Trump in Vegas after losing $83.3 million verdict to E. Jean Carroll

6:30 p.m. update

A relaxed and upbeat Donald Trump brought his campaign stump speech Saturday to an adoring Las Vegas crowd.

The former president spoke less than 24 hours after a jury ruled against him in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit and said she should be paid $83.3 million.

The stated intention of Carroll’s attorneys was to hit Trump with such a large penalty that he would stop his insults and attacks on Carroll’s claim that Trump sexually assaulted her about 30 years ago – something a separate jury found was true last year and ordered him to pay $5 million.

Although the Trump campaign called Friday’s verdict “absolutely ridiculous,” it appears the verdict had some effect. Trump did not mention Carroll, although he did joke about the growing number of court cases against him.

Sam Brown, Joe Lombardo

Someone who Trump did mention may cause debate in further right Republican circles: U.S. Senate candidate Sam Brown.

Brown is a Republican challenger against the Democratic incumbent Jacky Rosen, and he was the focus of attacks by seven of his fellow Republican candidates as a puppet of establishment politicians like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky.

While the vast majority of rally attendees cheered Brown, a few loud boos rang out at his name.

Trump mentioned three of the nine candidates running for U.S. Senate – Brown, Jeff Gunter and Jim Marchant. It’s going to “be a very good race, we’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

He did not mention Republican candidate Tony Grady from south Reno, who was in attendance.

Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo did not make an appearance, but Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony spoke and made sure the audience knew that he and Lombardo had endorsed Trump this month.

Interruptions

Trump had to pause his remarks multiple times, which is maybe why his normal 60-minute campaign address stretched to 80 minutes.

The raucous crowd of about 4,000 – with hundreds stuck outside who never made into the indoor soccer field – often forced Trump to stop speaking as they broke into impromptu chants of “USA,” “Trump” and “We want Trump.”

The longest interruption came when someone needed medical attention. It took a while to get help in the tightly packed crowd on a green Astroturf field. Trump held off speaking, saying it was important to care for those among us who need help.

Trump, however, did not stop speaking when two protesters masked in American flag bandannas began shouting a few minutes into his remarks.

His supporters jumped into action and forced the man and woman out the exit while trying to pull off their masks to take pictures of them.

‘Commit to Caucus’

The event was billed as a “Commit to Caucus” rally.

Trump is the only major candidate for the Nevada Republican Presidential Caucus to be held Feb. 8.

A state-run Presidential Preference Primary will be held two days before. Early voting centers are currently open, and mail-in ballots are already being sent in.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is the only major Republican candidate running in the primary. She will not be eligible for any delegates. Delegates are used to pick the party’s presidential candidate.

Republican delegates will only be allotted based on caucus results, which Trump is expected to dominate.

President Joe Biden, challenger Marianne Williamson and a slate of lesser-known candidates are running in Democratic presidential primary.

Confusion over how Nevada’s Republican presidential selection is being handled could mean that Haley receives far more votes – although only symbolic – than Trump.

“Don’t use the mail-in ballot” for the primary, Trump said. “It’s a meaningless event, no delegates.”

Instead, he promoted the Feb. 8 caucus.

“It’s the only way you can vote for President Trump,” he said.

What attendees thought

Elvis impersonator Scott Obrand said he worked as a federal immigration deportation officer for 31 years.

“I’ve seen the border first hand in Tucson,” he said. “It needs to fixed. When Trump was in office, he literally shut down the border. We went from getting 100 to 200 people a day to almost zero.”

Obrand said he also supports Trump because he’s a guy who tells it like it is.

“He’s got the energy,” he said. “I think he’s there for the everyday, average person.”

Thien Tran drove from California to see Trump.

“I represent a very big Vietnamese-American community that cannot make it here,” he said. “They don’t have the time or money, so I’m here. When I come home, I report back.”

For Tran, he thinks Trump is the only presidential candidate who can save America.

“I came here from a Communist country – we lost the country of South Vietnam,” he said. “We don’t want to lose this country. That’s why we continue to stand with President Trump.”

Alberta Batchelor became a fan of Trump watching his business reality show “The Apprentice.”

She said she liked how he was able to discern whether someone was being manipulative and how hard he seemed to work.

She’s only voted three times in her life and twice was for Trump.

She now makes phone calls in support of him – “I’m 97 phone calls away from 14,000.”

“He’s a fighter,” she said ahead of his remarks, “and I expect him to be uplifting.”

