In a speech to grassroots Republicans on Saturday, Donald Trump returned from political exile through his CPAC 2022 public address to slam President Joe Biden and NATO over the Ukraine crisis and to repeat his baseless claims of a rigged 2020 election.
The former president spent 86 minutes at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, repeating several of his favourite applause lines and attacking the “radical left” and its “witch hunt” against him.
As enormous explosions lit up the sky over Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Trump blamed Biden’s “weakness” for Russia’s invasion of its neighbour and praised President Vladimir Putin’s intellect.
“As everyone understands, this horrific disaster would never have happened if our election was not rigged,” he said, to rapt applause.
Trump delivers keynote speech at CPAC, in 180 seconds
Former President Donald Trump may be the main event at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but the gathering also put in stark relief Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ growing star power within the GOP.
Trump’s rapturous greeting left little doubt that the Republican Party is enslaved to the twice-impeached, single-term president after a year away from the spotlight.
The sea of fans wearing red “Make America Great Again” caps chanted “four more years” and clapped on cue as Trump raged against “woke tyranny” and “cancel culture.”
The 75-year-old headliner’s criticism of Democrats’ claims to be the party of democracy as “bullshit” drew the loudest applause, as did his assertion that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “used to come to the White House and kiss my ass.”
There were hints of a future run in 2024 — “we did it twice and we’ll do it again,” he said, wrongly recasting his defeat to Biden in 2020 as a success — but he left the audience guessing about whether he will personally challenge Biden to a rematch.
CPAC 2022, the nation’s largest conservative gathering, usually provides vital insight into the Republican Party’s plans for the next months. According to organisers, Trump was scheduled to give out a forward-looking “vision for America” as the Republicans seek to reclaim control of Congress in November’s midterm elections.
Instead, Trump’s CPAC 2022 public address focused on his loss in the 2020 election and his bogus claims that he was robbed by extensive voter fraud, encouraging the gathering to “fight like hell” or risk the destruction of their country. It was speech similar to that which prompted a mob of his fans to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, for which he was impeached for the second time.
Watch Trump’s entire CPAC address
His comments came as Russian rockets pounded the outskirts of Kyiv in an escalating crisis that became a prominent topic of conversation at CPAC. Trump erroneously claimed that President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is under siege in Ukraine, had exonerated him of the scandal that led to his first impeachment.
Trump delayed crucial military supplies to the US ally while in office, attempting unsuccessfully to persuade Zelensky to dig out political dirt on the Biden family ahead of the 2020 election.
“Following four years of selling out Ukraine, the defeated former president grabbed the stage at CPAC to double down on his shameful support for Putin as innocent Ukrainians flee Russian bombs and missiles,” DNC spokesperson Adonna Biel said after the speech.
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