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Trump in Philadelphia: The former president repeats false claims of 2020 voter fraud

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Trump in Philadelphia: The former president repeats false claims of 2020 voter fraud

Jun 22, 2024 | 7:14 pm ET
By John Cole Kim Lyons
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Philly Democrats say Trump isn’t welcome ahead of his rally in North Philadelphia
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Attendees wait in line to enter the Liacouras Center for a rally for Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump on June 22, 2024 in Philadelphia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA —- Former President Donald Trump made his way to the city of Brotherly Love on Saturday for a rally, his first in the city of 2024. It also marked the first time Trump has advised voters in Pennsylvania to use mail-in ballots, something he has regularly spoken out against.

“If you want to save America, get your friends, get your family, get everyone you know and vote,” Trump said. “Vote early, vote absentee, vote mail-in, vote in-person, I don’t care how they vote, just get out and vote.”

Trump also repeated his false claims of election fraud in Philadelphia in 2020, saying it was “egregious” and “they used COVID to cheat. They used a lot of things to cheat, but we’re not going to let it happen again.”

While Trump leaned heavily on crime as a main talking point for the evening, speakers before him mainly kept their focus on the economy and the border.  At one point, he suggested a “fight league” for migrants to the U.S., and discussed his support for school choice, which has emerged as a key point of contention between Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature as they hammer out the budget.

Trump invited GOP U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick on stage to offer his “total support and my total endorsement” in person. He had previously endorsed McCormick after he won the Pennsylvania GOP primary in April.

McCormick made two separate appearances on stage Saturday, first to deliver an address before Trump and another to join the former president on stage as he encouraged supporters to back his candidacy over U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. It was the first time Trump and McCormick have appeared together on the campaign trail. 

Trump called Casey a “stiff” and said he didn’t remember meeting the three-term senator during his time in Washington. “Nobody knows who he is, nobody has any idea,” Trump said. “But Dave McCormick is going to be an activist for you.”

McCormick thanked Trump, and said new leadership was needed. “We need a president in the White House with pro-growth economic policies, deregulation that brings back our business community.”

Trump in Philadelphia: The former president repeats false claims of 2020 voter fraud
David McCormick, Republican U.S. Senate candidate speaks alongside Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the Liacouras Center on June 22, 2024 in Philadelphia, (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Following the rally, Casey’s campaign sent out a fundraising email reading in part, “This is serious. Donald Trump just attacked Bob Casey by name at a MAGA rally in Philadelphia saying that Pennsylvania “needs to defeat” Bob Casey.”

When talking to reporters on Friday in Philadelphia about McCormick’s expected attacks on him, Casey touted his record in the U.S. Senate, saying he’s delivered for the people of the state “over and over again.” 

“What I won’t do is what David McCormick will do,” Casey told reporters. “He’s a bag man for billionaires. That’s what he is. He’ll vote with the billionaires.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-9th District), who has emerged as one of the most vocal surrogates for the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania, said that Trump delivers on his promises and “will reverse Bidenomics” and replace it with “MAGAnomics.” 

“Philadelphia needs a president that cares about it,” Meuser said. “Because Joe Biden’s administration are all talk and no action.”

‘Donald Trump does not give a damn about Black people’

Local Democrats spent the day preempting the presumptive GOP nominee’s messaging. 

“Later today, a 34-times-indicted criminal is going to come to North Philadelphia doing what he does best, lying about his record, talking about the past, and thumbing his nose at working families all across Pennsylvania,” state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) said on Saturday morning. He made the remarks  at an event focused on Black voters at a Biden campaign office in North Philadelphia. 

Kenyatta, state Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), who is Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, and Philadelphia City Councilmember Jeffrey Young, said it was important for Democrats to counteract his message ahead of the rally. 

“We really have to show Mr. Trump that he’s not welcome here in this city, in this town, this state,” Young said. He added it was up to Democrats to remind voters in their communities about Trump’s record in office.  

Trump in Philadelphia: The former president repeats false claims of 2020 voter fraud
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Sen. Sharif Street of Philadelphia speak at a Black voter outreach event in Philadelphia June 22, 2024 (Capital-Star photo by John Cole)

“Donald Trump is just all talk, right,” Young said. “In our community, we tend to idolize like celebrities, right, for some reason or another and Donald Trump appeals to that when he’s trying to appeal to Black voters and other voters in our community, but we have to let them know that the celebrity is all smoke and mirrors, there is no substance to that whatsoever, he does not care about pushing our community forward.” 

