trump after the event. 

“Donald Trump blocked the toughest, fairest bipartisan border legislation in a generation – legislation that would have increased the nation’s border security and helped halt the flow of fentanyl into this country,” Biden campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz said in a written statement. “And he did it because he thinks it would help him politically.”

Democrats also brought up Trump working with TPUSA, which recently saw two of its employees admit to assaulting an LGBTQ Arizona State University professor. 

“After canceling not one, not two, but three trips to the state, Trump is finally making his way to Arizona, but instead of meeting with working families, he’s choosing to spend time with the most extreme Arizonans he knows: The Arizona GOP and Turning Point,” Democratic National Committee spokesperson Cameron Niven said in a statement. 

TPUSA and Dream City Church have a history of hosting extremists as the non-profit organization has been shifting further into christian nationalism. The Mirror observed one attendee with a “Proud Christian Nationalist” shirt, as well as a follower of white nationalist Nick Fuentes who is slated to speak at his next conference. 

QAnon was also present at the event with some in attendance even wearing QAnon themed shirts, as well as a number of vehicles at the event with QAnon bumper stickers. 

A number of lawmakers were also present including Glendale Republican Sen. Anthony Kern who was recently indicted for his involvement in a fake elector scheme concocted by the Trump campaign. Other state legislators in attendance included Reps. Leo Biasiucci, Joseph Chaplik and Teresa Martinez, and Sens. Sonny Borrelli, Wendy Rogers and Justine Wadsack.

Trump personally called out some of the lawmakers present, including GOP Congressmen Eli Crane, Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar. He also praised and urged supporters to vote for Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh. Lake is running for U.S. Senate, while Hamadeh is seeking the Republican nomination in Congressional District Eight.

Emily Holshouser contributed to this story

***UPDATE: This story has been updated with additional reporting.