Trump rules out starting new party in speech attacking Biden presidency
Former president addresses conservative conference in first public appearance since leaving office
Arriving on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, Mr Trump asked the crowd: “Do you miss me yet? Do you miss me?” prompting cheers of “USA, USA”.
Mr Trump launched into a lengthy address which touched on many of the themes of his two election campaigns and his presidency, and repeated allegations of election fraud.
“We have a very sick and corrupt election process. This election was rigged, and the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it,” he said, stating that the Supreme Court “should be ashamed of themselves”.
Mr Trump claimed that election rules “were illegally changed in the last minute” in several states.
Noting that he received almost 75 million votes, he said: “How is the hell is it possible we lost? What the hell happened? What happened when they closed all the polling booths? What happened at 3 o clock in the morning?”
Mr Trump also lambasted Republicans who had voted against him in the impeachment process, name-checking figures like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney. “Get rid of them all,” he said, adding: “I will be actively working to elect strong, tough and smart Republican leaders.”
Much of his speech was an attack on his successor, Joe Biden. “We all knew that the Biden administration would be bad but none of us even imagined how bad they would be and how far left they would go,” he said.
Mr Biden “has had the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history”, he continued, accusing him of being “anti-jobs, anti-family, anti-borders, anti-energy, anti-women and anti-science”.
“In just one short month we have gone from America First to America last,” he said, charging the Biden administration with “betraying the American people”.
Amid much speculation about Mr Trump’s plans, the former president said he would not be forming a new political party. “I am not starting a new party. That was fake news,” he said, asserting that such a move would divide the Republican vote.
Instead, he suggested that he would shape the Republican party from the inside.
“We will be united and strong like never before,” he said. “We will fight the onslaught of radicalism, socialism.
“I want you to know that I am going to continue to fight right by your side.
“Be in no doubt we will be victorious and America will be stronger and greater than ever before.”
Predicting that Democrats will “lose the White House decisively four years from now”, Mr Trump also hinted at a political comeback himself in 2024.
“Who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time,” he said, implying that he won last year’s presidential election, when in fact he lost the popular and electoral college vote.
Much of his speech focused on immigration – a key focus of his first presidential campaign.
“Joe Biden has triggered a massive flood of illegal immigration the likes of which we have never seen before,” he declared, accusing the Biden administration of “luring everybody” to come to America through his reversal of many of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
“They are coming by the tens of thousands, by the millions they’ll be coming,” he added, harking back to claims he made repeatedly during his time in office that countries are “not sending their best”.
“They may be killers, they may be rapists, they may be drug smugglers, you take them and you release them into our country.”
Pointing to Mr Biden’s proposed immigration reform package, Mr Trump said the new president was prepared to give amnesty to immigrants and expand chain migration – the process which sees relatives of immigrants move to America to join their family.
Mr Trump also focused on Covid-19, accusing the new administration of taking credit for many of the policies he initiated during his presidency, including Operation Warp Speed, the vaccination rollout plan.
He condemned the Biden administration’s handling of the debate around school reopenings, accusing the president of being in thrall to the teachers’ unions.
On foreign policy, he took aim at Mr Biden’s decisions to date, claiming that if he was in the White House “we would have had a deal with Iran within the first week” of his second term. He defended his decision to pull out of the World Health Organisation (WHO), a move that was reversed by his successor.
Mr Trump also touched on divisive issues such as transgender rights. Women in sport are now being forced to compete with “biological males”, he said. “If this is not changed, women’s sports as we know it will die, will end.”
Mr Trump was speaking on the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual Republican meeting which took place this year in Orlando.
The decision by a former president to take aim at his successor in such a public forum just weeks after leaving office is highly unusual.
Last night’s address marked the first major public appearance by Mr Trump since leaving office on January 20th. He has been staying at his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Florida, where he has hosted various members of the Republican party in recent weeks for discussions about the party’s future.