At Trump’s last campaign stop before his hush money trial, immigration is a top issue

On Saturday, the former president told rally-goers in Schnecksville, Pa., near Allentown, that Biden is behind the "communist show trials" in which he has been indicted.

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Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at his rally

Donald Trump speaks at his first general election campaign event in Pennsylvania on Saturday. (Carmen Russell-Sluchansky/WHYY News)

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Editor’s Note: WHYY News Reporter Carmen Russell-Sluchansky visited the Trump rally and nearby Allentown to gather both the rally-goers’ and residents’ perspectives. Read both stories for multiple points of view.

Donald Trump held his first 2024 general election campaign in Pennsylvania on Saturday, hitting several of his regular talking points, including energy independence, immigration and his innocence in the several ongoing trials he is party to.

A frigid night

Several thousand supporters waited in the bitter cold and wind at the Schnecksville Fire Company fairgrounds. The town, about 10 minutes from Allentown, hosted those eager for Trump to appear, many standing in line for hours. The cold at the outside event was such that journalists from competing outlets shared their gloves with their cold-handed colleagues from other outlets.

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The battering winds caused Trump’s flight to be delayed and for him to arrive an hour late, now after sunset as temperatures further dropped. The former president came in from Bucks County, where he was at an earlier fundraiser.

While the crowd waited, State Treasurer Stacy Garrity welcomed the crowd and asked if they were “ready to make America great again.”

“2024 is truly the most important election of our lifetimes,” she said to cheers. “Every election that goes by that we don’t get Republicans in office, our state and our country get closer and closer to being lost.”

When Trump did show up, he asked, “Are you freezing? I’m freezing my ass up here.” As the night grew colder, lines of people made for the exits as the former president continued his speech until nearly 9 p.m.

‘Genocide Joe’

Trump started with the news of the day that Iran fired drones and missiles at Israel, which were subsequently stopped by Israel and the U.S. forces before reaching their targets. The former president blamed Biden.

“God bless the people of Israel, they’re under attack right now,” Trump told the crowd. “That’s because we showed great weakness… It would not have happened if we were in office.”

Soon after, the crowd started to chant “Genocide Joe.”

Trump supporters at his Schnecksville, Pa. rally
Thousands of Trump supporters stand in the cold and windy weather for hours to hear Donald Trump speak in Schnecksville, Pa. (Carmen Russell-Sluchansky/WHYY News)

Trump included electric cars as a signal of his disdain for environmentally conscious vehicles by asking everyone if they would want to buy an electric car, to which thousands shouted “no.”

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‘Millions and millions and millions’

The crowd regularly cheered Trump on as he attacked Biden, saying the president was failing at security on the Mexico border and ensuring energy independence.

“He is the worst president by far in the history of our country,” he said. “If we don’t win this election, this country is finished.”

Trump supporters at his Schnecksville, Pa. rally
Thousands of Trump supporters stand in the cold and windy weather for hours to hear Donald Trump speak in Schnecksville, Pa. (Carmen Russell-Sluchansky/WHYY News)

Trump invoked immigration as a point of contention several times.

“Right now, millions of people are entering our country from prisons, from mental institutions, from all over the world,” the told the crowd to boos. “This is the worst border of any country in the history of the world.”

Natural gas

Trump argued that Biden’s proposed regulations for gas and oil production are impacting the effort to make the country energy-independent and also negatively impacting the economy.

“Biden has imposed a savage natural gas export ban that’s putting countless Pennsylvania jobs at risk,” he said. “He’s risking your lives, he’s risking your jobs, but he doesn’t care because all he cares about is the green new scam.”

Pennsylvania is the second top natural gas–producing state in the U.S. So important is the industry to Pennsylvania Senators John Fetterman and Bob Casey that, in a rare move, they broke from the administration and advised President Biden to reconsider a proposed pause on approvals for additional liquefied natural gas plant exports.

“Pennsylvania is an energy state. As the second largest natural gas-producing state, this industry has created good-paying energy jobs in towns and communities across the Commonwealth and has played a critical role in promoting U.S. energy independence,” Fetterman and Casey wrote in a letter.

It wasn’t me

On Monday, jury selection begins in Manhattan, where Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to prevent news of a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels to keep their extramarital affair from becoming public.

Trump called the trial a “communist show trial” orchestrated by the president.

Trump supporters at his Schnecksville, Pa. rally
Thousands of Trump supporters stand in the cold and windy weather for hours to hear Donald Trump speak in Schnecksville, Pa. (Carmen Russell-Sluchansky/WHYY News)

“Two days from now, the entire world will witness the commencement of the very first Biden trial,” Trump said in his speech. “They’re all Biden trials. You know that, right?”

Trump also accused the district attorney in that case, Alvin Bragg, and Judge Juan Merchan of colluding with the president to keep him from winning the election, adding that he is “gagged.”

“I’m not allowed to talk,” he said. “They want to take away my constitutional right to talk.”

The former president is prohibited from publicly discussing potential witnesses and jurors in the unprecedented criminal trial of a former president but not barred from speaking to defend himself.

Trump likened the prosecutions to the investigations into his connections with Russia in 2016, saying they amounted to nothing.

“With all of the things they did with millions of pages of study, they found nothing, which makes me perhaps the most honest guy, almost, in the world,” he said.

Trump supporters at his Schnecksville, Pa. rally
Thousands of Trump supporters stand in the cold and windy weather for hours to hear Donald Trump speak in Schnecksville, Pa. (Carmen Russell-Sluchansky/WHYY News)

However, the former president continued his narrative that the last election was stolen from him.

“2020 was rigged,” he said. “It was a disgrace. We can never let it happen again.”


Immigration was the top issue for all the attendees WHYY News talked to.

“Because my tax dollars pay for everything that they get for free — all their food, their housing, their medical, their phones, all that stuff that they get for free,” Laurie, who didn’t give her last name, said. “Our tax dollars are paying for that.”

Laurie, who works as a house cleaner in Bensalem, said that inflation also made it difficult for her to “survive.”

“Groceries are up,” she said. “What you would’ve spent for $40 three years ago is now costing you a hundred dollars. So you go grocery shopping every week. You’re spending $200 a week just to feed your family.”

Laurie said this chilly event was her first rally. Kimberly Crowley, who lives close by, also cited the immigration issue as her primary concern.

“They’re coming in here, they’re stealing our jobs, they’re stealing our money,” she said. “I work hard for my tax money. I don’t want it to go to these illegals.”

She also cited food prices.

“All Biden does is lie to us and tell us that things are not the way that they actually are,” she said. “So we need somebody that’s going to be honest and work for America and not for himself and just political reasons.”

Twenty-year-old Drew Barry, from Pen Argyl, also agreed on the immigration issue.

“We should send them back to where they came from,” he said. “We don’t need to be paying for other people. We already got enough problems.”

Senate endorsement

Near the end of his speech, Donald Trump gave his endorsement to David McCormick, a Republican candidate running against Bob Casey for his Senate seat.

“He’s a smart guy,” Trump said. “He was a very successful guy. He’s given up a lot to do this.”

McCormick was not at the rally but in Connecticut, where he also has a home. It wasn’t a totally expected endorsement, as Trump supported Mehmet Oz when both were vying for the Republican nomination for the seat that eventually went to Fetterman.

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