Donald Trump has described the numerous investigations into his behaviour as “something straight out of the Stalinist Russia horror show”.
Mr Trump was speaking in Waco, Texas, at his first election rally on Saturday as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination.
He has a number of legal threats hanging over him, including allegations of campaign finance violations and of mishandling top-secret documents.
He said: “From the beginning it has been one witch-hunt and phony investigation after another.”
Mr Trump’s visit to Waco came 30 years after a raid by federal agents on the Branch Davidians religious cult.
Eighty-six people died that day, including four law enforcement officers.
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign said Waco was chosen because it sits between several major population centres and has the infrastructure to host a large event.
But critics would say that the choice was a nod to Mr Trump’s far-right supporters, many of whom see the raid as an example of government over-reach.
Mr Trump’s speech had many of his usual themes – he blamed immigrants for a number of the country’s problems, insisted he could return the US economy to its previous levels, promised to save his country from “World War Three”, and repeated his false claims that his election loss in 2020 was due to a fraud orchestrated by the Democrats.
He had opened the rally by playing a song – Justice For All – featuring a choir of men imprisoned for their role in the 6 January 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol singing the national anthem and a recording of himself reciting the Pledge Of Allegiance.
Footage from the insurrection was also shown on big screens.
Mr Trump told the crowd that his enemies “are desperate to stop us”, and “our opponents have done everything they can to crush our spirit and to break our will”.
“But they failed,” he added.
“They’ve only made us stronger.
“And 2024 is the final battle.
“It’s going to be the big one.
“You put me back in the White House, their reign will be over and America will be a free nation once again.”
The 76-year-old claimed that some American politicians are a bigger threat to the US than China or Russia, and said that “demonic forces” are trying to destroy the country and that it risks falling into a “lawless abyss”.
“Either the deep state destroys America or we destroy the deep state,” he said.
Mr Trump faces tough competition for his party’s nomination, with a potential challenge from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
On Saturday, he tried to play down the chances of his possible rival, saying: “I’m not a big fan”, and “Florida has been tremendously successful for many years, long before this guy [DeSantis] became governor”.
Mr Trump is being investigated by prosecutors in Manhattan for campaign finance violations following his alleged payment of hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.
Last week he warned of possible “death and destruction” if he is indicted on the matter.
A special counsel is also investigating allegations that he hoarded top-secret documents and that he was behind a plot seeking to overturn the 2020 election.