Trump in Arizona: For those who attended Trump event, former president's words connected (2024)

Former President Donald Trump returned to Arizona on Thursday for the first time since late 2022 for a town hall-style event in north Phoenix.

The event at Dream City Church was Trump’s first political rally since a New York jury convicted him last week of 34 felonies in connection with hush money paid to a p*rn star in 2016 to conceal their sexual relations.

The event was hosted by Turning Point Action, the Phoenix-based organization founded by conservative Charlie Kirk that has long supported Trump.

It marked Trump’s return to Arizona, the state that delivered the closest result in the country in 2020.

5 p.m.: For those who attended, Trump's words connected

The record-shattering heat and the long lines seemed worth it for those who endured it.

Vicki Marquart, 70, a retiree from Queen Creek, looks forward to casting a third vote for former President Donald Trump.

“I wanted to be part of the Trump spirit. I really do see him as saving us from what’s going on,” Marquart said.

Trump’s legal problems don’t bother people like Marquart.

“No, because I saw what was going on there. Totally political. Everything was totally slanted against him,” she said.

For some attendees, attending the event involved more effort than a drive across the Valley.

Bonnie Wanner, 54, drove from San Diego on Wednesday to see Trump.

“I’m Latina. I was born in Mexico. I support him because my dad went to World War II and Korea, so I’m an Army brat. I’ve been a patriot since I was a kid.”

Wanner said Trump’s promise to close the border resonated with her.

“In San Diego, we know what he’s talking about. We need to close the border,” she said.

Fernando Cervantes and Sabine Martin

4:45 p.m.: Trump admitted friendly questions were 'repetitive'

The question-and-answer portion of former President Donald Trump’s town hall Thursday featured adoring fans whose queries invariably revolved around his campaign’s main themes.

Even Trump acknowledged when it ended that the questions “sounded repetitive.”

Jeannette Garcia of Avondale asked Trump how he’d keep communities and families safe, telling him she’d had her “fair share of challenges” in life, being a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“We have to back our police,” Trump responded to loud applause from the crowd.

Another audience member asked what Trump would do to improve access to trauma hospitals in rural areas.

The former president replied that rural America is “the backbone of our country.” Rural voters have heavily favored Trump over Biden in past election results.

Trump went on to say, without naming specifics, that Biden’s administration has ended programs delivering resources to rural America.

It was unclear which programs the former president was referring to: Rural infrastructure and broadband were a major focus of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law negotiated by U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and signed into law under Biden.

Laura Gersony and Ray Stern

4:30 p.m.: The Biden campaign reacts to 'felon' Trump

President Joe Biden’s campaign responded to former President Donald Trump’s town hall in Phoenix, referring to it as “his first trip as a convicted felon.”

Kevin Munoz, a campaign spokesman, offered more substantive criticism as well.

“Donald Trump blocked the toughest, fairest bipartisan border legislation in a generation — legislation that would have increased the nation's border security and helped halt the flow of fentanyl into this country. And he did it because he thinks it would help him politically,” he said in a statement.

“Donald Trump is exactly what Americans hate about politicians. He’s the worst of Washington. He’s in it for himself, not you. He single-handedly killed a bill the American people overwhelmingly supported, and is now crying the system is broken. It’s broken because of you, Don.

“Americans deserve better in their president. They deserve a president who will take action when others fail to. That’s what Joe Biden did this week, and it’s his commitment every single day as Commander-in-Chief.”

Ronald J. Hansen

4 p.m.: Record heat takes toll on Trump fans

Intense heat took a toll on the large crowd gathered to watch former President Trump at Dream City Church.

According to Cpt. Todd Keller, spokesperson for the Phoenix Fire Department, 11 people were transported to local hospitals in heat-related incidents. Keller characterized the responses as precautionary.

Temperatures in Phoenix today reached 112 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, breaking the previous daily record from 2016.

Keller could not say how many calls for service Phoenix fire received for the Dream City Church area or how many people firefighters were able to treat at the scene. Firefighters were seen assisting at least one other person who was exiting the event.

— Fernando Cervantes, Perry Vandell and Sabine Martin

Trump in Arizona: For those who attended Trump event, former president's words connected (2)

3:30 p.m.: Trump starts answering questions from audience members

Trump had been speaking at Dream City Church for about an hour when he finally started taking questions from members of the audience. The event had been billed as a town-hall-style Q and A session.

