Former President Donald Trump held his second big campaign-style rally since leaving the White House, with thousands expected at the Sarasota Fairgrounds today for the event.

Trump spoke at 8 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9 p.m.

The July 3 rally — Trump’s third in Sarasota — is billed as a celebration of the nation’s independence and an early effort to gear up for the 2022 election, but Trump likely has his own agenda.

Trump’s past Sarasota rallies have drawn large crowds, and this one is likely to be no different. Doors have opened for the public to arrive at Trump rally at the Sarasota Fairgrounds.

Tickets were free but there was a limit of 5,000. Lines stretched as far back as Tuttle Avenue from Robarts Arena. Lines seemed orderly and many were decked out in red, white and blue as they carried signs.

The “Save America” rally is co-sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida. The former president is expected to speak at 8 p.m.

Watch Live Trump rally in Sarasota, Florida

10:15 p.m. | Trump ends speech with ‘Make America Great Again’ after 90 minutes

President Trump wrapped up his speech after 90 minutes, closing it out with his campaign slogan, “We will make America great again!”

Prior to that, he called the American election system “sick”, saying he was not trying to undermine democracy but save it. 

Fireworks began almost immediately following his departure from the stage.

10:10 p.m. | Trump slams Mitch McConnell, Barack Obama

President Trump, whose speech stretched long past one hour, slammed both Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former President Barack Obama.

He also touched on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, asking who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, one of the people who was on Capitol grounds that day, and asked why so many people are in jail after Jan. 6.

At the rally, Trump said: “By the way, who shot Ashli Babbitt? Who shot Ashli Babbitt? Who? Who shot Ashli Babbitt? We all saw the hand. We saw the gun…Now they don’t want to give the name, but people know the name. People know where he came from.”

He went back to McConnell, blaming him for losing the U.S. Senate seats in Georgia and adding that if it weren’t for Trump, Republicans would’ve lost even more seats.

He also called President Obama “divisive”.

9:50 p.m. | Trump says U.S. would be unified if ‘plague’ hadn’t happened

President Trump says he believed that the country would be unified if the “plague”, referring to COVID-19 had not happened.

Trump talked up how quickly a vaccine was developed for COVID — saying it took nine months instead of the five years that was predicted.

He added that if it wasn’t for that development, COVID-19 could have been the 1918 Spanish flu.

9:35 p.m. | Trump rally guests in Sarasota, Florida

President Trump pointed out Republican officials at the event, some of whom spoke.

Among the officials he pointed out were Florida congressional Rep. Matt Gaetz. He also mentioned Sarasota County Commissioner Christian Ziegler, along with his son Donald Trump Jr., Florida State Sen. Joe Gruters and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert.

9:20 p.m. | Trump says he’s more popular now than he ever has been

President Trump touched on the Mueller Report, an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, comparing it to a communist nation fabricating charges against political opponents.

He shifted into prosecutors running on promises to “get Trump”. He added that prosecutors didn’t go after President Biden or his son, Hunter Biden, nor Hillary Clinton or her organization.

He also added that he was far more popular now than on Election Day because of what is happening in the country today. He hit on gas prices, saying they’d rise to more than $3.50 a gallon.

9:05 p.m. | Crowd at Trump rally chants ‘We love Trump!’

After saying he was bringing back his rallies, President Trump then went into how popular he is in Florida, saying: “We won Florida by a lot.”

The crowd began chanting “We love Trump.”

Trump noted he lives in Florida — his home is in Palm Beach.

8:55 p.m. | Trump hits on Democratic party

During the speech tonight, President Trump touched on some of key talking points — Democratic efforts to defund the police, immigration, then Russia — before discussing the “fake media.” 

He also hit on crime, claiming the “radical left” is releasing thousands of criminals by abolishing cash bail.  He says that people are afraid to go to cities. Claims that the murder rate is the highest rate it’s ever been.

“But now Joe Biden has intentionally dismantled the border and allowed the cartels, coyotes, child smugglers, woman smugglers…drug dealers, murderers and savage MS-13 gang members to infiltrate our country like never before,” he stated. “It’s never been life this. Think of it six months ago. We had the safest border in history and now we have the worst and most unsafe border in history.”

“We will take back America! We will not let this happen… The Biden Administration’s willful and deliberate obliteration of America’s borders and immigration laws is a crime against this nation,” Trump said at the rally.

8:45 p.m. | Trump calls election rigged

President Trump, while discussing issues at the border, brought up the election for the first time, saying it was rigged.

He also discussed how Washington is being run, assailing the left, but said he wasn’t sure President Biden was running it. 

“I don’t know if it’s Joe Biden? Does anybody know who it is (running our country)?” Trump said.

8:32 p.m. | President Trump takes the stage of the rally

President Donald Trump takes the stage in front of a cheering crowd at the Sarasota Fairgrounds. He comments: “Wow, that’s a lot of people!” as he’s greeted by a chant of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

He opens with talk of “free and fair elections” and wishes people a happy 4th of July before extending well wishes to families of those in the Surfside condo collapse.

6:50 p.m. | Rain not dissuading crowds from sticking around Trump rally

Heavy rain fell for roughly 30 minutes and after a brief hiatus, the downpour resumed. So far, the weather has not dissipated the crowd.

6 p.m. | Rep. Matt Gaetz says he wants to nominate Trump to be House speaker

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz warmed up the crowd, saying that he was going to nominate Trump to be the next speaker of the House. Gaetz alluded to an ongoing scandal over allegations that he paid underage girls for sex, saying “they always come out to the fighters.”

“I’m a canceled man in some corners of the internet,” he said. “But in the core of my bones I’m a Florida man and it feels good to be home.”

As Gaetz spoke, storm clouds continued to gather in the area, although no rain has fallen yet.

Emergency operations officials said they have not received any reports of lightning. Officials said the heat has been the biggest issue so far, and they had dealt with multiple cases of heat exhaustion.

(Source: Herald Tribune)

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