Just over two years since he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, the twice-impeached ex-president who fomented a riot to keep himself in power has declared himself a candidate for the presidency once more.
“In order to make America great and glorious again I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,” said Mr Trump, who is currently a subject in no fewer than three separate criminal investigations into his conduct.
Ahead of his speech, the former president filed paperwork on Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission to create a “Principal Campaign Committee”.
Speaking from the ballroom at the Florida mansion, Mr Trump claimed the end of his first term in office — when thousands of Americans were dying from Covid each day as the nation’s capital was still feeling from the riot he incited in a last-ditch attempt to remain in the White House — was a time when the US “stood ready for its golden age”.
“Our nation was at the pinnacle of power, prosperity and prestige, towering above all rivals vanquishing all enemies and striding into the future confident and so strong,” he said, before boasting of having “turned the page” on “globalist sellouts,” making use of an antisemitic trope frequently used to attack Jewish financiers.
He added that his exit from the White House in January 2021 had made the US “a nation in decline” and “a failing nation” that could only be rescued by returning him to power.
Mr Trump’s announcement caps weeks of speculation over when the disgraced ex-president would formally declare himself a candidate for the presidency for a third consecutive presidential election, having won the race in 2016 before losing to Mr Biden four years later.
He had repeatedly teased the possibility of such an announcement at a succession of his signature political rallies, each meant to showcase his endorsed candidates for the House, Senate and governor’s mansions across the US, all of whom earned his imprimatur by repeating the lies he has told about the 2020 election since it became clear he would lose it.
According to some Trumpworld insiders, Mr Trump’s timeline for declaring his candidacy in the 2024 election has been hastened by a desire to box out potential challengers for the Republican presidential nomination, chief among them Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
Mr DeSantis, once a loyal supporter of the ex-president, has emerged as the preferred candidate among Republicans who remain enamoured of Mr Trump’s style of performative, grievance-heavy, culture war-focused politics but have grown weary of the former president’s antics and his tendency to support unelectable candidates as he did in many midterm senate races.
According to a polling memorandum circulated by the anti-tax group Club for Growth Action, Mr DeSantis’ support among primary voters in the key early states of Iowa and New Hampshire has climbed 11 per cent in the last three months.
Among potential Iowa caucus-goers, the Florida governor leads Mr Trump by a margin of 48 per cent to 37 per cent, with 16 per cent undecided. New Hampshire GOP primary voters now support him over Mr Trump by a margin of 52 per cent to 37 per cent.
Mr DeSantis has declined to say whether he will run for president in 2024, but he has antagonised Mr Trump by not ruling it out. Ahead of the ex-president’s announcement, Mr DeSantis noted that candidates he’d supported in last week’s elections largely beat their Democratic opponents, while Mr Trump’s slate of endorsed candidates mostly lost.
At an event on Tuesday, Mr DeSantis called attention to this by suggesting attendees “check out the scoreboard from Tuesday night”.
Aides to Mr Trump have said his announcement is also being driven by a desire to leverage his status as a candidate to protect himself from criminal charges.
The ex-president is currently a subject in no fewer than three separate grand jury investigations, two of them federal, with one — a state-level grand jury probe in Fulton County, Georgia — centred around his push to overturn the election he lost two years ago.
One of the two federal probes looking into him is reportedly focused on his push to overturn the election on a federal level, both by submitting fake electoral certificates to the National Archives, and by fomenting a riotous mob of his supporters to attack Congress in hopes of preventing certification of his loss to Mr Biden.
The third, which legal experts say could result in an indictment in the coming weeks, is focused on his alleged theft and unlawful retention of national defence information at his Palm Beach, Florida home after his term as president expired in January 2021.
He addressed the myriad investigations into him roughly an hour into his meandering remarks, calling the “weaponisation of the justice system” among the “gravest threats to our civilization” and vowing to implement a “top to bottom overhaul” of the agencies currently investigating him “to clean out the festering rot and corruption of Washington, DC”.
“I'm a victim of it, I will tell you,” he said.
Confidantes of the ex-president have suggested Mr Trump believes declaring himself a candidate against the incumbent president will insulate him from an indictment, though legal experts have cast doubt on the prudence of such a strategy.
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