ORLANDO, Fla. — In a speech here Sunday to close out the Conservative Political Action Conference, former President Donald Trump teased his political future and repeated the lie that he won the 2020 election.
“I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we began together four years ago is far from over,” the former president said in his first speech since leaving the White House. “We are gathered this afternoon to talk about the future — the future of our movement, the future of our party, and the future of our beloved country.”
The former president began his roughly 90-minute address by asking the crowd: "Do you miss me?" before reviving false claims that he had beaten President Joe Biden in November — lies that inspired the deadly pro-Trump riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
"Actually, as you know they just lost the White House," Trump said of Democrats. "Who knows, I may even decide to beat them for a third time," he added, stopping short of declaring his 2024 plans.
Trump later launched into multiple tirades about mail-in voting, voter ID laws and the Supreme Court ruling rejecting his election challenges.
"This election was rigged," Trump said, prompting the crowd to chant, "You won! you won!" "They didn't have the guts or the courage to make the right decision," he added of the high court.
Prior to Trump's address, he won CPAC's presidential straw poll with the support of 55 percent of the more than 1,000 conference attendees asked about who they support for the GOP's 2024 bid. That he won with just over half of the vote, though, is notable given the event was jokingly referred to as “TPAC” and supporters were spotted bowing in front of a gold-hued statue in his likeness.
While 95 percent said they wanted the Republican Party to advance Trump's agenda, just 68 percent said they wanted to see Trump himself run again.
Trump said that he is "not starting a new party," but put fellow Republicans who have crossed him on notice, name-dropping each of the 17 Republicans who voted to impeach or convict him for his role in the January attack.
"Get rid of them all," he said of those members, including Rep. Liz Cheney Wyoming and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. Trump later took aim at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, who criticized Trump over his actions around the riot.
“The Republican Party is united,” he said. “The only division is between a handful of Washington, D.C., establishment political hacks and everybody else all over the country.”
Biden was also in the former president’s rhetorical crosshairs, with Trump criticizing his successor on immigration, China and school reopenings.
The White House director of rapid response, Michael Gwin, said in a statement: “The only thing that seems to be able to unite the Republican Party is their opposition to giving Americans $1,400 checks, to getting schools the money they need to reopen safely, to keeping cops, firefighters, and teachers on the job, and to speeding up vaccinations."
"While the GOP casts about for a path forward," Gwin said, "President Biden is going to remain laser-focused on crushing the virus, re-opening schools, and getting Americans back to work.”
The event’s multiday program was teeming with Trump allies and sounded, at times, like a Trump-themed airing of grievances, from false claims of an unsecure 2020 election to decrying political correctness and “cancel culture.”
Ali Vitali reported from Orlando, and Allan Smith from New York.