'I'll Never Leave': Trump Will Run for President Even if He's Convicted

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Former President Donald Trump has declared his intention to run for the White House in 2024, even if convicted. Trump faces 37 counts related to documents seized from the infamous raid at Mar-a-Lago last August. Trump maintains his innocence, and calls the federal case a “boxes hoax” and a “witch hunt.” 

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The former President made two campaign stops, giving 90-minute speeches in both Georgia and North Carolina on Saturday. Trump’s supporters lined the side of the highway running parallel to the runway at the airport in Columbus, Ga., where Trump’s jet would be touching down, while others, including Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, greeted him on the tarmac.

Aboard his private plane between stops, Trump told reporters

I’ll never leave. Look, if I would have left, I would have left prior to the original race in 2016. That was a rough one. In theory that was not do-able.

A conviction would not legally prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024. He could theoretically appear on the ballot even while serving a prison sentence. When asked about the prospect of pardoning himself if he were to be re-elected, Trump responded:

I don’t think I’ll ever have to. I didn’t do anything wrong.

The former President added that he also does not plan on taking a plea deal unless there is a scenario “where they pay me some damages.” Trump made criticisms of special counsel Jack Smith and argued that the case against him was politically motivated, saying:

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These are thugs and degenerates who are after me.

Trump is the frontrunner in the GOP primary polls, despite facing two indictments since April. The unsealed 49-page indictment marks the first time in U.S. history that a former president has faced federal charges. The charges include allegations of willful retention of national defense documents and conspiring to obstruct justice. Trump said:

Nobody wants to be indicted, I don’t care that my poll numbers went up by a lot. I don’t want to be indicted. I’ve never been indicted. I went through my whole life, now I get indicted every two months. It’s been political.

During his speeches, he criticized the “corrupt” Department of Justice and the Biden administration, describing the indictment as baseless and a form of “election interference” and “demented persecution.”

Related:

WATCH: Resolute Former President Trump Releases Video, ‘I Am an Innocent Man’

Trump Makes First Speech Since Indictment, Attacks ‘Corrupt DOJ’s Double Standards’

Trump expressed his belief that the indictments were driven by prosecutors who fear facing him in an election, comparing the actions to authoritarian regimes. He accused the Justice Department of exhibiting a level of “Trump derangement syndrome” and compared their actions to abuses seen in “third-world countries.” Trump told the audience:

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This vicious persecution is a travesty of justice. You’re watching Joe Biden [try] to jail his leading political opponent – an opponent that is beating him by a lot in the polls – just like they do in Stalinist Russia or communist China. No different.

After speaking at the Georgia state GOP convention, Trump entered a Waffle House restaurant where he announced, “Waffles on Trump!” The Waffle House was filled with supporters, including a local restaurant owner who made his mother’s meatloaf recipe for him. 

Then Trump posed for pictures with law enforcement before departing for North Carolina. Trump will be arraigned in a federal courtroom in Miami on Tuesday. 

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