Former U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday repeated his false claim that he won the 2020 election during a wide-ranging policy speech that marked his defiant return to Washington – and hinted at his possible return to politics.
“I always say I ran the first time and I won,” he said, speaking to about 600 well-heeled supporters in a hotel ballroom just a mile from The White House. “Then I ran a second time, and I did much better. We got millions and millions more votes. And you know what? That’s going to be a story for a long time. What a disgrace it was. But we may just have to do it again. We have to straighten out our game. I have to straighten out our country.”
This came more than halfway through a 90-minute speech that was the capstone of the two-day inaugural gathering of Trump’s America First Policy Institute. In attendance were several Trump administration figures and Republican lawmakers who raised objections to the official certification of electoral votes on January 6, 2021. That event certified the victory of President Joe Biden.
VOA asked former House speaker Newt Gingrich what he thought of Trump’s election victory claim, which is at the center of a series of congressional hearings looking at the violent insurrection attempt Trump supporters made at the U.S. Capitol that day.
“It’s amazing that you could take a two-hour speech and figure out the 90 seconds you care about,” Gingrich responded as his security guards ushered him into a waiting car.
The day before, VOA asked White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre whether the Biden administration would be watching Trump’s speech.
“It’s not something that I’m tracking or we’re tracking here,” she said. “I don’t know what he’s coming to talk about. I guess we’ll see when he gets here tomorrow.”
Michael O’Hanlon, director of research in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, told VOA that Trump’s decision to sow doubt about the election outcome is significant.
“Most of his policy interventions and ideas I’m prepared to live with, because at least he was playing within the rules,” he said. “At least this is what a constitutional democracy with checks and balances and democratic process is supposed to allow for and vet. However, when you stop respecting the outcome of elections, just because it hurts you personally, that is a whole different kettle of fish.”
He continued, “I think it really gets into illegal territory pretty quickly. And so it’ll be fascinating to see if he’s indicted. It’ll certainly be fascinating to see what he says in coming weeks and months.
“But I’m afraid that this is dangerous for our country, this kind of attitude by President Trump and his going against Democrats and Republicans, around the country, around the states within the Congress, within the system of checks and balances, just to serve his own personal, narcissistic political interest.”
The events of January 6, 2021, have been dramatically replayed in meticulous detail in the past month during a series of slickly produced congressional hearings. Those featured an outtake from Trump’s recorded message to the nation a day after the insurrection, in which he finally promised an orderly transition. The day after the January 6 attack, Trump still couldn’t say the election was over.
“I don’t want to say the election’s over,” he said during the outtake. “I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election’s over.”
On Tuesday, he said that part out loud and called the two attempts to remove him from office “impeachment hoax number one, impeachment hoax number two.”
Trump also sketched out what he described as a “law and order” agenda that would take a harder line on immigrants and drug offenders and give law enforcement enhanced power. He also expressed admiration for China’s strict drug laws and its use of the death penalty in drug cases.
“There is no higher priority than cleaning up our streets, controlling our borders, stopping the drugs from pouring in, and quickly restoring law and order in America,” he said, adding: “There’s never been a time like this. Our streets are riddled with needles, and soaked with the blood of innocent victims. Many of our once-great cities from New York to Chicago to L.A., where the middle class used to flock to live the American dream, are now war zones, literal war zones.”
Outside, several dozen protesters gathered to oppose Trump’s appearance. “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” they chanted, across the street from several dozen supporters who waved large American flags and blew vuvuzelas.
Local police officers stood nearby and watched.