Your Local News | Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Lehigh Valley Election News

Defiant Trump riffs on criminal trial gag order, Biden in Lehigh Valley rally

NORTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. – An adoring crowd braved strong winds and dipping temperatures to cheer on former President Donald Trump at a rally Saturday night outside the Schnecksville Fire Hall.

Trump spoke for over an hour with a mix of bluster and insults.

He blasted President Joe Biden over rising inflation, his support of alternative energy and the spiking number of illegal crossings at the Southern border.

"I don't think our country has ever been so low. But we're gonna change it. We're going to swamp 'em," Trump said.

And he repeated false claims that his rivals had stolen the 2020 election from him.

"The radical left rigged the 2020 election. We're not going to allow them to rig the election of 2024," Trump said.

Former President Donald Trump visits Schnecksville

The crowd hung on his every word, breaking into "U-S-A" chants usually reserved for Olympic events.

Trump wore his trademark red "Make America Great Again" cap and praised Pennsylvania and the crowd.

"We’re going to make America great again," he said.

"We will restore American strength at home. We were respected four years ago. Today we are considered a joke. It’s not going to be for long, believe me.”

Trump Rally
Donna S. Fisher/For LehighValleyNews.com
People wait for Donald Trump prior to a rally in Schnecksville on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Ahead of trial

This will be Trump's last rally before the start of his criminal trial Monday in Manhattan over alleged hush money payments to cover up a sex scandal during the 2016 election.

He assailed Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, accusing him of prosecuting a bogus case to hamper Trump's re-election campaign.

"When I walk into that courtroom, I know I'll have the love of 200 million Americans."
Donald Trump

"This is what you call a communist show trial," he said.

"When I walk into that courtroom, I know I'll have the love of 200 million Americans. And I'll be fighting for the rights of 325 million Americans."

Trump said he was being stripped of his constitutional right to free speech because he has a gag order during the proceedings, which are expected to last six to eight weeks.

He called the presiding judge a "highly conflicted and corrupt judge" and accused "crooked Joe Biden" and his supporters of weaponizing the criminal justice system.

The New York City court case is the first of four criminal trials Trump is to face.

Trump Rally
Donna S. Fisher/For LehighValleyNews.com
Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Schnecksville on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Crowd size

People lined up hours ahead of Trump's scheduled 7 p.m. arrival time — he started about 45 minutes late — for a chance to see the former president.

By 3 p.m., the line to get in stretched over a mile, looping around and backing up into the overflow parking lots on the Lehigh Carbon Community College campus. Many never got in, listening from folding chairs outside the security tent.

Organizers hoped to get 6,000 people to attend the rally. Counting those outside the gate, they exceeded that goal.

Trump criticized the assembled media, claiming they would not report that 42,000 came to hear him speak — a gross exaggeration.

Endorses McCormick

Near the end of his address, Trump endorsed U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick. The former hedge fund executive is critical to Republican efforts to regain the Senate from a slim Democratic majority.

McCormick faces a difficult campaign to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., one of the best known politicians in the state and the son of a popular former governor.

PA 7 Republican candidates
Ryan Mackenzie, Maria Montero and Kevin Dellicker (pictured, left to right) are the Republican candidates running for the U.S. House Pennsylvania District 7.

Trump did not, however, make an endorsement for the Lehigh Valley's congressional seat, Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District, though he has in other congressional races.

Three Republicans — Kevin Dellicker, state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie and Maria Montero — are competing in the April 23 primary for a chance to defeat Democratic incumbent Susan Wild, D-Lehigh Valley, in November.

Not everyone was silent on the Lehigh Valley's congressional campaign, though. During his introduction of Trump, U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9th District, called out Montero in the crowd but didn't mention Mackenzie or Dellicker, who also were in attendance.

Meuser didn't mention he had endorsed Montero and donated to her campaign.

Pregame activities

Before Trump took the stage, Meuser fired up the faithful.

“We all know that victory in ‘24 runs through Pennsylvania. It runs through the Lehigh Valley,” said Meuser, whose 9th Congressional District stretches from Schuylkill County into northeast Pennsylvania.

“This is the most important election of our lifetime. We cannot take anything for granted.”

Trump Rally
Donna S. Fisher/For LehighValleyNews.com
People gather ahead of Donald Trump's rally in Schnecksville, Pa. on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Clad in their own red "Make America Great Again" hats, defiant T-shirts and thick coats to protect against the wind, an army of cheerful Trump supporters waited their turn to move through security hours before the rally along Route 309.

Patrick Cubbage, a candidate for Republican presidential delegate in the 7th Congressional District, estimated thousands more showed up than the 5,000 or 6,000 organizers anticipated.

After four years of Biden, conservatives are ready for change, he said.

"I think it's fantastic," he said of the turnout. "The people are kind of tired of the economy, the open borders." 

This was Trump’s third visit to Pennsylvania this year and the first to the Lehigh Valley since he last visited as president in October 2020, just days before the 2020 election.

"It's a simple question. Are you more optimistic or less optimistic for you and your family today than you were four years ago?"
State Sen. Jarrett Coleman, R-Lehigh

Earlier in the day, Trump attended a private fundraiser at the Newtown Athletic Club in Bucks County, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Speakers took to the Schnecksville stage more than an hour before Trump was scheduled to arrive, including Republican Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity.

State Sen. Jarrett Coleman, R-Lehigh, reveled at the crowd still pouring in hours after the gate opened — a sign of Trump's strength in the region, he said.

Coleman compared it to Biden's visit to Emmaus in January. The fact that Biden needed to come to the Leigh Valley showed his vulnerability, Coleman said, especially on the economy.

"It's a simple question," Coleman said. "Are you more optimistic or less optimistic for you and your family today than you were four years ago?"

Cookies for Donald Trump
Tom Shortell
Tina Talianek of Teena's Treats in Coplay was hoping to deliver treats to Donald Trump at his rally Schnecksville, Pa., on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Treats for Trump

A steady stream of customers snapped up cookies and baked goods at Tina Talianek's tent.

The namesake of Teena's Treats in Coplay, Talianek said the rally was her first time setting up shop at a political rally.

She approached the fire hall this week and offered to sell them cookies and cupcakes at cost so they could hold a fundraiser.

Instead, they encouraged her to hang her shingle inside the rally grounds.

"Everyone has such an American spirit here, which is exciting," said Talianek, who described herself and husband as big Trump supporters.

She was still trying to figure out a way to get a special platter of goodies to the former president — brownies, cookies, cream cheese cupcakes and chocolate.