ORLANDO —The 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference has been all about pushing for future wins in 2022 and 2024, but in his keynote speech on Saturday, former President Donald Trump could only look back at 2020.
For most of his nearly 90-minute speech, which began shortly after 7 p.m., Trump reflected on his White House tenure with fondness, praising “patriots” who stood with him during his presidency. The names included Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL) and John Kennedy (R-LA), Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. He reflected on his ouster from the White House, bringing the Big Lie of a stolen election to the CPAC stage by saying it should’ve never happened in the first place.
“The election was rigged,” Trump said, later adding: “The drugs pouring in [and] the human trafficking will stop, and we will once again save our country from destruction.”
The 2020 election loomed large throughout Trump’s speech, with the twice-impeached former president repeating his debunked claims of election fraud to argue that Republicans could not campaign for the 2022 and 2024 elections without going after Democrats. The message differed from that of past speakers such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, both of whom used their speeches to offer their respective visions for America’s future.
“We cannot ignore it and we have to fix it,” he said. “They will try and do it again in ’22 and ’24, and we cannot let them do that. And the way we do it is you come to a very powerful conclusion as to what happened in 2020.”
He continued his speech with conservative crowdpleasers, touching on everything from rising inflation and crime to transgender rights to Democrats’ supposed ineptitude in managing COVID-19. He attacked Mark Zuckerberg (“who used to come to the White House and kiss my ass”) for the election; blasted Canada’s “tyranny” for ending the trucker convoys that blocked the U.S-Canadian border; and even the Supreme Court, which he alleged was “afraid to do what needs to be done to save our country,” even as he again defended Justice Brett Kavanaugh against sexual assault allegations.
His speech also reflected CPAC’s consistent theme of minimizing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while propping up cultural issues, making his first reference to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—“a brave man”— solely to thank him for friendly remarks during Trump’s first impeachment.
“The president of Ukraine said, ‘He did nothing wrong.” He could have said, ‘He did something wrong,’” Trump said. “I’m glad the tape was going.”
He also used the opportunity to reiterate rather than retract his claim that Putin was smart for how he invaded Ukraine, an act The Daily Beast previously reported he was asked to refrain from doing. He said he spent a lot of time with Putin and got along with him, blasting President Joe Biden’s administration and NATO for solely responding with sanctions and saying Biden should focus more on the southern border than Ukraine’s sovereignty.
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“The problem is not that Putin is smart, because of course he’s smart, but it’s that our leaders are dumb,” Trump said. “Putin is playing Biden like a drum.”
Trump also refrained from any form of unifying tone in his keynote, repeatedly framing the next two elections as a battle between the “patriots” in the Republican Party and the “fascists” and “socialists” in the Democratic Party. The message is a standard for Trump, who repeated his hints at a third run for office by saying he would win again for “a third time” in 2024.
“My fellow Americans, this nation does not belong to the radicals, it does not belong to the corrupt establishment in Washington,” he said. “This nation belongs to you.”
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism