Trump Rally in North Carolina Is Canceled for Storms

Trump Rally in North Carolina Is Canceled for Storms

After former President Donald J. Trump sat in a New York courtroom for most of last week, Saturday evening was expected to mark a return to the campaign trail and the large rallies where he often gives long, rambling speeches.

As thousands gathered on the tarmac of an airport in Wilmington, North Carolina, anticipation grew for Mr. Trump’s campaign. Two hours before he was scheduled to speak, the campaign sent out a fundraiser with a message from Mr. Trump: “You can’t keep me off the stage! Did they think I would run and hide?”

Ninety minutes later, the sky darkened to charcoal and lightning flashed. As thunderstorms swept through the area and the National Weather Service issued warnings for damaging winds and hail, the rally was canceled for safety reasons.

“We will do this very quickly at another time,” Trump said in a call to the rally that was broadcast over loudspeakers. “We’ll do it as quickly as possible. I’m devastated that this could happen.”

But the cancellation, which Mr. Trump said was out of his hands, highlights the challenges he could face as he tries to balance his presidential campaign with a criminal trial that will keep him busy until May.

For much of last week, Mr. Trump’s public comments were limited to social media posts and remarks to reporters outside the courtroom. His only campaign stop was at a bodega in New York City, in a state he lost overwhelmingly in the last two elections and is unlikely to be up for debate in November.

Saturday’s rally was intended to serve as a preview of the coming weeks, as Mr. Trump travels on weekends for campaign events in battleground states that are more central to his efforts to return to the White House.

He has repeatedly claimed that the process prevents him from campaigning in places like North Carolina, where he won in 2016 and 2020 but where Democrats are making a major push in November. Opening statements are scheduled to begin on Monday and the trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

As is often the case at Mr. Trump’s rallies, crowds began lining up hours before his expected remarks. Among those gathering outside was a group wearing T-shirts with the logo of the Proud Boys, a prominent far-right group. One person held a sign that read “Release all J6 prisoners,” a reference to those serving prison sentences in connection with the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021.

Mr. Trump, who has four criminal charges pending against him, including charges related to his efforts to overturn his election defeat, recently joined dozens of January 6 defendants. He called them “hostages” and said he would consider a pardon.

In a statement, Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, criticized the group’s presence and referenced comments Mr. Trump made in a 2020 debate in which he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” .

“This is Donald Trump’s America: where white nationalists and violent right-wing extremists are empowered and working families are left behind,” Mr. Moussa wrote.

Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, responded in a statement: “We don’t comment stupidly.”

Mr. Trump’s comments were expected to face special scrutiny because he was subject to a gag order in his criminal case that bars him from attacking witnesses, prosecutors, jurors and court staff, as well as their relatives and the judge’s relatives. Prosecutors said Mr. Trump violated the gag order seven times and a hearing on the issue will be held on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump traveled to North Carolina earlier in the day and attended a fundraiser in Charlotte in the afternoon. When he called the rally, he told attendees that he was just minutes away from flying to Wilmington but that authorities would “prefer if we don’t arrive” for security reasons.

“I’m so sorry,” Mr. Trump said. “But we’re going to do it again, and we’re going to make it bigger and better. You have my promise.”

As the crowd headed to take shelter in their cars, vendors outside were still selling an array of goods, some of which had been created specifically for the occasion. A T-shirt promoted the so-called Wilmington stop on Mr. Trump’s “Save America” ​​tour.

“I was there!” The t-shirt said: “Where have you been???”

Robert Draper contributed reporting.

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2024-04-21 02:27:40