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Trump attended a Republican Party dinner in Alabama, a day after pleading not guilty

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump was in Montgomery, Ala., for the annual Republican Party summer dinner last night. The event was held, of course, just days after Mr. Trump was indicted on four counts stemming from efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Kyle Gassiott with Troy Public Radio was at the dinner, joins us now from Montgomery. Kyle, thanks so much for being with us.

KYLE GASSIOTT, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: More fun than being in court, I would imagine, for the former president.

GASSIOTT: Well, Scott, if Trump was looking for a softer landing after Thursday, this dinner in Alabama was probably a good choice. He was clearly happy to be back.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Eight years ago this month, we held one of the very first rallies of the 2016 campaign right here in Alabama. Together, we launched the greatest political movement in the history of our country. And now with the help of Alabama patriots - oh, we love Alabama.

GASSIOTT: He easily won the state in the past two elections. And if last night was any indication, Scott, of his popularity, some donors paid $50,000 just to sit at a table near Trump and have their picture taken with him. And at the end of the night, the Alabama GOP had raised 1.2 million in contributions.

SIMON: Did Mr. Trump address the charges of his indictment at all?

GASSIOTT: Well, Trump brushed it off, and he said that these recent indictments were actually good for him and the campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Because every time they file an indictment, we go way up in the polls. We need one more indictment to close out this election.

GASSIOTT: And Trump's messaging about his indictment, Scott, has been resonating with supporters like Marie Scarborough (ph) from Montgomery. She was wearing a red cowboy hat and taking pictures in the lobby.

MARIE SCARBOROUGH: I just agree that they're after him, and when they're after him, they're after us and all of our freedoms.

SIMON: I gather there were lots of prominent Republicans at the dinner last night, including Senator Tuberville, who introduced Trump. And of course, the senator's getting criticized for holding up military appointments and promotions. Did that come up?

GASSIOTT: It did, Scott. Senator Tuberville has been using that block, as you mentioned, as a protest of the Pentagon's policy that gives leave and travel expenses to military personnel who can't obtain an abortion in the state where they're stationed. Tuberville's critics say it's negatively impacting military readiness. But last night, the crowd and his colleagues here in Montgomery gave Tuberville a lot of support. And early in the evening, you heard that from Republican Congressman Barry Moore when he talked about Tuberville from the stage.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARRY MOORE: He is standing almost by himself on the Senate floor each week for the life of the unborn and for the rule of law.

GASSIOTT: That line got a positive reaction from the crowd, and Tuberville did as well when he spoke later in the evening.

SIMON: So were Trump supporters left happy after the dinner?

GASSIOTT: I think so. When I talked with Micah Josey (ph) from Deatsville, he summed up what I heard again and again in interviews.

MICAH JOSEY: Well, to be honest with you, the fact that President Trump has been prosecuted so much in the past and the fact that he's still standing on both legs with - you know, with the stage up there and just speaking with so much life and energy, I really believe he has a shot at it again.

GASSIOTT: So, Scott, those supporters in the room, they are ready to get behind Trump again in 2024.

SIMON: Troy Public Radio's Kyle Gassiott, thanks so much.

GASSIOTT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Kyle Gassiott
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