The questions brought up topics such as border security, crime, inflation and war, giving Trump cues to continue to riff on the issues.

— Dan Nowicki

3 p.m.: Trump pans Biden's executive action on border security

Riffing on the topic of immigration at Thursday’s rally, Trump brushed off Biden’s recent action tTo restrict access to asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"If Joe Biden truly wanted to sign an executive order to stop the invasion, he only needs the single — think of it — a single sentence," Trump said.

That sentence: “I hereby immediately reinstate every single border policy of the gentleman named Donald J. Trump."

Trump has repeatedly called on his 2024 rival to “shut down the border.”

Biden’s executive action essentially guarantees an immediate shutdown of all asylum processing between border crossings seven days from when the order takes effect.

Instead, Trump pledged to undertake "the largest domestic deportation operation" in the country's history if reelected.

— Rafael Carranza and Laura Gersony

2:30 p.m.: Trump turns to the border

Former President Donald Trump turned to his signature political issue, the nation’s southern border.

Trump criticized President Joe Biden’s executive order this week clamping down on asylum, calling it “really pro-illegal immigration.”

He said it is a concession that he has lost complete control of the border and vowed to rescind the order on his first day back in office.

Trump said he would resist calling it “bullsh*t” for the sake of the children in the audience. The crowd on hand took the cue and began chanting it afterward.

“Joe Biden is the worst president in history,” Trump said. Former President “Jimmy Carter is a brilliant president by comparison.”

Trump predicted that if he doesn’t win in November, “this country is finished.”

He summoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the recipient of Trump's first presidential pardon, to the stage for an awkward peck on the cheek as Trump continued to lament what has become of Arizona under Biden.

Ronald J. Hansen

2:20 p.m.: Trump opens by name-checking Arizona GOP VIPs

Former President Donald Trump began his remarks with praise for Phoenix, most of its Republicans in Congress and key candidates.

“You gotta elect Kari Lake,” Trump said early on in his remarks. He called her a “friend of mine” and an “incredible woman.”

That comes after reports that Trump has cooled on Lake, who is the Republican front-runner in the U.S. Senate race.

He specifically praised U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs, Eli Crane, Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko. He made no mention of the state’s other two Republican members, U.S. Reps. Juan Ciscomani and David Schweikert.

Trump also praised congressional candidate Abe Hamadeh, who is running for the seat being vacated by Lesko, who is retiring and running for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

He called his recent criminal trial in New York “rigged.”

Ronald J. Hansen

2:08 p.m.: Trump takes the stage

After a video painting former President Donald Trump as a political martyr, he took the stage at Dream City Church to raucous cheers.

It is his first appearance since his conviction on 34 felony charges in New York last week and his first trip to Arizona since late 2022.

Trump is expected to give prepared remarks before taking questions from the crowd as moderated by Charlie Kirk, the head of the Turning Point organizations.

Ronald J. Hansen

1:35 p.m.: Trump is present, the church is full

The motorcade carrying former President Donald Trump entered Dream City Church in Phoenix at about 1:10 p.m.

Those who were outside and still hoping to attend the event chanted his name when they saw the cars arrive.

Minutes later, however, officials at the church notified the hundreds still gathered outside that the church was at full capacity.

Fernando Cervantes and Sabine Martin

1:25 p.m.: Why Trump? Plenty of reasons

Those at Dream City Church cited a mix of reasons for their support of former President Donald Trump.

For 26-year-old Austin Coleman, the border and the economy are the major issues.

Fernanda Zubiria-Vasquez, a real estate manager who said she is a naturalized citizen from Mexico, looks forward to casting her first vote for Trump and wishes her former country had someone like him.

“Mexico, we need a person like Trump to manage the borders and also manage the economics in the United States,” Zubiria-Vasquez said.

She dismissed Trump’s legal troubles as personal problems.

Doug Dresser, 47, of Desert Ridge, is a pilot who frequently flies to Asia.

“When (Trump) was president, everyone got along,” Dresser said. “We were talking to North Korea. The biggest thing is world peace because I have little kids, and if the war breaks out, they could get drafted.”

Scottsdale residents Maureen Groves and her friend Joan Segan praised Trump as what the nation needs.

“He’s got a skill this country needs right now,” Groves said. “He’s a businessman. I think he’s playing 3-D chess. He’s 10 steps ahead of everybody and he knows what’s going to happen.”

She and Segan acknowledged Trump’s coarse personality distract from what they see as his superior policies and wish he would just “shut his mouth” sometimes.

