Trump returns to a sweltering, welcoming South Carolina for first time since indictments

Former President Donald Trump played his own greatest hits reel at the start of a sweltering Independence Day weekend in the South Carolina Upstate, as the 2024 presidential candidate hit familiar refrains ranging from election fraud to border security to his recent criminal indictments in front of a crowd of thousands Saturday in Pickens.

It was Trump’s first visit to South Carolina since January and his first since a pair of indictments have clouded the former president and current 2024 GOP front-runner’s presidential campaign.

Flocking to the heart of the small Upstate town hours ahead of the afternoon rally and Independence Day celebration, the large crowd wasn’t pleased to welcome everyone to the Trump rally stage. Resounding “boos” greeted South Carolina’s senior U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, an Upstate native, as he preceded Trump.

“Alright, thank y’all. Thank y’all very much,” Graham said as boos echoed across the crowd.

Graham has often stood as an avid supporter of Trump, though sometimes critical. In 2015, when Graham himself made a run for president, he notoriously said, “You know how you make America great again?” Graham asked in 2015. “Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”

A woman in the crowd Saturday said Graham’s “time was up,” as senator and that he was “a traitor.”

The crowd stretched back three blocks of Pickens’ Main Street, lined with food trucks, lemonade and drink stands. Outside the rally, the main stretch of town was blocked off with tents selling t-shirts, flags and Trump merchandise. The former president spoke a few minutes after 1 p.m. after a lineup of his supporters including S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, spoke.

Former President Donald Trump hosts a campaign event in Pickens, South Carolina on Saturday, July 1, 2023.

Doors opened at 9 a.m., but some, such as Tammy Milligan, a 58-year-old semi-retired property manager from Myrtle Beach, arrived much earlier.

Milligan arrived in Pickens the day before the rally. She met her friends at 3 a.m. the morning of the event and got in the line at 5 a.m.

She was wearing a Wonder Woman outfit decked out with a red cape and Trump flag embedded into it, as well as Trump-themed pins across a corset and skirt. She said it was good to see people “get out and stand for God and for what’s good in the world.”

“Who don’t want to come see our great President Donald J. Trump?” Milligan said. “Most importantly, he stands for our God-given rights.”

Milligan said she believed Trump was the most pro-life president in history. She also said the recent charges against him — stemming from a hush-money investigation in New York and an investigation into the handling of classified documents at his Florida residence — were a distraction for “everything going on behind the scenes.”

Out of the gate, Trump’s speech focused on the indictment against him for retaining federal documents and conspiracy to hide them, telling the crowd he had every right to have the documents, “an absolute right to have them.”

“They decided only to come after me, it’s an amazing thing,” Trump told the crowd