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Trump says his criminal indictments boost his appeal to Black voters

February 25, 2024

 (AP) — Former President Donald Trump claimed Friday that his four criminal indictments have boosted his support among Black Americans.

He was flanked on stage at the Black Conservative Federation’s gala in Columbia, South Carolina, by Black elected officials including Reps. Byron Donalds of Florida and Wesley Hunt of Texas. Many in the crowd cheered throughout the speech.

“The lights are so bright in my eyes I can’t see too many people out there. But I can only see the Black ones. I can’t see any white ones. That’s how far I’ve come,” Trump said to laughter from the audience.

Trump argues he is the victim of political persecution, even though there is no evidence President Joe Biden or White House officials influenced the filing of 91 felony charges against him. Earlier in the week, Trump compared himself to Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top domestic rival, who died in a remote Arctic prison after being jailed by the Kremlin leader.

Trump has centered his third campaign for the White House on his grievances against Biden and what he alleges is a “deep state” targeting him, even as he faces charges from his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, keeping classified documents at his Florida estate, and allegedly arranging payments to a porn actress. 

“When I did the mug shot in Atlanta, that mug shot is No. 1,” he said, adding: “You know who embraced it more than anyone else? The Black population.”

Trump’s campaign has predicted he can do better with Black voters in November than he did four years ago, citing Biden’s faltering poll numbers with Black adults and what Trump sees as advantages on issues like the economy and the record-high number of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, often ending up in cities with large Black populations.

In telling a story about how he renegotiated the cost of remodeling Air Force One, Trump criticized his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, the first Black person to be elected to the White House.

“I have to tell you, Black president, but I got $1.7 billion less,” Trump said. “Would you rather have the Black president or the white president who got $1.7 billion off the price?”

He also said that he knew many Black people because his properties were built by Black construction workers.

As the crowd cheered, he added, “I think they want the white guy.”

Republicans face an uphill battle in courting Black voters, who are overwhelmingly supportive of the Democratic Par

Democrats lambasted the speech, with former Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, a co-chair of Biden’s reelection campaign, saying that “Donald Trump claiming that Black Americans will support him because of his criminal charges is insulting. It’s moronic. And it’s just plain racist.”

“He thinks Black voters are so uninformed that we won’t see through his shameless pandering,” Richmond said in a statement. “He has another thing coming.”

And Haley, speaking Saturday morning in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, called his speech “disgusting.”

“That’s what happens when he goes off the teleprompter,” she said. “That’s the chaos that comes with Donald Trump.”

Black voters who spoke with The Associated Press ahead of the gala expressed skepticism that Republicans, and Trump in particular, could persuade them to switch parties.

“There’s just so much controversy,” said Ebony McBeth, a Columbia resident and transportation worker. “I would go for Biden just because Trump has his own agenda.”

Isaac Williams Sr., a retired cook from Columbia and a lifelong Democrat, said he disliked both parties but found Trump to “have mobster tendencies. He’s only out for himself.”

Trump has a long history of stoking racial tensions. From his earliest days as a New York real estate developer, Trump has faced accusations of racist business practices. In 1989, he took out full-page newspaper ads calling for New York state to reinstate the death penalty as five Black and Latino teenagers were set to stand trial for beating and raping a white woman in Central Park. The five men were eventually exonerated in 2002 after another man admitted to the crime and it was determined their confessions were coerced.

He spent years spreading the lie that Obama was ineligible to hold office. When he was president, Trump derided “shithole countries” in Africa and said four congresswomen of color should go back to the “broken and crime-infested” countries they came from, ignoring the fact that all of the women are American citizens and three were born in the U.S.