Attempting a rebrand for 2024, Trump targets 'crime cesspool'

WASHINGTON — For the first time since leaving the nation’s capital under the cloud of the Jan. 6 insurrection, former President Donald Trump returned Tuesday and delivered a speech in which he described the United States as a “cesspool of crime” under his successor.

Speaking to the America First Policy Institute, a think tank that employs many of his own former White House aides, Trump used the occasion to tease possible topics for a potential third White House bid in 2024. Those included pledges to crack down on crime in major US cities, finish the border wall along the US border with Mexico, and relocate urban homeless encampments across the country.

“Our country is now a cesspool of crime. We have blood, death and suffering on a scale that was once unthinkable due to the Democratic Party’s effort to destroy and dismantle law enforcement,” Trump said in the speech.

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Donald Trump mocks transgender athletes during a speech at the America First Policy Institute on Tuesday. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

Other likely top-tier Republican presidential contenders — particularly Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — have been undermining Trump’s control over the Republican Party consistently for more than 18 months, according to numerous surveys. While Trump remains the de facto favorite for the 2024 Republican nomination, Tuesday’s speech began with some caution, with Trump sticking to comments delivered to him in a TelePrompter that largely avoided reference to the Capitol riot. by his supporters or his own unsubstantiated claims that election fraud had cost him his victory in 2020.

Earlier in the day, Mike Pence, his former vice president, received a warm response in Washington for a campaign-style speech delivered at the Young America Foundation annual conference. In contrast, Trump’s speech started flat. But as he often does at his speeches and rallies, he got sidetracked a bit when the audience burst out laughing in response to an offhand comment about transgender athletes.

“We shouldn’t allow men to play women’s sports,” Trump said, receiving the loudest applause of the afternoon. He then launched into an extended riff claiming that men were jumping into pools and dominating female athletes and that a man named “Alice” would easily beat a female weightlifter attempting to lift 218 pounds.

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Former Vice President Mike Pence. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Trump, who has reportedly been eager to announce that he will once again run for president, attacked the House select committee on January 6. The panel’s startling revelations, based on testimony from Trump’s own aides and family, have convinced many that Trump led a multi-pronged effort to deny his election loss and attempted to bring an armed mob to Capitol Hill on January 6. .

“They really want to hurt me so I can’t work for you guys again,” Trump said. “And I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

With that implication, Trump’s speech came full circle, linking the crime to Democrats who remained in power after his departure from Washington and those seeking to investigate it further.

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