Former President Trump lashed into President Biden and his own Republican critics on Sunday during his first major address since leaving office as he looks to leave a permanent stamp on the GOP amid speculation he will run again in 2024.
“We all knew that the Biden administration was going to be bad, but none of us even imagined just how bad they would be and how far left they would go,” Trump told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla.
In a speech that lasted well over an hour, Trump tore into Biden’s fledgling presidency by hitting him over topics ranging from immigration to the pandemic to trade to transgender rights. He labeled Biden’s administration as “anti-jobs, anti-family, anti-borders, anti-energy, anti-women and anti-science.”
The address in particular mirrored Trump’s first speech as a presidential candidate in 2015 in its heavy emphasis on immigration and the border.
“They may be killers. They may be rapists. They may be drug smugglers. You take them, and you release them into our country,” he said, referring to undocumented migrants.
Trump also took aim at Biden’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, taking credit for the vaccine distribution in the U.S.
“I handed the new administration a modern-day medical miracle,” he said, referring to the vaccine.
“I pushed the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] like they have never been pushed before,” he continued. “They have never been pushed like I pushed them. I didn’t like them at all, but once we got it done, I said, ‘I now love you very much.’”
Trump also hit on hot-button conservative issues, including moves to allow transgender females to participate in female sports.
“What coach wants to recruit a young woman if her record could be easily broken by someone who was born a man?” he said. “I think it’s crazy. We must protect the integrity of women’s sports.”
Trump used the opportunity to continue to falsely say multiple times that he won the 2020 presidential election while calling for implementing further voting restrictions. At one point, his comments on the 2020 election elicited chants of “you won” from the crowd.
The address comes amid a deepening rift in the Republican Party. The former president, who was lavished with praise and adoration during the four-day event in Orlando, looks to tighten his grip on a party that has seen its internal divisions spill out into plain view after the events of Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Trump used his speech at CPAC to publicly target his GOP critics, name-checking Republicans who supported his impeachment, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah).
He took particular aim at House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), who said earlier this week that Trump should not be in a position to lead the party.
“And the warmonger, the person who loves seeing our troops fighting, Liz Cheney,” Trump said. “Hopefully they’ll get rid of her with the next election. Get rid of ’em all.”
“If Republicans do not stick together, the RINOs [Republicans in name only] that we’re surrounded with will destroy the Republican Party,” he added.
Prior to his speech, Trump won the CPAC straw poll, with 55 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him in a hypothetical 2024 GOP primary.
The former president also ruled out starting a new party, saying there was no reason to split GOP votes. “We will be united and strong like never before,” Trump said.
The event in Orlando underscored just how strong Trump’s influence remains in the GOP as the party looks to regain majorities in the House and Senate in 2022.
“Trumpism means strong borders,” Trump said. “It means law enforcement. It means very strong protection for the Second Amendment.”
“It means support for the forgotten men and women who have been taken advantage of for so many years,” he continued.
And Trump did not rule out running again in 2024. He repeatedly teased the possibility throughout his speech, drawing loud cheers cheers from the crowd.
“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,” he said at the end of his address to a boisterous ovation.