WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump returned to Washington on Saturday for rallies to back his desperate efforts to subvert the election that he lost to Joe Biden. They cheered as Trump flew overhead on the Marine One helicopter on his way out of town for the Army-Navy football game in West Point, New York.
The rallies are intended as a show of force just two days before the Electoral College meets to formally elect Biden as the 46th president. Trump, whose term will end Jan. 20, refuses to concede, while clinging to baseless claims of fraud that have been rejected by state and federal courts, and Friday by the Supreme Court.
Trump tweeted his apparent surprise Saturday morning at the rallies, publicly known for weeks: “Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA”
Trump left the White House around midday for the trip to the U.S. Military Academy, and as Marine One passed over the rally on the National Mall, cheers went up.
Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser recently pardoned by Trump, was speaking from the stage at the time.
“That’s pretty cool. Imagine just being able to jump in a helicopter and just go for a joy ride around Washington,” said Flynn, whose pardon wiped away his conviction for lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation.
At a pro-Trump demonstration in Washington a month ago, Trump thrilled supporters when he passed by in his motorcade en route o his Virginia golf club.
That demonstration, which drew at least 10,000 people to the capital, ended with scattered clashes between Trump’s loyalists and local activists near Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House.
The gathering on the National Mall, called the “Jericho March,” was described on its website as a “prayer rally” with speakers “praying for the walls of corruption and election fraud to fall down.”
A separate rally was taking place on Freedom Plaza downtown. The organizers seemed intent on avoiding confrontations, telling demonstrators to avoid certain hotels and marking off large chunks of downtown Washington as a “no-go zone.”
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.