Former President Donald Trump teased a possible 2024 run and bashed the Biden administration at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday as he delivered his first public speech since leaving the White House less than six weeks ago.
Trump was greeted with a standing ovation as he took the stage in Orlando to declare that “our movement … is just getting started.”
“I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we began together four years ago is far from over,” Trump told the enthusiastic crowd.
“Our movement of proud hardworking American patriots is just getting started,” he said. “And in the end we will win!”
While making clear that he intends to remain a force in the Republican party, Trump hinted at a possible 2024 run for president.
Referring to Democrats, he said: “I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” drawing deafening cheers from attendees.
Trump also said he would be working to get “strong, tough” Republicans elected and slammed rumors that he planned on starting a new political party as “fake news.”
“We have the Republican Party,” Trump said. “It is going to unite and be stronger than ever before.”
“We’re not starting new parties. You know, they kept saying, ‘he’s going to start a brand new party.’ We have the Republican Party, it is going to unite and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party. That was fake news. Fake news. No. Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Let’s start a new party and let’s divide our vote, so that you can never win. No we’re not interested in that.”
Trump later repeated his claims that the 2020 election was “rigged,” drawing chants of “You won!” from the crowd.
He claimed that the US Supreme Court “didn’t have the courage to act” on lawsuits challenging the results, adding: “They should be ashamed of themselves for what they’ve done to our country. They didn’t have the guts or the courage to make the right decision.”
He also took shots at his successor, claiming that President Biden has had the “most disastrous first month than any president in modern history.”
“We all knew the Biden administration was going to be bad, but no one knew how bad they would be,” Trump said.
“There’s no better example than the new and horrible crisis on our southern border,” he continued. “In just one short month, we have gone from America first to America last.”
Trump argued that Biden’s immigration policy would cost Democrats the next two federal elections.
“We’re one country. We can’t afford the problems of the world,” he said. “As much as we’d love to — we’d love to help. We can’t do that. So they’re all coming because of promises and foolish words.”
The ex-president also called for reopening the nation’s schools amid the pandemic, charging that Biden had “sold out America’s students to the teachers unions.”
“Joe Biden has shamefully betrayed America’s youth, and he is cruelly keeping our children locked in their homes, no reason for it whatsoever, they want to get out,” Trump said.
“They are cheating the next generation of Americans out of the future that they deserve and they do deserve this future,” he continued. “They’re going to grow up, and they’re going to have a scar… the mental and physical health of these young people is reaching a breaking point.”
“On behalf of the moms, dads and children of America, I call on Joe Biden to get the schools open and get them open now,” Trump said, to applause.
He also touted his administration’s work in getting a coronavirus vaccine ready, saying: “Never let them take the credit, they’re just following our plan.”
Trump bashed the Biden administration over claims that it was “starting from scratch” to develop a national vaccine distribution plan because the former president had left them with nothing.
“Biden said we didn’t have the vaccine. Now, I really think he said that because he didn’t know what the hell was going on,” Trump quipped.
He also slammed “big tech,” calling on the break up of monopolies and for “fair competition” to be restored.
“Big Tech giants like Twitter, Google and Facebook should be punished with major sanctions whenever they silence conservative voices,” Trump said.
Trump returned to the national spotlight to cap the four-day annual conference in Orlando as Republicans hope to regain majorities in the House and Senate in the midterm elections 2022 and win the White House in 2024.
He used his speech to unify Republicans, while slamming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats, saying that “Their party is based upon unvarnished disdain for America.”
“Our party is based on love for American and the belief that this is an exceptional nation blessed by God.”
“We respect our great American flag!” Trump said, drawing a prolonged chant of “We love you” from the audience.
The ex-president said it was “an honor” to get the crowd’s adoration, before continuing to describe the GOP as “committed to defending innocent life and uploading the Judeo-Christian values” of America’s founders.
“We embrace free thought.. and we reject left-wing lunacy and in particular, we reject ‘cancel culture,’” he said. “We believe in law and order… we don’t ‘defund the police.”
He also noted the rise of the term “Trumpism,” saying, “I didn’t come up with it but what it means is great deals,” as well as low taxes, strong borders, Second Amendment protections and “support for the forgotten men and women who have been taken advantage of for so many years.”
At the same time, the former president went after anti-Trump Republicans, calling out the “grandstanding” lawmakers by name, including many who voted to impeach him in the House and Senate.
“Top establishment Republicans in Washington should be spending their energy in opposing Biden, Pelosi, Schumer and the Democrats,” Trump said. “I’ve said to some of them I said, ‘You know, during the Obama years and now during Biden, if you spent the same energy on attacking them, you’d actually be successful as you do on attacking me in many cases.’”
Trump dubbed GOP lawmakers who oppose him “RINOs” or “Republicans in Name Only” as the crowd booed them in turn.
“Get rid of them all,” Trump said.
He pointed out his endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, eliciting more loud boos from the crowd.
“Democrats always stick together, you don’t have Mitt Romneys in the group. Fortunately for the Republicans, the Democrats have terrible policies,” Trump said. “So hence we have, congratulations, the Republican party.”
“But if Republicans don’t stick together, the RINOs that we’re surrounded with will destroy the Republican party and the American worker and will destroy our country itself.”
“Now more than ever is the time for tough, strong and energetic Republican leaders who have spines of steel. We need strong leadership,” Trump said.
Leading up to Trump’s eagerly-awaited remarks, a parade of possible Republican presidential hopefuls — including Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz — served as opening acts over the weekend to fire up the CPAC crowd for the one-time commander-in-chief.
Since leaving office on Jan. 20, Trump has been at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, meeting with former campaign officials and Republican lawmakers as he lays the groundwork for a political comeback for himself and the GOP.
Trump ended his speech at CPAC by saying: “We will first take back the House and then a Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House. I wonder who that will be?”