Former President Donald Trump warned at his second “Save America” rally on July 3 that Americans no longer have free speech, describing a powerful system “for media and online censorship” that only presents the Democratic Party’s view of politics, including the idea that Trump is attacking democracy by discussing potential election fraud.
“We have a truly sick election system; it’s got to be changed,” the 45th president told thousands of supporters gathered in Robarts Arena in Sarasota, Florida.
"Remember this, I am not the one trying to undermine American democracy. I am the one trying to save American democracy."
Democrats and Republicans have exchanged barbs since the chaotic 2020 election, which Trump maintains he won't concede, awaiting the results of a complete audit for Arizona’s Maricopa County that has been run independently of the secretary of state’s office. Additional audits are expected to follow in other jurisdictions.
“We can’t let them take away our free speech so we can talk about corrupt elections. Otherwise you’ll have ... that’s communism. That’s what they do in these communist countries. You have no voice,” Trump said.
Communist and socialist states such as Cuba and Venezuela remain embroiled in repeating cycles of contested elections, with their populations split between recognizing two heads of state, and both sides accusing the other of election fraud.
“Democrats used COVID to cheat. They illegally changed the rules in key states. They stole the votes," Trump said. "They abolished signature verification requirements, created a powerful system for media and the online censorship of their opponents, and did everything possible to facilitate fraud just like you would do in a third-world country. That’s what happened with this election."
Trump gave special mention to the Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN), which was suspended by YouTube from live-streaming to its channel for a week just hours ahead of the rally. RSBN has carried feeds of Trump’s public appearances since July 2015. Following the suspension, the company moved to the video platform Rumble to stream Trump's speech.
Trump, true to the stated mission of his “Save America” campaign office, said he will continue working to help secure support for “Republicans or MAGA” in the upcoming 2022 elections, with the goal of retaking the House and the Senate.
But in order to do so, he said that actions are needed to restore trust and transparency for all Americans in the nation's election systems.
“We got them by surprise in 2016. And then they work for four years to make sure it didn’t happen again,” Trump said of the Democrats, accusing them of election fraud.
He again questioned President Joe Biden’s vote count, saying that he found it hard to believe Biden got more votes from black people than President Barack Obama did. Trump said that, like many other things such as the Wuhan virus lab leak theory and his border policies, he believes his claims about a “rigged election” will be proven right.
“I wonder what I will be proved right about next. Perhaps it will be the election, perhaps,” he said.
Trump said that Republicans around the country are uniting around efforts to secure future elections by progressing legislation to demand voter ID, universal signature verification, citizenship confirmation, chain-of-custody integrity controls, and updated voter rolls.
“That’s before the elections, not after the elections,” Trump said.
He criticized Democrat actions passed ahead of the 2020 election to expand voter access, which he said reduced voter security in the name of allowing people to vote from home during the pandemic.
He said that Republicans "will restore the right to free speech in America again, which we don’t have."
Hundreds of Trump’s supporters had lined up for the event overnight, with a large crowd staying until past 8 p.m. for Trump’s speech, despite a thunderstorm ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa.
Trump remarked that if American voters had faith in the integrity of the 2020 election, he wouldn’t have so many people still attending his rallies.
“If we lost the election ... I wouldn’t have a crowd that goes beyond what the eye can see, that stays in a thunderstorm,” he said.
He then joked that some of the women in attendance were “a mess” from the pouring rain.
“But the truth is, you look more beautiful now than you did when you went to the beauty parlor," Trump said. "You’re real. It’s great.”
He also dismissed legal efforts launched by New York prosecutors to bring charges against his company, The Trump Organization, and Allen Weisselberg, its chief financial officer, over "fringe benefits."
"It's really called prosecutorial misconduct. It's a terrible, terrible thing," Trump said of the legal efforts, contrasting them with cases of murder and human trafficking that he said weren't pursued to the full extent by prosecutors. Weisselberg has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis didn't join Trump at the rally after both decided the state leader would remain in South Florida to oversee recovery efforts for the condominium collapse at Surfside and preparations for Elsa, according to state Republican Chairman Sen. Joe Gruters, local media reported.
Trump’s speech was followed by a fireworks display in celebration of Independence Day, when “56 brave patriots at Philadelphia proudly declared our independence and boldly proclaimed the eternal truth that we are all made equal by the almighty hand of our Creator,” Trump said.
“With the spirit of July 4, 1776, stirring in our souls ... we will make our elections free and safe again, we will make America powerful again, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America strong again, we will make America proud again, we will make America safe again, and we will make America great again."