Democratic response

Kamala Harris made an appearance Saturday at a nearby labor union headquarters to “get out the vote” for the presidential primary.

Biden-Harris for Nevada state campaign manager Shelby Wiltz released a statement ahead of Trump’s Las Vegas visit:

“Nevadans have rejected Donald Trump and his extremist allies every time they’ve been on the ballot because we know he’s a threat to our freedoms, our democracy, and our economy. Our communities are still recovering from the last time Trump was in the White House, when he left tens of thousands of Nevadans out of work. While President Biden is fighting to bring down costs and create good-paying jobs, Trump is rooting for our economy to crash once again.”

3:40 p.m. update

Former President Donald Trump wrapped up his remarks to a Las Vegas crowd with a call to ignore Nevada’s Presidential Preference Primary, whose ballot he’s not on, and only participate in the Republican caucus, where he’s the only major candidate still standing.

Only the caucus will be used to accrue important delegates for the national Republican Party to pick its presidential candidate.  

“Don’t use the mail-in ballot” for the primary, Trump said. “It’s a meaningless event, no delegates.”

Instead, he promoted the Feb. 8 caucus.

“It’s the only way you can vote for President Trump,” he said.

The indoor soccer field where Trump spoke had open doors to the outside. It was hot, inspiring multiple jokes from Trump, who seemed in a good mood.

He didn’t bring up the E. Jean Carroll case where a New York jury Friday ordered he pay her $83.3 million to repair her reputation from his comments about her and for punitive damages to keep him from continuing his insults and accusations.

He did joke about his legal cases, though.

He said he was driving past the trash and graffiti marking the roads into Washington, D.C, to attend a trial.

“Somebody asked me, ‘So which one is it?’ This is number 14,” he said to chuckles.

Then he wrapped up with what he plans to do on Day One if elected: End funding to any school that has a vaccine mandate or teaches “critical race theory,” create the toughest law enforcement in the country for the nation’s capitol, “keep men out of women’s sports,” “protect innocent life,” “restore free speech” and strengthen the borders.

“We will make America powerful again,” he said as the crowd began to cheer along with each new play on his traditional slogan.

“We will make America wealthy again. We will make America strong again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. We will make America great again.”

Sam and Dave’s R&B classic “Hold On, I’m Coming” began playing over the loudspeakers as he waved, bowed and reached out his hand to supporters.

As he left the indoor soccer field to return to his motorcade, a frequent song at his rallies played: “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People.

2:45 p.m. update

As former President Donald Trump begins to wrap up his comments, people are still going through security to get in the building.

His comments are being broadcast to those waiting in line.

The audience interrupts Trump’s comments with a chant of “We want Trump.”

“They’re screaming outside with the same amount of enthusiasm,” Trump said.

2:30 p.m. update

Former President Donald Trump did his imitation of a cognitively impaired Joe Biden to laughs of approval from a packed building with about 4,000 people inside and hundreds more still outside waiting to go through security.

Trump pointed one way and then the other before walking into the blue backdrop behind him while pretending to be Biden.

He then told a long story about a cognitive test he took and a complicated math problem it included.

“Everybody running for president and vice president should be required to take a cognition test,” Trump said.

About this time, Trump’s remarks were interrupted for a second time, this time for someone Trump described as becoming weak after having stood outside for so long before getting inside.

Trump paused until staff could get to the person, saying that we need to love and care for everyone who needs help.

2:00 p.m. update

Soon after former President Donald Trump took the stage, two protesters covering their faces with bandannas began shouting.

The audience quickly turned on them. The protesters – a man and a woman – were pushed toward the exit as attendees began chanting  “USA, USA” to cover the sound of the protesters’ shouts against Trump.

Trump paused briefly in his comments and then returned to his remarks as if nothing had happened.

Trump supporters tried to pull down the female protester’s mask to take photos of her.

1:30 p.m. update

Donald Trump supporters have been going through security nonstop since 10 a.m. Saturday at Big League Dreams sports park in Las Vegas.The line still stretches as far as the eye can see from inside the venue.

People cheer when they get through the doors. Many shout “We made it!”

Trump’s in-house soundtrack plays. James Brown croaks out “It’s a Man’s World.” Now Elvis Presley croons “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

1:05 p.m. update

When former President Donald Trump’s motorcade was spotted pulling up to the Las Vegas sports park where he’s holding a political rally Saturday, the crowd erupted in screams and cheers.

