Donald Trump returned to Washington on Tuesday for the first time since leaving the White House 18 months ago, with a fiery speech sprinkled with strong hints that he could run for president again in 2024.
Trump, 76, has stopped announcing his candidacy but explained what he believes should be priorities for the “next Republican president.”
“I always say I ran the first time and won, then I ran a second time and did much better,” Trump said. “Maybe we should just do it again. We need to straighten our country.
“I look forward to revealing many more details in the coming weeks and months.”
Hours before Trump took the stage at the right-wing America First Policy Institute, his former vice president, Mike Pence, who is also considering going to the White House in 2024, addressed another conservative audience in Washington.
Speaking at the Young America’s Foundation conference, Pence said Americans should look to the future, not the past, and downplay their disagreements with Trump.
“Elections are about the future,” Pence said. “I came today not to look back, but to look ahead.
“I don’t know if the president and I disagree on certain issues,” he said. “But we can differ in focus.”
Trump’s 90-minute speech to the conservative America First Policy Institute echoed many of the themes of his victorious 2016 campaign, including illegal immigration and crime.
Trump reiterated his false claims that he had won the 2020 election and denounced the House Committee’s investigation into the January 6 attack on the Capitol by his supporters as the work of “political hacks and thugs.”
“If I renounced my faith, if I agreed to remain silent, if I stayed at home and took it easy, the persecution of Donald Trump would stop immediately,” he said. “But that’s not what I’ll do. I can not do that.
“They really want to harm me so that I can’t work for you anymore,” he said.
“And I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he added, urging the crowd of “Four years!”
– ‘cesspool of crime’ –
Trump repeatedly lashed out at Democratic President Joe Biden, accusing him of the country’s ills.
“We are a nation in decline,” he said. “We are a failing nation.”
“Inflation is the highest in 49 years,” Trump said. “Gas prices have reached the highest in our country’s history.”
He accused Biden of allowing an “invasion” by millions of migrants crossing the southern border.
“Other countries are now happy to send all their criminals to the United States through our open border,” he said.
“The next Republican president must immediately implement every aspect of the Trump agenda that has reached the safest border in history,” he said.
Trump said the United States is “now a cesspool of crime”.
“We have blood, death and suffering on a scale that was once unimaginable,” he said. “Democrat-led cities set all-time murder records.”
He accused Biden of “surrendering in Afghanistan” and allowing Russia to invade Ukraine.
“It would never, ever have happened if I were your Commander in Chief,” he said.
Since taking his last Air Force One flight from Washington to Florida on January 20 last year, Trump has remained the country’s most polarizing figure, continuing his unprecedented campaign to cast doubt on his 2020 election loss to Biden.
For weeks, Washington has been gripped by congressional hearings over the January 6 storming of the Capitol by a Trump mob and his efforts to reverse the election.
With Biden’s approval rating currently below 40 percent and Democrats projected to lose control of Congress in the November midterm elections, Trump is apparently optimistic he could ride the Republican wave all the way to the White House in 2024.
On the Democratic side, the anger at Trump is also fueling energy in the run-up to the midterms.
The House committee hearings have provided evidence that Trump was overseeing nothing less than an attempt to break American democracy, first by attempting to manipulate electoral procedures behind the scenes and finally by encouraging a mob to sue lawmakers. to fall confirming his loss.
Faced with the rumor that at age 79 he is too old to think about running for a second term in 2024, Biden says the specter of a new Trump candidacy is one of his main motivations for running again.
Addressing his predecessor after Trump’s speech, the president tweeted, “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think inciting a mob attacking a police officer is ‘respect for the law’.”
“You can’t be pro-insurgency and pro-cop — or pro-democracy, or pro-American,” Biden added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)