Former US President Donald Trump said he had no plans to form a new political party. Instead, he swore to unite a Republican party splintered after its supporters overran the United States Capitol in a deadly riot.
In his first major speech since leaving the White House last month, Trump said the GOP would “unite and be stronger than ever”.
“I’m not starting a new party. That was false news, ”he told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Sunday afternoon.
“We will be united and strong like never before. We will save and strengthen America and fight the onslaught of radicalism, socialism, and indeed everything leads to communism, “said Trump, who spent much of his speech in front of US President Joe Biden.
Trump reiterated his false claims that the November presidential election had been stolen from him, and also hinted at another possible presidential campaign.
“You just lost the White House,” said Trump. “But who knows, who knows, I may even choose to hit her a third time.”
Memorabilia on sale outside the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, United States on February 27, 2021 [Octavio Jones/Reuters]Its supporters have dominated this year’s Florida conference as the state has no gathering restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the largest annual gathering of Republicans and Conservatives in the country, CPAC typically shows the direction of the Republican Party and its supporters.
While past meetings served as a forum for debate between a broad coalition of US Conservatives, participants at this year’s meeting dedicated the weekend to expressing their commitment to Trump and confirming his continued dominance in the party.
The event stems from deep divisions within the Republican Party following the January 6th Capitol uprising and weeks of false claims by Trump and his supporters that the election was marred by widespread electoral fraud.
Trump was charged in the US House of Representatives with “inciting insurrection” in connection with the insurrection, but was later acquitted in the US Senate.
“At war with yourself”
Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, who reported from Orlando on Sunday, said the conference brought together “the pro-Trump side of the Republican Party,” which is currently “at war with itself.”
Pro-Trump Republicans defended Trump on charges of inciting the crowd of his supporters who overran the Capitol, while others publicly criticized him and some even voted for his impeachment.
Republican lawmakers critical of Trump, including Congressman Liz Cheney and former Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, are not welcome at the conference, Hendren said.
“This is his attempt to control this party,” said Hendren.
A Trump supporter outside the Conservative Political Action Conference [Joe Raedle/Getty Images via AFP]Trump supporters traveled from across the country to see the former president’s first remarks since he left office in January.
Hats, shirts and other pro-Trump paraphernalia were displayed at the conference, with attendees taking photos next to a gold statue of the former president.
Vickie Froehlich, who served as the Republican National Convention delegate when Trump was first nominated in 2016, joined CPAC from Minneapolis, Minnesota. If the Republicans left Trump, she said, “It would be a big mistake.”
“I think he was great for our country. He’s still very popular, ”said Froehlich to Al Jazeera.
Speakers who took the stage over the weekend, including Senators Rick Scott from Florida, Ted Cruz from Texas and Josh Hawley from Missouri, announced support for the continuation of Trump’s political mission.
In panel discussions, lawmakers and activists also spoke out against the legitimacy of the results of the 2020 presidential election and warned of left-wing conspiracies to silence the conservative speech.
“I’m not backing down,” said Hawley, one of the Republican senators who voted to reject the US election results, which earned him a long standing ovation at the conference. “No chance! No chance!”
Chris Moody contributed to this report from Orlando, Florida