In his first major public address since the end of his presidency, Donald Trump used the keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to exact revenge on the 17 Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach or convict him for the Capitol riots.
Calling seven senators and 10 House members “grandstanders”, Mr Trump name-checked each of them starting with Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Tomney. He concluded the list with congresswoman Liz Cheney whom he described as a “warmonger” and a “person that loves seeing our troops fighting”, asking GOP supporters to “get rid” of them.
The crowd erupted in boos and jeering at the mention of Ms Cheney, the third highest-ranking House Republican who voted to impeach Mr Trump following the capitol riots.
“The good news is in her state, she’s been censured and in her state, her poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen,” he said. “So hopefully they’ll get rid of her with the next election. Get rid of ‘em all.”
During his presidency, Wyoming congresswoman Ms Cheney had locked horns with Mr Trump over the US’s role in the Middle East, with the former president pressing for troop withdrawals but others such as Ms Cheney and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell insisting on a stronger presence.
In his speech Mr Trump also decried “cancel culture”, a shorthand for bashing the news media and social media companies, including Twitter and Facebook, that have barred him from their platforms in the wake of the violent siege of the Capitol building.
Outlining his vision for a Republican party that he continues to dominate despite losing the election in November, Mr Trump said that “we believe in patriotic education and strongly oppose the radical indoctrination of America’s youth. It’s horrible.”
“We are committed to defending innocent life and to upholding the Judeo-Christian values of our founders and of our founding. We embrace free thought, we stand up to political correctness, and we reject left-wing lunacy and in particular, we reject cancel culture.”
Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Trump appeared to play down the prospect of founding his own political party but hinted at returning to run in 2024.
And he attacked House speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats for the election reform bill HR One, also known as the “For the People Act”. While the Democrats have said the bill will expand voting rights and “clean up” corruption in politics, Mr Trump said it will attack the integrity of the election, as he shared his fears about its impact on free speech.
He said: “We have no time to waste. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress are racing to pass a flagrantly unconstitutional attack on the First Amendment and the integrity of our elections known as HR One. Do you know what HR One is? It’s a disaster. Their bill would drastically restrict political speech, empower the federal government to shut down dissent and turn the federal election commission into a partisan political weapon. In addition, it virtually eliminates voter ID requirements nationwide. Effectively ends all registration deadlines.”
He called on the Republican lawmakers to stop the “monster” from being passed in the House before he leaned in to list all the leaders who voted for his impeachment and conviction.
“Now more than ever is the time for tough, strong, and energetic Republican leaders who have spines of steel. We need strong leadership,” he added. “We cannot have leaders who show more passion for condemning their fellow Americans than they have ever shown for standing up to Democrats, the media and the radicals who want to turn America into a socialist country.”
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