Kenyatta blasted Trump for his record before entering politics and his false accusations that former President Barack Obama was not born in America. 

“Donald Trump is a person who has a record, a well-documented record, of disrespecting Black people and destabilizing Black communities,” Kenyatta said. 

Trump’s rally on Saturday is his fourth appearance in Pennsylvania so far this year and his second appearance in Philadelphia. In February, he delivered a brief address to SneakerCon at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to promote his new line of Trump-branded shoes.

In response to a question about Trump’s decision to hold a rally in North Philadelphia, Street said that Trump is trying to create a national narrative to persuade Black voters to support him, and that he believed the Trump campaign would bus supporters in from outside the city.   

“So, a young Black person sitting in Detroit will say ‘well Black people in North Philly support him, how bad can he be?,” Street said. 

Kenyatta, who serves on the Biden-Harris National Advisory Board and is a candidate for state Auditor General, echoed a similar message, saying Trump’s visit to Philadelphia was partly about getting the press to write headlines that “Donald Trump is trying to talk to Black folk.” 

He likened Trump’s rally in North Philadelphia to somebody showing up to Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey and saying “the Eagles suck.”

“That’s not trying to reach out to Eagles fans,” Kenyatta said. “So, Donald Trump bringing his KKK rhetoric, bringing his racist Bull Conner bullhorn to North Philadelphia doesn’t mean he’s reaching out to Black folks, he is coming to disrespect Black people.”

“Listen, Donald Trump is in a Black place, but Donald Trump does not give a damn about Black people,” Kenyatta added. 

Trump rallies in Philadelphia as 2024 campaign heats up

Black voters in Philadelphia played a key role in President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in 2020 with 92% of Black voters in the state voting for Biden, while 7% voted for Trump. Recent polling has suggested that gap has narrowed, but with Biden still holding a considerable lead. 

Last weekend, Trump visited Detroit for the launch of his “Black Americans for Trump” effort and claimed there that he had done “more for the Black population than any American president since Abraham Lincoln.”

When asked about recent polling showing Trump gaining support among Black voters, Street referenced polling the past two cycles in the state and said Democrats have continued to win statewide since he took over as party chair. 

“Donald Trump famously said that ‘bad things happen in Philly,’ he is the bad thing that is happening in Philly,” Kenyatta said. “And he is going to get the type of welcome that he deserves in North Philly, and it’s not going to be nice.”

Calvin Tucker, a member of the Pennsylvania Republican Party Executive Committee, told the Capital-Star following his speech that his biggest takeaway was Trump’s message about the impact of “Bidenflation.” 

“I want to see him back in so that we can get back to the normalization of prices,” Tucker told the Capital-Star. 

In 2016, Tucker welcomed Trump to North Philadelphia for a roundtable event with Black leaders. Tucker said it was promising to see Trump in North Philadelphia again on Saturday. 

“This is a harbinger of the activity that’s going to come,” he said. 

In 2020, Biden received 603,970 votes in Philadelphia, while Trump received 132,740 votes. Tucker said he’s certain that Trump can make that margin more narrow, which could propel him to victory in November. 

“If we keep the number below 400,000, we have a great opportunity to do that,” he told the Capital-Star.

Tucker cited recent polling that showed Trump gaining ground among Black and Latino Americans, and others as proof that he can flip the state back in the win column. He told the Capital-Star that he thinks Trump can win 18-25% of Black voters.

While the first level and floor  of the Liacouras Center were mainly occupied by Trump supporters during Saturday’s event, the second level didn’t have anyone seated. The Capital-Star is seeking a crowd estimate for the event.

Prior to his address, Trump made an appearance at Tony and Nick’s in South Philadelphia to buy a cheesesteak.

Protesters gathered across the street from the Liacouras Center on Saturday afternoon, as temperatures soared into the mid-90s. Some exchanged words with Trump supporters awaiting his arrival, others waved anti-Trump signs and made their displeasure known.

Anne Geheb, 69, a resident of the Philadelphia suburbs, said Saturday was supposed to be a beach day but she decided to come to the city to voice her opposition to Trump instead. Geheb, who is a lesbian, said Trump’s negative rhetoric about the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people, was particularly concerning to her. 

Trump said on Saturday during his speech he would “sign a new executive order to cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory, transgender insanity and any other inappropriate racial, sexual or political content on to our children.”

But Geheb said she was heartened to see many younger people protesting Trump as well.

“I’m very worried that the young people will not show up [to vote], and we need them to show up,” she said.