Groves related how her husband had a heart attack recently and she met a new doctor who she found callous.

“He had a personality like Trump,” she said. “He was horrible. But I like his skill. He’s the best doctor.”

Vern Tillberg, 78, is a retiree who said Trump’s conviction in New York doesn’t change anything.

“That’s a kangaroo court, that’s a kangaroo court,” he said.

Fernando Cervantes, Sabine Martin and Ray Stern

1 p.m.: Charlie Kirk likens Democrats to Nazi dictatorship

Charlie Kirk, the co-founder of the Turning Point-affiliated entities, ripped Democrats for prosecuting former President Donald Trump and likened Democratic rule to the Nazi fascists the U.S. battled on the beaches of Normandy 80 years ago.

“They’ve never done this before is because there’s never been a leader like Donald Trump before,” Kirk thundered from the podium. “The crime he committed is he gave you a voice.”

At another point, Kirk mentioned those who took part in the D-Day invasion in 1944.

“They were fighting against totalitarianism, fighting against a dictatorship,” Kirk said. “But 80 years later, if we are honest with ourselves, that very same totalitarianism is now here in this country.

“The very same dictatorship that our leaders were fighting, our greatest generation was fighting against, are now here in this country.”

Kirk shifted to the upcoming election with similarly apocalyptic imagery.

“The election is now bigger than Donald Trump,” Kirk said. “It is about a civilization. It is now a question of whether or not we will be a free society or whether we will enter a dark chapter as a totalitarian country.

“Every time you hear them say, ‘our democracy, our democracy, our democracy,’ just replace that with, ‘our oligarchy.’ Because it is the rule of the few, not the rule of the many.”

Ronald J. Hansen and Laura Gersony

12:45 p.m.: Trump makes another Arizona endorsem*nt

Hours before former President Donald Trump is scheduled to take the stage in Phoenix, he endorsed retiring U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., in her campaign for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Trump described Lesko as “a great friend of MAGA” who has “understood many of the bad things going on better than most” in a social media post announcing the endorsem*nt.

“SHE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN,” Trump wrote.

The Board of Supervisors stood as a bulwark against Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election in 2020.

Lesko, meanwhile, has embraced some of his efforts.

On Jan. 6, 2021, she voted against certifying the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania and she signed on to an election challenge lawsuit that was swiftly dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump named Lesko to his first House impeachment defense, making her part of his communications team.

Laura Gersony

12:20 p.m.: Arizona sheriffs condemn Kari Lake on day of Trump event

Former President Donald Trump is undeniably the main political attraction in Arizona on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean everyone is standing down in their respective races.

U.S. Senate candidate Mark Lamb’s campaign released a statement Thursday from nine of the state’s other 14 county sheriffs condemning Lamb’s fellow Republican challenger, Kari Lake, who has Trump's endorsem*nt.

At a recent forum both participated in, Lake called Lamb a “total coward” for not bringing election fraud-related cases to court.

Lamb acknowledged in testimony to Congress he hadn’t seen any evidence of widespread fraud in his county, though he told the forum’s viewers he doubted President Joe Biden received 81 million votes without citing the kind of evidence he demands as sheriff for his doubts.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Lamb’s fellow sheriffs criticized Lake for her comment.

“Kari Lake’s recent comment calling Sheriff Mark Lamb a ‘coward’ is both unfounded and disrespectful. We want to make it clear: neither Sheriff Mark Lamb nor any law enforcement officer who wears a badge and uniform, putting the life on the line every day to protect and serve our communities, is a coward. Arizona voters expect better from a political candidate, especially when they are running for the U.S. Senate.”

The statement is signed by:

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels

Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepard

Graham County Sheriff P.J. Allred

La Paz County Sheriff William Ponce

Maricopa County Sheriff Russ Skinner

Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster

Navajo County Sheriff David Clouse

Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot

It also included two candidates for Maricopa County sheriff: Jerry Sheridan and Mike Crawford.

Ronald J. Hansen

12 p.m.: Crane sees undimmed enthusiasm for Trump

U.S. Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., said the support outside Dream City Church is a sign that former President Donald Trump’s supporters are unfazed by his felony convictions in New York last week.

Crane pointed out the lobby window at the large crowd of Trump supporters in line to get inside the church.

“Does it look like those guys care?” hetold a reporter. “What these people know is it’s a kangaroo court.”

“Matter of fact,” he added, “it makes people love him more.”

