(NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump held his first 2024 presidential campaign rally in Waco, Texas, Saturday, where he aired his grievances and slammed the Manhattan district attorney probe into alleged hush-money payments.
The rally comes as Trump has berated prosecutors, encouraged protests and raised the prospect of possible violence should he become the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges.
It was his first time speaking publicly on stage since posting a week ago that he expected to be arrested earlier this week.
Though the arrest has not materialized, Trump emphasized his disdain for the investigations pending against him as supporters raised sign reading “Witch Hunt.”
“The weaponization of our justice system is not, as some have called it, a political spectacle. This is the central issue of our times. I think it is one of the biggest issues,” Trump said.
Trump’s speech focused on his resentments from the past, framing the multiple probes against him as political attacks on him and his followers.
“You will be vindicated and proud,” Trump said “The thugs and criminals who are corrupting our justice system will be defeated, discredited and totally disgraced.”
Trump declared Saturday that his “enemies are desperate to stop us” and that “our opponents have done everything they can to crush our spirit and to break our will.”
He added: “But they failed. They’ve only made us stronger. And 2024 is the final battle, it’s going to be the big one. You put me back in the White House, their reign will be over and America will be a free nation once again.”
Waco officials told NewsNation that up to 15,000 rallygoers were expected at Waco Regional Airport for Trump’s Make America Great Again Rally.
The rally came as the U.S. nears the 30th anniversary of a deadly siege in Waco that ended in fire and bloodshed between a cult-like group called the Branch Davidians and U.S. and Texas law enforcement agents.
NewsNation spoke to a Republican county official who said they are happy Trump chose Waco, though they are stumped on why he did.
The official said most politicians pick Dallas, Austin or Houston, but said Waco is where you come to meet with the voters.
“I say to you again tonight, I am your warrior. I am your justice,” Trump said, echoing the message from his campaign in 2016. “I am your retribution. We will take care of it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.