Donald Trump has used his CPAC speech to demand a purge of his political rivals, singling out Mitt Romney and ‘warmonger’ Liz Cheney, who both voted to impeach him.
The former president addressed the conservative gathering in Orlando on Sunday afternoon, in his first speech since stepping down on January 20.
Trump took to the stage to rapturous applause, using his podium to attack Joe Biden and tease his supporters with numerous hints of a 2024 run.
He also sought revenge on the 17 Republicans – seven senators and 10 members of the House – who voted to impeach him.
Trump on Sunday used his speech to attack by name the 17 Republicans who voted to impeach
Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney both voted to impeach Trump, leaving him set on vengeance
All 17 were mentioned by Trump, with the 74-year-old reserving particular venom for Liz Cheney, who said earlier this week that Trump should not be in a position to lead the party.
‘Instead of attacking me and more importantly the voters of our movement, top establishment Republicans in Washington should be spending their energy in opposing Biden, Pelosi, Schumer and the Democrats,’ Trump said.
‘If Republicans do not stick together, the RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] that we’re surrounded with will destroy the Republican Party.
‘And the warmonger, the person who loves seeing our troops fighting, Liz Cheney.’
Trump said the ‘good news’ was that she has been censured in her state of Wyoming, and her approval rating was falling.
‘Her poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen,’ he said.
‘Hopefully they’ll get rid of her with the next election. Get rid of ’em all.’
A giant golden idol of Donald Trump has been brought to CPAC in Orlando
He later took aim at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who criticized Trump over his actions around the riot and accused Trump of ‘a disgraceful dereliction of duty’.
‘Now more than ever is the time for tough, strong and energetic Republican leaders who have spines of steel,’ Trump said.
‘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.’
On the eve of his speech, Trump announced his endorsement of Max Miller, a former White House aide who is challenging one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach.
Anthony Gonzalez will face Miller in the 2022 vote, but said he did not regret voting against Trump.
‘You have to love your country and you have to adhere to your oath more strongly than you do your job, and I don’t know what political fate will play out,’ Gonzalez said. ‘If my fate is ultimately that I don’t get to come back, I will do that at peace.’
Miller has made clear that he plans to turn Gonzalez’s impeachment vote into a centerpiece of his campaign, writing on Twitter that the congressman ‘betrayed’ constituents with his vote.
Max Miller, a former White House aide (pictured with press secretary Stephanie Grisham) was endorsed by Trump on Friday
Trump has told advisers that he’s intent on unseating the Republicans who backed his impeachment and others in the party he views as disloyal, including the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, whom he has accused of not doing enough to intervene in the state’s 2020 vote count.
Yet Trump insisted, despite the obvious divides, that there was no civil war within his party.
‘The Republican Party is united,’ he said.
‘The only division is between a handful of Washington DC establishment political hacks, and everybody else all over the country.’
Trump also attacked Biden as being an ‘America last’ president, saying Biden had had ‘the most disastrous first month of any president in modern history.’
Biden is pictured with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in August 2011
He strongly criticized the president’s decision to rejoin the World Health Organization, describing the WHO as ‘puppets for China’, and insisting Biden was unable to rein the Chinese in.
Trump complained about companies relocating to China, describing China as a country that has ‘ripped us off for years’ and ‘should not be rewarded.’
He complained about Biden being too lenient on China, saying: ‘That’s what the Biden administration is doing. But, of course, as you know, they have a very close, personal relationship with China, so I don’t expect much to happen.’
Trump has frequently accused Biden of being in some way compromised by China.
His son, Hunter Biden, attempted to do business with Beijing – his father insisted he was unaware of Hunter’s efforts.
Trump has rejected Joe Biden’s explanation, however, and insisted the president was being too lenient – despite Biden continuing many of Trump’s trade policies with Beijing, and speaking out against persecution of the Uighurs.
Trump told the meeting it was essential to ensure that America had the upper hand.
Donald Trump on Sunday accused Joe Biden of being in thrall to China thanks to family ties
Trump has frequently attacked Joe Biden’s businessman son Hunter for his dealings in China
‘We believe in standing up to China, shutting down outsourcing, bringing back our factories and supply chains, and ensuring that America, not China, dominates the future of the world,’ he said.
‘We took in hundreds of millions of dollars from China during my administration, hundreds.
‘It was a one-way street. We took in hundreds of millions, and during negotiations they would say, look, we don’t want any more of these tariffs. Those tariffs, we took in so much money. And what happened is they became competitive.’
Trump also reiterated his blame of Beijing for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Trump accused them of covering up the virus’ spread, adding: ‘what happened with that was just disgraceful.’
Returning to his attack on Biden, Trump described the Democrat administration as ‘anti-jobs, anti-family, anti-borders, anti-energy, anti-women, anti-science.’
He added: ‘In just one short month, we have gone from America first to America last.’
Trump’s attacks on Biden were predictable, accusing his successor of ‘eliminating our [southern] border’ and triggering ‘a massive flood of illegal immigration.’