ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Taking the stage for the first time since leaving office, former President Donald Trump has called for Republican Party unity, even as he attacked members of his own party.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, where he has been hailed as a returning hero, Trump blasted his successor, President Joe Biden, and tried to cement his status as the party’s undisputed leader, despite his loss in November.
“Do you miss me yet?” Trump said after taking the stage, where his old rally soundtrack had been playing. “I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we begun together…is far from being over.”
Though Trump has flirted with the idea of creating a third party, he pledged to remain part of what he called “our beloved party.”
The conference, held this year in Orlando instead of the Washington D.C. area because of COVID-19, has served as a tribute to Trump and Trumpism, complete with a golden statue in his likeness on display. Speakers, including many potential 2024 hopefuls, have argued the party must embrace the former president and his followers, even after the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
And they have repeated his unfounded claim that he lost the November election only because of mass voter fraud, an assertion repeatedly rejected by judges, Republican state officials and Trump’s own administration.