Trump returns to DC for the first time since leaving office to deliver a speech at a political summit

Trump called the House select committee investigating the attack — which has been holding high-profile hearings for weeks — the “non-select committee on political hacks and thugs.” He attacked Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois – the only two Republicans on the committee – by name and said the committee “really wants to hurt me so that I can’t go back to working for you anymore. “.

On policing, Trump specifically called for a “return to stop-and-frisk policies in cities,” arguing that cities shouldn’t “strip (police) of their liability shield of any way” and generally stated that the country should “give our police back their authority, resources, power and prestige.”

Trump mentioned 2024 in passing in the speech, nodding to his belief that the next Republican president must support his criminal justice plans, but only acknowledged his own ambitions when he pushed the lie that he had won his bid for a second term in 2020. He also did not mention some of the Republicans flirting with the race in 2024, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, who also appeared in Washington on Tuesday.

“I won a second time, I did a lot better a second time. I did a lot better. I did a lot better. Very corrupt. I always said that I ran the first time and I won. And then I ran a second time, and I did much better,” he said, pushing the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. “What a shame it was. But we may have to start over. We need to turn our country around.”

In another reference to lies surrounding the 2020 election, Trump argued that “the radical left’s anti-police narrative is a total lie.”

“Let’s call it the big lie,” he said, repeating what Democrats called Trump’s election lies. “Have you ever heard that expression before? The big lie.

Trump’s trip to DC also underscores his dramatic rift with former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump has publicly accused of refusing to attempt to overturn voters’ wills by rejecting electoral votes from key states.

Pence pushed back, saying earlier this year that “Trump is wrong” in saying he could overturn the results. In recent speeches, he urged Republicans to drop their 2020 grievances and offer a forward-looking platform. Pence was scheduled to speak at the Heritage Foundation in DC on Monday, but this the speech has been postponed after his flight was diverted due to weather conditions.

“We are a failing nation”

Much like his inauguration speech in 2017, Trump adopted an austere tone throughout the speech, painting a portrait of a country riddled with crime, drugs and homelessness.

“We are a failed nation,” Trump said.

“Dangerously deranged people roam our streets with impunity. We live in such a different country for one main reason: there is no more respect for law and there is certainly no more order. Our country is now a cesspool of crime,” Trump said. , sometimes mentioning high-profile crimes, many of which were widely covered by conservative media.

At one point, Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping’s treatment of drug traffickers, recalling a time when the Chinese president told him about “speedy trials” for drug criminals in China he has estimated sentenced in “two hours”.

“It sounds awful, doesn’t it? But those are the ones who have no problem. It doesn’t take 15 years in court. It goes fast,” Trump said, before approving a “sentence of very severe death”. for people who sell drugs”, which he has defended since he became president.

To fight crime, Trump has argued that the next president must bypass governors and deploy the National Guard and “go beyond the governor,” though Republicans often argue on behalf of state rights.

“When governors refuse to protect their people, we must provide what is necessary anyway,” Trump said, specifically saying that “the next president must send the National Guard to the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago until security can be restored”.

Trump also suggested that the federal government should build large tent cities on the outskirts of some of the nation’s largest urban centers and clean up current homeless camps. He said the government should “create thousands and thousands of high-quality tents” on the “edges of cities” and then bring in medical professionals, psychologists and psychiatrists to work with people.

Trump echoed Republican optimism that the 2022 midterm elections will be a bumper year for the party, telling the public he thinks the GOP is “on the brink of a historic midterm election. and has an “incredible opportunity” to enter 2022.

He added: “I’m here in front of you to start talking about what we need to do to realize that future when we win a triumphant victory in 2022 and when a Republican president takes over the White House in 2024, which I firmly believe, will happen.”

“That’s the Biggest Name”

Marc Lotter, the director of communications for the America First Policy Institute, told CNN over the weekend that they invited Trump to speak because he is “still the leader of the America First movement.”

“He’s the biggest name. He’s the visionary behind a lot of the policies that got him elected to the White House,” Lotter said. “And when you look at what’s happening in America right now, so many people are crying out for that kind of political leadership. They want cheap gas, rising wages, booming stock markets and not what we have right now.”

Trump allies told CNN they hoped the former president would use the speech to look ahead and focus on setting a Republican agenda before the midterms. While Trump has publicly teased a 2024 bid, aides and advisers have encouraged him to skip the 2020 election and focus on policy they believe could put him back in power, like the economy. , school programs and crime.

Tuesday’s speech made it clear that Trump has yet to change course. In a speech that was explicitly meant to be about crime, Trump devoted time to his 2020 election lies, Republicans he sees as disloyal, and attacking the Jan. 6 committee of inquiry. A source close to Trump expressed frustration ahead of the speech that the former president seemed unable to stop obsessing over the past, fearing it could hurt his chances in a 2024 presidential campaign.

This is nothing new for the former president.

Trump has used his recent speeches to continue airing those grievances in 2020. His campaign trail appearances ahead of November’s midterm elections have focused on endorsements from candidates who embraced his electoral denial and campaigned to overturn the 2020 results and make it more difficult to vote for the next election.

His Tuesday speech at the America First Policy Institute summit followed appearances from a host of Trump’s Republican allies, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Wisconsin Ron Johnson and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as some of Trump’s former White House and campaign aides, including Kellyanne Conway.

McCarthy told reporters outside his office Tuesday night that he spent time with Trump backstage before the event and that he and Trump also met with a group of about 50 lawmakers after it.

The Republican leader praised the former president’s speech and said he didn’t know what Trump would decide in 2024, noting that the former president had worried about the toll it had taken on his family. But McCarthy told reporters he had encouraged Trump to delay announcing any White House bid until after the midterms, with party leaders wanting the next election to remain a referendum on the president. Joe Biden, not Trump.

“My point for him has always (been), ‘Let’s go win 22,'” McCarthy said. “Wait and see what happens here. Focus on winning 22. And if we win in 22, and a lot of our politics and what we’re running on, (that) would be the case to see where it is .”

On Sunday, Lotter told CNN that “to give voice to this agenda, to present it for the midterms of Congress and beyond, I think there’s no one better than the former president. to be able to do it”.

“What happens next is entirely up to the voters, the president and whoever else might get in the race,” he said at the time. “But the only thing we know is the policies that worked. And so what we’re focused on is preparing that ground, establishing that policy framework, to get back to those winning policies. And President Trump is still one of the leaders, if not the biggest name, in this movement.”

Still, not all of Trump’s former aides were enthusiastic about him speaking at the summit, further underscoring the discord within the Trump movement ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

“Don’t go, boss,” wrote Peter Navarro, who worked as an aide under Trump, in a editorial who published on Tuesday, calling the AFPI a “Trojan horse” that attempts to “hijack the political appeal of Trumpism but replace Trump with an AFPI-anointed RINO.”

This story was updated with additional information on Tuesday.

CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.

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