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Trump compares his legal woes to Al Capone’s as he reruns 2020 defeat by Biden in Wisconsin

Former Republican president’s hour-long address moves between rhapsodic promise and portrayal of himself as a fugitive forced to evade a corrupt system

Into the blizzard, then, for Donald Trump. The former US president arrived into a rough March storm in Green Bay on Tuesday, descending into the snowy gusts from “Trump Force One” before delivering the stump speech with which he hopes to whip up a storm of his own over the long hot summer.

The name Green Bay evokes across the US visions of the wintry fabled home of the Packers NFL team, but this was a day for the indoors and the crowd took shelter early in the KI Centre.

Nothing about the Trump performance is accidental and the nickname of the private aircraft serves as a mirror presidential alternative to the version of America that he promises to restore “when” he is returned to the White House.

During another tumultuous week of legal wranglings, Trump took the stage for an hour-long address that moved between rhapsodic promise and a familiar theme in which he portrays himself as a fugitive forced to evade a corrupt system.


“I think I’m the only one in America who has to put up a bond,” he told the crowd at one stage.

“For what? Nobody knows what I did! If you kill somebody there’s no bond. Don’t worry: go ahead kill somebody else. These people are crazy, I’ll tell you. And I will ask Congress to send a bill to my desk to say that anybody who kills a police officer immediately gets the death penalty.”

It was a promise which drew a rousing cheer and prompted Trump to return to the scenes in New York last week when he attended the wake and funeral service of Jonathan Diller, a 31-year-old officer whose death, after he was shot and killed during a random traffic stop, shocked the city.

“Thousands of people went up to that funeral parlour. The lines were so long, I was driving for blocks and blocks,” the former president said of the occasion, which drew a vast crowd who heard a riveting eulogy from the officer’s wife, Stephanie Diller.

The spectre of crime run amok is central to the manifesto on which Trump is hoping to convince American voters to return him to office. On Tuesday, he promised his Wisconsin audience that with a second term he would “stop the plunder, rape and slaughter and destruction of our American suburbs, cities, and towns”.

“And we will end deadly sanctuary cities. We will end them,” he said in reference to cities that shield undocumented migrants from federal immigration enforcement.

He addressed the issue of squatting – “which sounds like a bit of a weird topic but it’s not: it’s a very bad thing”– vowing to bring an end to “illegal squatters trying to exploit Marxist laws in Democrat-run cities”.

Recent polls have shown a narrowing of the lead that Trump has enjoyed over Democrat incumbent Joe Biden. Although both men having crossed the threshold required to earn their respective party nominations, the election primaries must go on.

Little wonder that Trump chose to visit Wisconsin before the evening rush to the polls there. Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island also held primaries on Tuesday evening. But Wisconsin is one of the must-win states for both candidates in November.

In 2016, Trump edged out Hillary Clinton to take the Badger State, which has a population of 5.8 million, by a mere 20,000 votes. In 2020, he lost out to Biden on a similarly narrow figure, a memory that triggered an almost automatic return to his enduring grievance about the outcome of that election.

“When I win you are all getting tax cuts and you are all getting a brand new Trump economic boom. And that’s where we were headed until we got sidelined by a wonderful election. Remember 10 o’clock? Everyone was calling me to say ‘congratulations, sir’. I said ‘yeah but ... these people are cheaters. I don’t like to accept anything yet’. And then at 3.02 in the morning, a lot of dumps happened, a lot of bad things happened. And because of that there is more spirit now than ever . Because of that we will be able to do things to make our country great again than we probably never could have done had there been a more traditional turnover. And it’s gonna be great.

“That’s why Joe Biden and his thugs are so desperate to stop us. They know we are the only ones who can stop them. That’s why they are enforcing high-level election interference against Biden’s top election opponent. Who does that happen to be? Me. Here I am. I got indicted more than Alfonse Capone, Al Capone. Scarface. Do you know how bad he was? I know some of the guys in the front row. They are tough guys. If you ever looked at Alfonse Capone, you wouldn’t be tough at all. You’d be dead by the morning, most likely. I got indicted more than Alfonse. Alfonse was a tough guy. They made a movie about him called Scarface. Check it out. Even if it was half true, you don’t want to deal with him.”

During a recent radio interview in Milwaukee, Trump again asserted that he rightfully won Wisconsin four years ago, despite recounts in the counties of Dane and Milwaukee certifying the results there and random audits verifying the machine counts across the state. Lawsuits at federal and state supreme court level all found that Biden had legitimately won the state. But as 2024 moves into spring, it has become clear that Trump needs to return to that battleground even as a new one looms.

The outcome of the Republican and Democratic primaries in Wisconsin was always a foregone conclusion on Tuesday evening. The true relevance of the ballots lay not so much in the presidential voting as in proposed Republican-drafted constitutional amendments, which would include a ban on private money or grants coming into the state to help run elections.

Four years ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated more than $400 million across 47 states to help run elections during the pandemic. It led to the purchase of “drop boxes” to facilitate absentee ballots in Wisconsin. The Republican contention is that the “Zuckerbuck’s” funding benefited Democratic majority cities.

Meanwhile, Biden faces an internal protest from Wisconsin Democrats who will vote “uninstructed” as a protest vote against the administration’s handling of the crisis in Gaza. Convincing those voters to return to the fold will form a central part of Biden’s address when he visits Wisconsin on Monday. The number crunchers in both parties had plenty to chew over as the results came in: the 12.3 per cent “other” vote in the Democratic primary was a reflection of that protest vote while some 12 per cent of the Republican votes went to Nikki Haley, whose campaign ended in February.

A Wall Street Journal poll released on Tuesday night showed Trump maintaining leads in five of the six critical swing states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Gerogia, Nevada and North Carolina. Wisconsin was tied.