Trump could have retired from public life and “sailed off into the sunset, but what did he do? He said, ‘No, I’m going to go back into the lion’s den because I’m concerned about this country.’”

Crane and U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., posed for pictures and groused about what they called the weaponization of the criminal justice system.

They pointed to Trump’s conviction, as well as a recent court order for former Trump political adviser Steve Bannon to serve a four-month prison sentence, and the 18 people indicted in Arizona in connection with the “fake elector” effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“My own opinion on the false elector case is that it’s an unnecessary nuisance action which is designed to actually impact people’s willingness to participate. So that’s a problem,” Biggs said.

Ray Stern

11:45 a.m.: After arraignment, head to Trump town hall

It’s already been an eventful day for one dignitary heading to the Trump town hall.

Arizona state Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, was arraigned Thursday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court on felony charges stemming from his indictment in connection with his role as a “fake elector” after the 2020 election.

That hearing happened by video conference and Hoffman is planning to be at Dream City Church for Trump, who is an unindicted coconspirator in the case brought by Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat.

Trump in Arizona: For those who attended Trump event, former president's words connected (3)

Hoffman looked ahead to Trump’s visit in a comment after his hearing.

“Arizona is proud to welcome President Donald J. Trump back to our state. The energy in Arizona to deliver victory for President Trump this November is electric and the momentum is overwhelmingly in his favor.

“Arizonans have seen the destructive, weaponized politics of Democrats and the incompetence of Joe Biden. Re-electing President Trump is the only way to get America back on track for safe communities, a secure border, a booming economy, and a vibrant economy that works for everyone.”

Stacey Barchenger

11:30 a.m.: Trump's Capitol Hill allies rally around Trump

Ahead of the town hall, Charlie Kirk, the cofounder of Turning Point USA and its affiliated political arm, Turning Point Action, talked politics on his podcast with U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Eli Crane.

Both Republicans are among Trump's staunchest supporters in the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Chris LaCivita, a top Trump campaign strategist, posted on social media that he is traveling westward with Trump today and U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio.

Vance is seen as a top contender for the vice presidential nomination.

Ronald J. Hansen

11:15 a.m.: Trump loyalists are packing the church

By 11 a.m., hundreds of people were still waiting in line hoping to attend former President Donald Trump’s town hall at Dream City Church.

As the mercury approaches 100 degrees, it’s worth noting the dedication Trump’s supporters have for him.

Consider Litchfield Park residentsMegan and Scott Anton.

Scott Anton, a regional security manager, said he is a registered independent and voted for Trump in 2020 because he agrees with Trump’s border control, energy independence and tax policies.

“We’ve got to stand behind our guy. I think he’s headed in the right direction,” Scott Anton said. “I want to show our support.”

Megan Anton, a self-employed hairstylist, said Trump is what finally motivated her to register to vote in 2020.

Sabine Martin

11 a.m.: Not everyone is a fan

Maricopa resident Jeff Northrup isn’t lacking for determination.

The 77-year-old has been a steady presence at events featuring former President Donald Trump, but not for the usual reason.

“I’ve been working against Trump since 2015, so we’re into our ninth year,” Northrup said as he picketed against Trump in the scorching heat.

Trump in Arizona: For those who attended Trump event, former president's words connected (4)

Outside the church he held up signs in opposition to Trump supporters and mocked Trump’s recent felony convictions in New York.

Passers-by heckled him in response, and a police officer asked him to leave the premises.

For his part, Northrup seemed unbothered.

“If they (hecklers) get abusive with me,” he said, “I’ll turn around and stick my butt in their face.”

Fernando Cervantes

10:45 a.m.: Want to watch, but can't be there? Here's how

For those who want to see Donald Trump’s town hall and can’t be at Dream City Church, tune in to the conservative Right Side Broadcasting Network for coverage.

Their livestream can be found here:

LIVE: "Chase the Vote" Town Hall With President Donald J. Trump - 6/6/24 (youtube.com)

According to a recent profile of the Trump-centric media outlet by the Associated Press, RSBN began with a single camera at a Trump event in Phoenix. Since then, it has piled up more than 1.6 million subscribers to its YouTube channel and is the go-to network of choice for Trump’s live events.

Ronald J. Hansen

10:30 a.m.: Outside the church, long lines and sweltering heat

There is no questioning the loyalty to former President Donald Trump for those who were in line outside Dream City Church in north Phoenix.

