President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) annual meeting at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S., February 29, 2020.
Yuri Gripas | Reuters
Donald Trump slammed President Joe Biden and sought to retain his grasp on the Republican Party’s future on Sunday during his first major political address since departing the White House last month, at one point teasing a possible bid in 2024.
Trump told a high-profile gathering of conservative activists in Orlando, Fla., that his journey was “far from over” and that he may decide to beat Democrats for a “third time,” alluding to his false claims of winning the 2020 election.
“I want you to know that I am going to continue to fight right by your side,” Trump said.
When Trump said that Republicans would beat Democrats in 2024, the crowd leaped to its feet and chanted, “U-S-A, U-S-A.”
Trump is widely expected to eventually declare a bid for president in 2024. Unlike past presidents, he has made it clear that he has no intention of withholding comment on the actions of his successor, and went after Biden on Sunday.
“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 said.
Consistent with his penchant for dramatic exaggeration, Trump called Biden’s first month in office “the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history, that’s true.”
“In just one short month we have gone from America first to America last,” Trump said, citing a “new and horrible crisis on our southern border.”
Trump’s political ambitions have put Republicans in a tight spot electorally. The 74-year-old remains overwhelmingly popular in the party, but failed to beat Biden in the 2020 election after losing support among moderates and independents.
Trump was announced the winner of a CPAC straw poll on Sunday ahead of his speech, carrying 55% of the vote. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took second place in the 2024 presidential survey, at 21%, and first place in a straw poll that did not include Trump.
After losing the presidential contest, Trump refused to concede for weeks and was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges that he incited the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.
While the Senate ultimately acquitted him, top Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have issued stinging rebukes of Trump’s actions. Trump repeated his false allegation that the election was “rigged” during his address.
Trump went after a litany of Republicans on Sunday, including Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and the other lawmakers who voted in favor of his impeachment.
“Get rid of them all,” Trump said. “The RINOs that we are surrounded with will destroy the Republican Party and the American worker,” Trump said, using an acronym for “Republicans in name only.”
Donald Trump Jr., the ex-president’s son, attacked Cheney at CPAC on Friday, saying she was “tied to an establishment that has done nothing but fail us.”
Earlier this month, Trump denounced McConnell in a statement as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.”
Despite his attacks on members of the GOP, Trump used the address to deny reports that he was considering starting a new party.
“We are not starting new parties,” Trump said. “We have the Republican Party, it’s going to unite and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party.”
“Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Let’s start a new party, divide our vote, so we can never win,” Trump added sarcastically.
Trump said that he would be “actively working” to support Republicans in his mold.
While Trump has refused to leave the limelight, he has had less direct access to the public since he was banned from Twitter for violating its policies against inciting violence. The company has said the ban will remain in place even if Trump runs for office again.
Trump said during his speech that “we reject cancel culture” and said that GOP-led states should go after big technology companies that censor conservatives.
Sunday’s address also included a number of themes at the heart of the Republican Party’s policy agenda, such as being tough on China and pushing for stricter immigration rules.
“The future of the Republican Party is as a party that defends the social, economic, and cultural interests and values of working American families — of every race, every color, and every creed,” Trump said. He added that the party was a party of “love.”
In a portion of his speech about Covid-19, Trump pressed Biden to “get the schools open right now” and touted his administration’s successful effort to speed the manufacturing of vaccines.
Since leaving the White House, Trump has faced escalating legal peril in New York, where Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is apparently examining potential bank and insurance fraud related to Trump and his company, the Trump Organization.
Vance received years of Trump’s tax returns and related documents on Monday after a protracted legal fight that twice made it to the Supreme Court. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused Vance of being motivated by politics.
Subscribe to CNBC Pro for the TV livestream, deep insights and analysis on how to invest during the next presidential term.