Trump weaves through legal questions and crowds at Iowa fair as new charges in Georgia loom

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As Donald Trump slowly moved through the crowd Saturday at the Iowa State Fair's Animal Learning Center building, he turned briefly to reporters, where he was asked if he intended "to overturn the 2020 election."

"You know the answer," Trump replied.

He looked into the camera before turning back to the crowd, where supporters donning red hats cheered and waited for him to approach.

The former president and 2024 Republican front-runner's visit to the Iowa State Fair aimed to trample upon any attention and momentum that several of his rivals, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, sought at the fair Saturday.

It also placed front and center roaring crowds in the first caucus state, many of whom remain loyal to Trump as he faces multiple criminal cases.

At almost every turn while he moved through the fairgrounds, Trump was asked about the 2020 presidential election and his legal battles. He faces a newly imposed order by a federal judge to not threaten witnesses in connection with the case and is expected to soon be indicted in a case in Georgia also relating to the 2020 election.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump waves to supporters at the Iowa Pork Producers tent during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump waves to supporters at the Iowa Pork Producers tent during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Trump, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges leveled against him, continued Saturday to flatly deny any wrongdoing by himself or his allies while still pushing unsupported claims about the 2020 election.

"I can tell you one thing: There was a lot of shenanigans going on with the elections," he told reporters in front of his private jet before leaving on Saturday afternoon. "A lot of bad things took place during that election."

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump steps off his plane at the Des Moines International Airport before his visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump steps off his plane at the Des Moines International Airport before his visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.

And he dismissed a question asking whether he would consider taking a plea deal, calling it a "wise-guy question" and declaring that "we don't take plea deals. … We did nothing wrong."

His former running mate, Mike Pence, also at the fair Saturday, told The Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network, that while he was vice president, "there was no point in time" that Trump "ever told me that he knew he had lost" the 2020 election. But he also maintained that Trump asked Pence to choose him over the U.S. Constitution.

2024 Iowa caucuses: Mike Pence can't recall any time where Trump said he knew he lost in 2020

Trump instead frequently pivoted to his support in Iowa − referencing his polling lead and his prior victories in the state (green hats were passed out to supporters declaring the Trump campaign "back-to-back Iowa champs"; he won Iowa in both 2016 and 2020's general elections but came in second place in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses).

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump reacts as he speaks to supporters during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump reacts as he speaks to supporters during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

His campaign ensured that signals of that support were loud and clear at the fair.

His jet flew over the fairgrounds Saturday morning, eliciting cheers from supporters on the ground as DeSantis finished flipping pork chops. Supporters were encouraged by the Trump campaign to meet at key locations more than an hour before the former president arrived, ensuring a high volume of red hats and MAGA flags as Trump's rivals wandered the grounds.

Before he boarded his jet to leave, he snapped photos alongside Iowa "super volunteers" who had knocked on doors and made calls for the campaign.

And above the fair flew a plane with a banner with a message mocking the Florida governor: "Be likeable, Ron!"

Still, symbols of support for his opponents shined through: When he left the Steer N Stein restaurant, several people holding red "DeSantis 2024" signs greeted him from the front of the crowd.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump greets former acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump greets former acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Trump, making his own fair schedule, declines to appear with Kim Reynolds and mocks Ron DeSantis

Trump's stop at the fair was unlike his rivals' visits. He shunned the year's mainstay events such as a conversation with Gov. Kim Reynolds in favor of his own schedule, leaving the grounds after just over an hour.

He hasy criticized Reynolds for staying neutral in the caucus process. Trump didn't directly answer when asked by the Register if he had spoken recently with the governor, instead referencing his previous visits with her. Reynolds didn't appear with Trump on Saturday.

"I have a very nice relationship with her," Trump said. "I got her elected, endorsed her. I came in and did a rally for her when she was very far behind."

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump greets Travis Klinefelter, of Dubuque, Iowa, at the Des Moines International Airport after a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump greets Travis Klinefelter, of Dubuque, Iowa, at the Des Moines International Airport after a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

2024 Iowa caucuses: Ron DeSantis says 'China is laughing at us' as protesters disrupt state fair speech

She did, however, appear with DeSantis, sitting for one of her "fair-side chats" with the governor as he spent the day at the fairgrounds. He attracted a standing-room-only crowd − though that went unacknowledged by the former president.

"He had a very small crowd," Trump said. "Only had a few people show up."

DeSantis and other candidates aiming to dethrone Trump will soon travel to Milwaukee for the first debate of the 2024 primary cycle. Asked by the Register on Saturday whether he'd attend, Trump remained noncommittal.

"It'll be interesting, won't it?" he said. "Do you think I should?"

Contributing: Brianne Pfannenstiel and Stephen Gruber-Miller

Galen Bacharier covers politics for the Register. Reach him at gbacharier@registermedia.com or (573) 219-7440, and follow him on Twitter @galenbacharier.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Trump weaves through crowds and legal questions as he visits Iowa fair