Trump cancels Iowa rally over tornado threat and tells supporters to seek shelter

Donald Trump has been forced to cancel his rally scheduled for Saturday evening in Iowa due to expected severe weather and a tornado threat.

By mid-afternoon, a tornado watch was in effect from the eastern side of the state to the western side with De Moines at the centre.

At 3.30pm ET the former president posted on Truth Social: “Tornado Watch in Iowa. For safety of our great Patriots, we have been asked to delay or cancel today’s sold out Rally.”

He added: “I am near the Palm Beach Airport, ready to go, but we are on hold because of the very bad weather in Iowa. Please Seek Shelter or Safe Haven!”

Mr Trump’s next post, 15 minutes later, read: “Unfortunately, due to the Tornado Warnings in Des Moines, we are forced to cancel today’s outdoor Rally at the Lauridsen Amphitheater. Stay tuned, we will reschedule soon. Be safe out there!”

The former president was due to share the spotlight with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in Iowa on Saturday, providing a chance to sway influential conservative activists and contrast their campaign styles in Republicans’ leadoff voting state.

Mr DeSantis, expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign any day, is set to wade into Iowa’s hand-to-hand politicking at a congressman’s annual picnic and an Iowa Republican Party fundraiser, while Mr Trump, a candidate since November, hoped to show strength with an outdoor rally with supporters.

Although the two men will be hours away from each other, the split-screen moment in Iowa is a first for the two national Republican powerhouses. It’s an early preview of a match-up between the former president, well ahead of his party rivals in early national polls, and Mr DeSantis, who is viewed widely as his strongest potential challenger.

It will be Mr DeSantis’ first trip to the early testing ground since the Florida legislature adjourned last week after spending months delivering the governor a conservative agenda that he’s expected to tout once he announces his campaign.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, will be returning to the comfort of the campaign stage after a tumultuous week. On Tuesday, a civil jury in New York found him liable for sexually abusing and defaming advice columnist E Jean Carroll and awarded her $5m.

A day later, during a contentious CNN town hall, he repeatedly insulted Ms Carroll, reasserted lies about his 2020 election loss and minimised the violence at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.

Associated Press contributed to this report