Former President Donald Trump made his first public appearance Sunday since leaving the White House and it was back to basics. Prior to his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference many speculated whether Trump would criticize the Republican Party as a whole. But in the end, Trump said he wants a united GOP, vowed he wouldn’t start a new party and really went back to his roots, spending lots of time blasting immigrants, raising fears about refugees, and focusing on the need for a border wall. Like in the campaign, he praised himself as a masterful dealmaker while he harshly criticized President Joe Biden, and continued to insist he won the election. Notably absent from his speech was any comment about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot nor his second impeachment trial.
“Do you miss me yet?” Trump said when he took the stage at the beginning of a speech that went on for an hour and a half. “I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we begun together … is far from being over.” Trump quickly got out of the way that “we’re not starting new parties.” He also made clear he would be playing a role in the midterm elections and said he is considering running for president again, using the phrase “Trumpism” for the first time. “They just lost the White House,” Trump said. “But who knows, who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time.”
The comment was an example of how Trump filled his speech with baseless claims about how he the presidential election was stolen from him. “We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process,” he said. The crowd was definitely in agreement with Trump’s false narrative. “You won! You won!” CPAC attendees chanted. A straw poll of CPAC attendees released shortly before Trump spoke showed that 68 percent wanted the former president to run again.
Trump also spent lots of time blasting Biden, who he said had “the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history.” He accused Biden of lying to his voters about what he would do once in office. “In just one short month we have gone from America first to America last,” Trump said. He spent lots of time focusing on Biden’s immigration policies, claiming he has ushered in a “new and horrible crisis on our southern border.” The harsh criticism was unusual in historical terms considering that presidents usually stay mum on their successors at least for a little while after leaving office.
Even though Trump said he wanted a united GOP, he made clear there were certain Republicans he didn’t want as part of the party. In one section of the speech, Trump read off the names of all the Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of his impeachment. He called on his supporters to make sure they lost in the next election. “Get rid of them all,” he said.