Over the venue’s loudspeakers, the music’s volume shot up as a kind of soundrack to the moment. First, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and then Elvis Presley’s “If I Dream” played.

Earlier, a few prominent Southern Nevada Republicans took the stage to whip up enthusiasm.

Lt. Gen. Stavros Anthony made sure the crowd knew that he and Gov. Joe Lombardo have endorsed Trump, while Nevada’s Republican National Committee representative Sigal Chattah repeatedly intoned that Trump is “the greatest president in modern history.”

Trump can sometimes be late for his events, often due to flight issues. But it looks like he won’t be keeping this crowd waiting. “Trump, Trump, Trump” and “We want Trump” chants keep breaking out whenever songs end over the loudspeakers.

“Pinball Wizard” by The Who just kicked off with the crowd bopping their heads.

12:35 p.m. update

Two-time breast cancer survivor Kathy Fenter got her “Women for Trump” T-shirt at a 2016 Donald Trump rally in Las Vegas.

On Saturday, she arrived at 6:30 a.m. for the former president’s Las Vegas event to encourage people to support him in the Feb. 8 Nevada Republican Presidential Caucus.

“We’ve got to take our country back,” Fenter said.

Asked what she means, she responded, “Why are we spending money for Ukraine’s border when we won’t spend it on our own border? Why are veterans benefits harder to get than welfare benefits?”

11:45 a.m. update

The small indoor soccer field at Big League Dreams sports park in Las Vegas is starting to fill with Donald Trump fans ahead of his rally this afternoon.

They occasionally break into chants such as “Trump Forever!”

Just know, they broke into a singalong with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” over the loudspeakers.

Hundreds still wait in line to get through security.

No refreshments for the general public are available within the building, and some attendees have been walking around asking where they can find something to drink.

Trump is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m.

10:45 a.m. update

Sheila changed her last name to Trump to show her support for the candidate she loves.

Although she hasn’t changed it legally, she says “Trump” is what she goes by in her life. An immigrant from Vietnam who came to America in 1991, she drove five hours from California to see former President Trump speak at an indoor soccer field in Las Vegas.

“Trump cares about us,” Sheila Trump said. “He did a lot of things for America, and I can see the difference between Trump and Biden.”

9:30 a.m. update

Thomas Aguilar is one of hundreds of people who have been standing in line for hours to attend former President Donald Trump’s rally at Big League Dreams sports park Saturday in Las Vegas.

“I’m here to make America great again,” he said. “Bidenomics is destroying our country. Prices are high, inflation is going up.”

He wore a “Gays for Trump” shirt.

“I am part of the LGB community,” Aguilar said. “I’m going to be out here supporting my president who supports my community. He wants everyone to have their own right to do what they want. He wants everyone to be happy.”

9 a.m. Saturday

Former President Donald Trump is set to speak to a rally early Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas less than 24 hours after a New York jury ordered him to pay $83.3 million to the writer E. Jean Carroll for defamation.

Trump’s campaign quickly released a statement calling the verdict “Absolutely ridiculous!”

“Our Legal System is out of control, and being used as a Political Weapon,” the statement said. “They have taken away all First Amendment Rights. THIS IS NOT AMERICA!”

Carroll released her own statement.

“This is a great victory for every woman who stands up when she’s been knocked down and a huge defeat for every bully who has tried to keep a woman down,” she said.

A separate jury had awarded Carroll $5 million last year after finding that Trump had sexually abused her in the 1990s and defamed her on social media in 2022.

The latest verdict was related to Carroll’s attempts to restore her reputation and to get Trump to quit calling her a liar and her assault claims a hoax.

After the verdict was read, Trump did not attack Carroll as he has repeatedly in recent weeks on social media and in the courtroom. Whether he will resume his insults of Carroll in Las Vegas remains to be seen.

Trump is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. Saturday at Big League Dreams sports park for a “Commit to Caucus Rally” ahead of the Feb. 8 Nevada Republican Presidential Caucus. Although the event is free and open to the public, tickets are required and available at donaldjtrump.com/events.

Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon also. Less than 2 miles from where Trump will speak, she is hosting a “get out the vote” event at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union headquarters.

More: Why does Nevada have a caucus and a primary? What voters need to know about 2024 election

Mark Robison is the state politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal, with occasional forays into other topics. Email comments to mrobison@rgj.com or comment on Mark’s Greater Reno Facebook page.


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