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

PALM BEACH, FL — Donald Trump compared President Joe Biden‘s government to Nazi Germany’s secret police in remarks at a closed-door donor retreat on Saturday afternoon.

The former president’s comments came as he spoke about his legal troubles, attacking prosecutors in the cases and lamenting the recent charges in Arizona against several of his former top aides, along with 11 so-called fake voters from the 2020 election .

“These people are running a Gestapo administration,” Trump said, according to audio of the lunch provided to NBC News. “And it’s the only thing they have. And they think this is the only way they can win.”

“Once I was 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 is downright incompetent. He’s crooked as hell. He is the Manchurian candidate, he accepts huge amounts of money from China, Russia, Ukraine and many other countries. He is a fraud.”

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

“If you care too much, you tend to suffocate. And in a way I don’t care. Just so you know, life is life,” he said.

He did admit that he was surprised when he was charged.

“Once I got indicted, I said, ‘Holy…, I just got indicted. Me. I was indicted,” Trump said.

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

The Biden campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

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

The former president has had little time to campaign because he had to spend four days a week in a Manhattan courtroom for his criminal trial there in connection with hush money payments to an adult film star around the 2016 election.

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

Trump has yet to get past the initial stages of vetting a running mate, as NBC News has reported. The top candidates have not yet received detailed questionnaires or other requests for information to enable a shortlist to be compiled.

At the luncheon, Trump brought all of these guests on stage — except Noem, who left early, according to two attendees — along with several other elected officials, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

“Towards the end, there were a lot of people on stage,” a Republican source who attended the luncheon told NBC News.

According to the audio recording, Trump praised Stefanik for her role in challenging former Harvard University President Claudine Gay, who resigned after coming under scrutiny for testimony she gave during a congressional hearing on anti-Semitism on campus and after accusations 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 was a prominent Trump critic in 2016 while promoting his memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” “proved incredible,” the former president said. The senator will hold a fundraiser with Trump in Ohio this month.

“You know he was not a supporter of mine,” Trump said of Vance. “He said things like, ‘That man is a total disaster!'”

Scott, whose campaign for the Republican Party nomination failed before the Iowa caucuses, “has done a good job,” Trump said. “But as a surrogate, He is incredible.”

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

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

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

Burgum, a former software entrepreneur who became the first of Trump’s high-profile rivals to endorse him, drew critical acclaim 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 is really impressive.’”

Trump also offered a shoutout to Noem, though she didn’t make it to the podium, calling the South Dakota governor — who has been under fire since revealing in a forthcoming book that she shot and killed a family dog ​​— “someone who I love. ”

“She has been with me and is a supporter, and I have been a supporter of hers for a long time,” Trump added.

Trump also said he would let anyone who donated $1 million on the spot take the stage. Two people took him up on the offer, including one woman who declared, “Donald J. Trump is the person God chose.”

Dasha Burns, Abigail Brooks and Olympia Sonnier report from Palm Beach, Florida; Henry J. Gomez of Cleveland; and Amanda Terkel from Washington, D.C. Alec Hernández and Nnamdi Egwuonwu are in Palm Beach.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com