In his first public speech Sunday since leaving office, former U.S. President Donald Trump assailed Joe Biden’ leadership as president so far, vowed to further unite and strengthen the Republican Party and hinted at a possible presidential run in 2024.
Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, Trump claimed that the Biden administration “has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history,” labeling the Biden administration as “anti-jobs, anti-family, anti-borders, anti-energy, anti-women and anti-science.”
Pointing specifically to what he said was his successor’s “immoral” immigration policies, Trump said Biden’s decision to halt the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border triggered “a self-inflicted humanitarian and national security disaster.”
The former president urged Biden to “get the schools open right now,” even at a time when how to safely reopen schools is still a subject of heated debate and when the country is facing potentially more lethal coronavirus variants.
He also took credit for the current vaccine rollout, saying what the Biden administration has been doing is to build upon his administration’s legacy. “Never let them forget this was us. We did this,” Trump said of the Biden administration, which upon assuming office complained about having to start from scratch with regard to vaccine development.
Trump targeted an array of Biden’s foreign policy initiatives, including the ones on the Middle East, rejoining the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, as well as lifting the international travel bans that Trump put in place.
On Biden’s pivot to clean energy, the 45th president, who oftentimes stressed his support for the fossil fuel industry, said Biden favors “windmills” over traditional energy and would lead the country from energy dominance to disaster.
The CPAC has always been a friendly venue for the former president, and the unveiling of a golden statue of Trump’s likeness as well as the enthusiastic, almost entirely maskless crowd cheering for him while he spoke showed that this year’s event was anything but a rational reassessment of Trump’s dominant role in the Republican Party.
Amid rumors that Trump planned to create a new political party after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that he was accused of inciting, the former president told his ardent supporters at the Hyatt hotel: “We are not starting new parties, and we will not be dividing our power and our strength. Instead, we will be united and strong like never before.”
Predicting the Democrats would lose in the 2024 election, Trump said, “I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” an assertion not only hinting at another presidential run in the next election cycle, but also doubling down on the false claim that had it not been for the widespread voter fraud, he should have won the 2020 election. The only election Trump won was the one in 2016.
Trump in his speech reiterated that the election was “rigged” and accused the courts of not doing anything about it, calling on Republicans to waste no time in pushing for comprehensive election reforms. The audience chanted “you won, you won” when Trump falsely insisted that he, not Biden, won the 2020 election.
Trump later turned his ire toward Republicans who voted to impeach and convict him like Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Senator Mitt Romney, calling for their removal from the party. Meanwhile, he praised some of his most loyal congressional allies, calling out Congressman Jim Jordan, who was in attendance and who earlier in the day expressed the hope that Trump would run for president in 2024.
The former president’s remarks came at a time of deepening rift within the Republican Party, as 10 GOP House members voted to impeach him in January and seven senators from the Trump’s own party voted to convict him in February, making the impeachment proceedings the most bipartisan in history.”If Republicans do not stick together, the RINOs (Republicans in name only) that we’re surrounded with will destroy the Republican Party,” Trump said.
Still, Trump’s grip on the party seemed steadfast, as the CPAC straw poll result released ahead of his speech showed 55 percent of attendees preferred him being their nominee for president in 2024.And Mitch McConnell, who delivered a blistering speech against Trump after the Senate acquittal, recently backed down, saying he would “absolutely” support the former president if the latter becomes the GOP presidential nominee in 2024.
To further agitate his supporters, Trump ended the speech by letting the crowd guess who other than him is more qualified for being on the Republican presidential ticket in 2024.”We will first take back the House, and then Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House. I wonder who that will be?” he asked the crowd, from whom he received a boisterous standing ovation.