Trump rips DeSantis, claims to have talked to Putin about Ukraine in Waco rally

Supporters of former President Donald Trump gathered near Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday while awaiting word of a possible indictment. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Supporters of former President Donald Trump gathered near Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday while awaiting word of a possible indictment. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 25 (UPI) -- Former President Donald Trump ripped into Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, criticized investigations into his business and political dealings, and claimed to have talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin about Ukraine during the first major rally of his 2024 presidential campaign in Waco, Texas, on Saturday.

Trump said he will "have the disastrous war between Russia and Ukraine settled" before reaching the Oval Office if he is elected president again in 2024.


"I used to talk to Putin, I get along well with Putin. I used to talk to Putin about it," Trump said.

"They started putting soldiers on the border but even he didn't want to do it. He wanted to get a piece. Now it looks like he'll end up probably getting the whole thing."

Trump called Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping "very smart people" after their meeting this week in Moscow.


"I'm proud to be the only president in decades who did not start a new war," Trump said. "It's no coincidence that the deep state is coming after me even harder, since I pledged to swiftly end the war in Ukraine."

Trump added that he would have a settlement between Russia and Ukraine made "within 24 hours" before asserting that he "will prevent World War III" and alleging that President Joe Biden is "courting nuclear holocaust."

Trump also claimed that China is occupying Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and said he had kept troops in the country because it is near where China makes nuclear weapons.

The former president also criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been viewed as a potential Republican challenger to Trump ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

"It's never good to try to destroy Social Security. It's never good to raise the minimum age to a very high level, which was not good, and to try and go against Medicare and try to obliterate it," Trump said.

Trump also slammed DeSantis for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"He's in a very bad position. Or you look at how he does on crime, not good. Not good. We have great Republican governors actually who did much better, shut down their states for a short time or didn't shut down at all." Trump said.


Trump also took credit for DeSantis' success in politics while blasting speculation that the Florida governor may run against him for the Republican nomination in 2024.

"I'm not a big fan," Trump said, referring to his possible opponent as "DeSanctimonious."

Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Green, who Trump urged to run for the U.S. Senate, were among the attendees at the rally. Trump praised the lawmakers for being "very loyal" to him.

Trump also criticized the numerous investigations into his business and political dealings, including an alleged hush money payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election

"The district attorney in New York under the auspice and direction of the department of injustice in Washington, D.C., was investigating me for something that is not a crime, not a misdemeanor, not an affair," Trump said.

"I never liked horseface. It's a terrible thing. That wouldn't be the one. There is no one. We have a great first lady who people really do love and she's done an incredible job."

Trump claimed that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is investigating the payment made by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to Daniels ahead of the 2016 election, stacked the investigation with federal "operatives."


"The Biden regime's weaponization of law enforcement against their political opponent is something straight out of the Stalinist Russia Horror Show," Trump said.

Trump also called the United States a "third-world banana republic" before asserting that "when this election is over, I will be the president of the United States."

"From the beginning, it's been one witch hunt and phony investigation after another," Trump said in an attempt to discredit the numerous legitimate legal inquiries the former president has faced.

"Because of it, our country never talks about greatness anymore. You look at what China does, they go over the world, the spend money, they take over governments."

Trump also brought up former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has largely stayed out of the limelight since losing the 2016 election.

"All they want to do is investigate everybody, but they are the ones that are really under investigation," Trump said cryptically.

Trump went on to claim that the "Supreme Court is afraid" and "didn't have the courage to right the wrong of the 2020 election."

"It probably makes me the most innocent man in the history of our country, friends of mine say that," Trump said about the inquiries into his business dealings.


"The new weapon being used by unhinged, radical left Democrats to cheat in the election is criminally investigating a candidate -- bad publicity and all."

Trump called his supporters who were arrested for rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, "patriots" who "are not guilty of anything."

Around 15,000 people were expected to attend the rally at Waco Regional Airport in the city best known as the location of the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian cult's compound by the FBI in which scores of people died.

Trump, who in recent days has been issuing increasing dire warnings on social media about being targeted by conspiracies, chose the location not to fuel rage by his supporters against the government on the 30th anniversary of the Waco siege -- as his critics have contended -- but rather because Texas is a strategic political locale, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said.

Waco "is centrally located and close to all four of Texas' biggest metropolitan areas," Cheung told NBC News. "This is the ideal location to have as many supporters from across the state and in neighboring states attend this historic rally" as can make it.

Even as preparations for the rally were underway, the legal picture for the GOP presidential frontrunner was darkening as signs of his increasing jeopardy mounted on several fronts.


On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell ruled that some of Trump's closest former aides, including ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows and advisers such as Dan Scavino and Stephen Miller, must testify before a grand jury probing Trump's involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, ABC News and The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, M. Evan Corcoran, a lawyer for former the former president, appeared in front of a grand jury Friday as part of a separate investigation looking into Trump's handling of classified documents since leaving office.

Corcoran was compelled to appear after Howell ruled last week there was evidence Trump misled his own lawyers in his handling of classified documents, thus neutralizing claims of attorney-client privilege in the case.

Some legal experts said Corcoran's testimony could be a "smoking gun" for special counsel Jack Smith and his team, who are probing whether Trump obstructed justice or otherwise mishandled sensitive top-secret documents.

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