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At a private donor event, Trump likens the Biden administration to the ‘Gestapo’

At a private donor event, Trump likens the Biden administration to the ‘Gestapo’

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump compared President Joe Biden’s administration to the secret police force of Nazi Germany in remarks at a private, closed-door donor retreat on Saturday afternoon.

The former president’s comments came as he was talking about his legal troubles, attacking the prosecutors in the cases and bemoaning the recent indictments in Arizona of several of his former top aides, along with 11 so-called fake electors from the 2020 election.

“These people are running a Gestapo administration,” Trump said, according to audio of the luncheon provided to NBC News. “And it’s the only thing they have. And it’s the only way they’re going to win in their opinion.”

“Once I got indicted, I said, well, now the gloves have to come off,” Trump added, saying Biden is “the worst president in the history of our country. He’s grossly incompetent. He’s crooked as hell. He’s the Manchurian candidate.”

The former president added that he doesn’t let his legal troubles bother him too much.

“If you care too much, you tend to choke. And in a way, I don’t care. It’s just you know, life is life,” he said.

He did admit, however, that he was surprised when he was indicted.

“Once I got indicted, I said, ‘Holy s—, I just got indicted. Me. I got indicted,’” Trump said.

He also called Jack Smith, the special counsel prosecuting two federal cases against Trump, an “evil thug” and “deranged.”

Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer slammed Trump and the retreat as underscoring that the former president’s campaign “is about him. His fury, his revenge, his lies, and his retribution.”

“Trump is once again making despicable and insulting comments about the Holocaust, while in the same breath attacking law enforcement, celebrating political violence, and threatening our democracy,” Singer added later in the statement.

Trump made his remarks at his Mar-a-Lago Club on Saturday afternoon, as hundreds of donors are gathered down here for the Republican National Committee’s spring retreat.

The former president has had limited time to campaign as he’s had to spend four days a week sitting in a Manhattan courtroom for his criminal trial there, related to hush money payments to an adult film star around the 2016 election.

Among the featured guests at the retreat this weekend are a number of potential vice presidential candidates, including Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

Trump has yet to move past the early stages of vetting a running mate, as NBC News has reported. Top contenders have not yet received detailed questionnaires or other requests for information to help finalize a shortlist.

At the luncheon, Trump brought all these guests onstage — except Noem, who left early, according to two people in attendance — along with a number of other elected officials, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

“By the end of it, there were a lot of people onstage,” one Republican source who attended the luncheon told NBC News.

Trump, according to the audio recording, praised Stefanik for her role in challenging former Harvard University President Claudine Gay, who resigned after facing scrutiny for testimony she gave at a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism and after allegations of plagiarism in her academic work.

“You destroyed her,” Trump said. “She did so well, everyone said … she’s going to be the vice presidential candidate.”

Vance, who had been a prominent Trump critic in 2016 while promoting his “Hillbilly Elegy” memoir, “turned out to be incredible,” the former president said. The senator is scheduled to hold a fundraiser with Trump this month in Ohio.

“You know he wasn’t a supporter of mine,” Trump said of Vance. “He was saying things like, ‘The guy’s a total disaster!’”

Scott, whose campaign for the GOP presidential nomination fizzled before the Iowa caucuses, “did a good job,” Trump said. “But as a surrogate He’s unbelievable.”

“And you know what he said to me? He said, ‘I never felt comfortable talking about myself.’ There’s something nice about that. It never bothered me to talk about me. I’m the opposite.”

Trump also acknowledged Rubio and Donalds, his potential VP picks from Florida, where he also resides. The Constitution prohibits electors from voting for both a president and a vice president from their own states.

Rubio, Trump said, is “a talented guy” and “absolutely” being considered, “even though we do have a little problem. It’s a minor Florida problem with these Florida guys, I have to be honest with you — including that guy right there, Byron.”

Burgum, a former software entrepreneur who became the first of Trump’s high-profile rivals to endorse him, drew raves for his personal wealth.

“He’s a very rich man, he’s made a lot of money,” Trump said. “I would always say, ‘That guy’s really impressive.’”

Trump also offered a shoutout to Noem, though she did not make it to the stage, calling the South Dakota governor — who has been under fire since revealing in a forthcoming book that she shot and killed a family dog — “somebody that I love.”

“She’s been with me, and a supporter, and I’ve been a supporter of hers for a long time,” Trump added.

Trump also said he’d allow anyone who donated $1 million on the spot to come up to the stage. Two people took him up on the offer, including one woman who declared: “Donald J. Trump is the person that God has chosen.”

Dasha Burns, Abigail Brooks and Olympia Sonnier reported from Palm Beach, Florida; Henry J. Gomez from Cleveland; and Amanda Terkel from Washington, D.C.

Dasha Burns

Dasha Burns is a correspondent for NBC News.

Abigail Brooks

Abigail Brooks is a producer for NBC News.

Olympia Sonnier

Olympia Sonnier is a field producer for NBC News. 

Henry J. Gomez

Henry J. Gomez is a senior national political reporter for NBC News.

Amanda Terkel

Amanda Terkel is politics managing editor for NBC News Digital.

Alec Hernández

,

Nnamdi Egwuonwu

,

Jonathan Allen

,

Lindsey Pipia

and

Megan Lebowitz

contributed

.

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