At another point he blasted the global climate crisis as a ‘hoax’ that had to be ‘defeated’ by Republicans.
After arriving more than an hour late to his scheduled appearance at Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit, the former president delivered a lengthy hour-and-a-half speech in which he raged at the Biden administration, Democrats‘ agenda, the border crisis – and dropped more hints he could run to change that in 2024.
‘Our country has never been in a position like this. The election was stolen, it was rigged,’ the former president said in his speech, sponsored by Turning Point Action.
‘I ran twice, I won twice, and I did much better the second time than the first.’
The audience in the Tampa Convention Center erupted in cheers – a departure from the lackluster reception his complaints about the 2020 race have gotten at recent campaign rallies.
And dropping yet another hint about his 2024 ambitions, Trump added: ‘And now we may just have to do it again.’
Audience members broke into chants of ‘Take it back’ while the ex-president looked on approvingly.
Trump’s election fraud message resonating with young voices would be a significant shift from establishment Republicans’ warnings that voters are not interested in re-litigating the past.
Donald Trump took the stage at Turning Point’s Student Action Summit more than an hour after his scheduled appearance
He then gave a lengthy 90-minute speech less than 24 hours after holding a rally in Arizona
The crowd of young conservatives was electrified by the former president and even cheered his 2020 election fraud claims
In another White House tease toward the end of his speech, Trump said: ‘If I agreed to stay silent, if I stayed home, if I announced that I was not going to run for office, the persecution of Donald Trump would be stopped.’
‘But that’s what they want me to do – and you know what, there’s no chance I do that,’ he added.
The former president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., opened for his father in his first public speech since the death of his mother, Ivana Trump, just days ago.
‘If I’m like low energy Jeb, I hope you guys will forgive me and let it slide this once,’ Don Jr. told supporters, referencing 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
But he was still at Saturday night’s event, he said, ‘because I know it matters and I know my mom would want me to be here.’
His speech and that of his father were sponsored by Turning Point Action.
Meanwhile, battle lines for the 2024 election cycle appear to have been drawn at the multi-day Republican student event.
The multi-day event attracted teenage and young adult Republicans from across the country
The day before Trump’s speech, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delivered a campaign-like address to an enthusiastic audience on the first day of the summit Friday.
While he’s insisted that he is focusing on his 2022 re-election in Florida, DeSantis has not ruled out facing Trump in a surely contentious GOP presidential primary – which has reportedly infuriated the former president, according to Politico.
DeSantis swung at the Biden administration and poked fun at the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis, wishing the country ‘a very speedy recovery from Joe Biden.’
He also touted his ‘leadership’ on education and his public battle with Disney, while taking shots at California Governor Gavin Newsom – who’s widely seen as a 2024 Democratic hopeful if Biden does not run.
The popular Republican governor made no mention of Trump during his 30-minute address.
Other potential 2024 GOP hopefuls who spoke at the event were Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Trump’s appearance in Tampa comes after he received rare jeers from his rally crowd in Arizona on Friday night – prompting the confused ex-president to ask: ‘But you like me, right?’
DeSantis’ speech on Friday night hovered between a national political message and touting his accomplishments in Florida
His otherwise adoring audience booed when Trump mentioned his recent endorsement of House GOP hopeful Eli Crane, who is running for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District despite reportedly having no ties to the state.
It was Trump’s second rally in Arizona this year, held on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Senate candidate Blake Masters
During the rally Trump also raged against the House January 6 committee, which wrapped its last in a series of eight hearings on Thursday – though its Vice Chair Liz Cheney promised more would come in the fall.
‘A friend of mine recently said that I was the most persecuted person in the history of our country,’ he said. ‘I thought about it, and I felt, you know, he may very well be right.’
The panel’s eighth hearing unveiled new information about what the former president did in the 187 minutes between when he urged his supporters to march on the US Capitol in his ‘Stop the Steal’ rally and when he told them to go home.
Lawmakers contrasted the images of Trump watching the violence unfold from the White House dining room and then-Vice President Mike Pence being rushed out by his security detail, just barely missing the rioters.
It also included audio from an unnamed White House security official who said Secret Service agents protecting Pence ‘started to fear for their own lives’ and even placed calls to family to say goodbye.