Trump is scheduled to begin the town hall at 2 p.m., and hundreds gathered outside long before that. A long line of cars waited outside the church on Cave Creek Road as well.

Trump in Arizona: For those who attended Trump event, former president's words connected (5)

By 10 a.m., the heat in Phoenix had already reached 96 degrees.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, minutes before the doors to the event opened, an older woman in line collapsed, presumably with the heat playing a role.

Trump supporters yelled “medic” and “We need a doctor.”A medic did provide water shortly afterward.

Sabine Martin

10:15 a.m.: Democrats have their own thoughts on Trump

Ahead of Trump’s town hall event, Arizona Democrats countered his visit with a news conference of their own.

Arizona Democratic Party Chair Yolanda Bejarano cast Trump as “unhinged” and a threat to U.S. democracy.

“We know that Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans see Arizona as a testing ground for election conspiracy theories and denialism,” Bejarano said. “This is ground zero of what has become our entire country’s struggle against misinformation and false claims.”

President Joe Biden’s campaign has reminded voters that Turning Point Action, the organization hosting Trump on Thursday, sent seven buses of students to Washington to participate in the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The Democrats emphasized that Trump is now the first former president in history to have been convicted of a felony — a message that their party has driven home with billboards in the Phoenix area — and that his presidency set the stage for abortion restrictions in Arizona.

Peggy Neely, a former Vice Mayor of Phoenix, introduced herself as a “lifetime Republican” and said Trump caused her to become an independent.

“Every time that Trump comes to the microphone, he lies. And I could not take it anymore,” she said.

Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has forcefully decried the felony verdicts against him as politically motivated and has taken a careful position on abortion in the ongoing campaign, declining to back a national ban on the procedure.

Laura Gersony

9:30 a.m.: How warmly will Trump embrace Lake, Hamadeh?

Palace intrigue usually hangs over any event involving former President Donald Trump, and Thursday’s town hall in Phoenix is no different.

Trump has endorsed two Arizona Republicans in key races this year, Kari Lake in the U.S. Senate race and Abe Hamadeh in a congressional race for a West Valley-based seat.

Both of his favored candidates are expected to attend the event at Dream City Church, but neither are expected to play a prominent role in the Trump-focused gathering.

Trump canceled at least two earlier trips to Arizona this year. One of them happened just days after Lake toppled Jeff DeWit, the then-chair of the Arizona Republican Party, with the release of a secretly recorded conversation from 2023 offering her money not to run for the Senate.

DeWit is among the most loyal and veteran Trump supporters in Arizona politics.

In April, the Washington Post reported that Trump “has shown annoyance with her frequent presence” at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Trump was visibly impressed with Lake when he saw her light up a Republican crowd for a Turning Point Action event in July 2021.

Among the subplots surrounding the event Thursday is how prominently Trump engages with Lake after the reported discord.

Hamadeh, meanwhile, won Trump’s endorsem*nt early on in his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives.

But Blake Masters, another Republican challenger, has battered Hamadeh with political attacks in recent months with Hamadeh showing few resources to respond. Masters, who had Trump’s 2022 endorsem*nt when he was the U.S. Senate nominee, has touted polling showing him ahead of Hamadeh.

All of which begs the question of whether Hamadeh’s flagging campaign can perk up with a shout-out from Trump.

Ronald J. Hansen

Why is Trump coming to Arizona now?

Trump’s return to Arizona after his conviction should qualify as among the least-surprising moves of his third presidential run.

Trump has long shown an interest in the state, its political figures and the issues that often dominate its landscape.

Since 2015, when he first ran for president, he has visited Arizona at least 18 times.

The first visit came a month after he kicked off his longshot presidential bid and the raucous crowd showed an enthusiasm for his rhetorical attacks on Mexico and immigration as a central issue.

In office, Trump granted his first presidential pardon to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of a misdemeanor in connection with the continued practice of racial profiling by his department.

After the COVID pandemic led to a nationwide quarantine, Trump made a visit to Dream City his second public rally of the return to in-person campaigning in 2020.

After Trump’s narrow loss in Arizona that year, he personally urged Arizona’s then-House speaker to participate in a plan to overturn the election results.

That effort morphed into the use of “fake electors” in Arizona to help serve as the basis for not certifying the election on the day a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. Trump is named as an unindicted coconspirator in a state-level indictment brought in that matter in April.

Ronald J. Hansen

Trump in Arizona: For those who attended Trump event, former president's words connected (2024)

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