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Trump calls Biden the 'destroyer' of democracy despite his own efforts to overturn 2020 election

Former U.S. president Donald Trump waves to a crowd as he leaves a Commit to Caucus rally, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Ankeny, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney) Former U.S. president Donald Trump waves to a crowd as he leaves a Commit to Caucus rally, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Ankeny, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -

Former U.S. president Donald Trump on Saturday attempted to turn the tables on his likely rival in November, President Joe Biden, arguing that the man whose election victory Trump tried to overturn is "the destroyer of American democracy."

Trump's allegations about Biden, a Democrat, echo the ones that Biden has been making for years against his predecessor. As Trump has dominated the Republican presidential primary and talked about targeting his rivals and the news media if he wins the White House again, Biden has stepped up his own warnings, contending Trump is " determined to destroy American democracy."

On Saturday, Trump made his most explicit argument to date on why voters should instead see his rival as the bigger democratic threat. Trump repeated his longstanding contention that the four criminal indictments against him show Biden is misusing the federal justice system against his rival.

"He's been weaponizing government against his political opponents like a Third World political tyrant," Trump said to a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "Biden and his radical left allies like to pose as standing up as allies of democracy," Trump continued, arguing: "Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy, Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy."

Ammar Moussa, a Biden campaign spokesman, responded: "Donald Trump's America in 2025 is one where the government is his personal weapon to lock up his political enemies. You don't have to take our word for it -- Trump has admitted it himself."

Trump has long promised to prosecute Biden in retaliation should he return to the White House. On Saturday, though, the former president extended his arguments about Biden's threat to democracy to lawsuits filed by two liberal organizations seeking to rule him ineligible for office under a rarely used Civil War-era constitutional provision that prohibits those who "engaged in insurrection" from returning to office.

All of the suits to date have failed. Biden has no involvement in them, but Democratic donors who back him also help fund the liberal groups filing the claims. That's led Trump to blame them on the president, whom he contended had "defaced the Constitution" in trying to block him.

And the former president, who has a long history of speaking warmly about authoritarian leaders and sometimes echoing their rhetoric, seemed aware of criticisms against him. "Americans don't like fascists," Trump said. He praised Chinese President Xi Jinping and China's criminal justice system for swiftly executing drug dealers, and boasted that North Korean President Kim Jong Un likes him.

But Trump noted he was often attacked for these relationships and tried to defend them. "It's good to have a good relationship with people who have nuclear weapons," he said.

Throughout the speech, Trump repeated his arguments the 2020 presidential election that he lost was "stolen" and that U.S. elections in general are "rigged." There is no evidence that the 2020 election was stolen. Dozens of lawsuits were dismissed by courts and government and independent reviews have not found enough alleged fraud to throw the outcome into question.

Trump supporters would attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to try to stop the certification of Trump's loss to Biden. On Saturday, Trump continued his practice of referring to some of those arrested in connection with the riot as "political prisoners."

Earlier in the day, at a rally in Ankeny, Iowa, Trump returned to allegations of Democratic election fraud, one of his favorite themes on the campaign trail. He told the crowd to "guard the vote" in 2024, and focused on diverse cities he has often denigrated as examples of places where fraud would happen.

"You should go into Detroit and you should go into Philadelphia and you should go into some of these places, Atlanta, and you should go into some of these places and we've got to watch those votes when they come in," Trump told his supporters.

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Riccardi reported from Denver.

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