Trump fans ‘defiant’ ahead of ex-lawyer’s court testimony

Empty fairground rides twisted and spun on the New Jersey shore as thousands of Donald Trump supporters filled a pristine beach for a rally ahead of potentially damaging testimony in his criminal trial next week.

Several of them assailed Mr Trump’s former fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen, who is scheduled on Monday to give evidence against the ex-president in his New York trial, ratcheting up his political and legal jeopardy.

Prosecutors want Mr Cohen to lay out the details of how, as Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, he shepherded a $130,000 (€120,666) payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels for her silence over an alleged sexual tryst.

Mr Trump and his defence team deny such an event took place, blasting Mr Cohen as a liar who had served jail time for campaign finance violations.

“Cohen’s a joke. He has no credibility at all,” said Lisa Lombardo, 61, a director of physician relations from the New Jersey town of Medford.

Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Wildwood Beach in Wildwood, New Jersey

“I don’t believe anything is going to come of it. It’s only galvanized the base… Fair-minded Democrats know it’s crap,” Ms Lombardo added, who insisted a gag order from Judge Juan Merchan that prevents Mr Trump attacking Mr Cohen and other witnesses was “unconstitutional.”

Mr Trump avoided mentioning any witnesses in his speech.

Around Ms Lombardo, who wore a bright pink “Women for Trump” baseball cap, other supporters of the Republican candidate fanned out across the beach, some unfurling picnic blankets as seagulls circled overhead, creating a festive atmosphere.

– ‘Show trial’ –

Diehard fans of Mr Trump, who is seeking a White House comeback in the November elections, had travelled from as far afield as Hawaii, with some camping on the beach to secure a spot for the rally.

“As you know, I’ve come here from New York where I’m being forced to endure a show trial,” Mr Trump said to boos. “Carried out by a radical Democrat district attorney.”

The seaside resort venue for the rally, Mr Trump’s first since mid-April, was a far cry from the dingy Manhattan courthouse that has hosted Mr Trump four days a week since the start of his trial for covering up hush-money payments.

A yellow plane flew overhead towing a banner reading “God bless D Trump!”

John Dipietro, a financial planner celebrating his 60th birthday at the rally, called the New York trial “politically motivated.”

– ‘Jailhouse Rock’ –

Attendees during the Donald Trump campaign event in New Jersey

“(Cohen) is a convicted liar, and it’s ironic they’ll let a convicted liar talk… and not a person who was the president and not convicted,” he added, sporting a T-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Trump was right about everything.”

Mr Dipietro, who has donated to the real estate mogul’s campaign, said if Mr Trump was convicted in the New York case it would give him “even more desire to knock on a few more doors to get (people) to come out and vote” in November.

The expected re-run of the 2020 contest between Mr Trump and President Joe Biden will be held on 5 November.

Elvis Presley’s 1957 hit “Jailhouse Rock” was among the tracks blasted out to the Wildwood crowd of thousands.

Pick-up trucks and Jeeps adorned with giant flags supporting Mr Trump and banners denouncing Mr Biden patrolled the coast road beside the rally site, as a large contingent of police kept watch nearby.

Danielle Janik, 56, had driven almost three hours to the rally from Pennsylvania, a swing state that likely will be a must-win for either candidate come November.

“Cohen’s untrustworthy and I think he’s trying to make a name for himself,” said Ms Janik, a full-time caregiver attending her first Trump rally.

Even if Mr Trump, facing four criminal cases, were to be convicted, “There is absolutely no way I’m not voting for (him),” Ms Janik said.

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