The Perfect Enemy | Trump speaks in Washington DC for first visit since leaving office – as it happened
August 11, 2022

Trump speaks in Washington DC for first visit since leaving office – as it happened

Trump speaks in Washington DC for first visit since leaving office – as it happened  The Guardian US

Read Time:25 Minute

Donald Trump is set to take the stage shortly in Washington DC to address the conservative America First Agenda Summit, his first return to the capital since leaving office last year.

Conference organisers at the America First Policy Institute say the former president, who is mulling a third run at the White House in 2024, will focus on the Republican party’s plans to combat inflation and improve the US immigration system.

But it remains to be seen if Trump can resist recirculating his lies about the 2020 election, especially following an appearance by his former vice-president, Mike Pence, at a conference of conservative students this morning.

Pence took thinly-veiled shots at his old boss, and his obsession with his defeat to Joe Biden, telling his audience: “Some people may choose to focus on the past. But elections are about the future.”

It is unlikely the notoriously thin-skinned ex-president will be able avoid the temptation to fire back.

Stay with us, and we’ll bring you Trump’s comments as they happen. While we wait, take a read of my colleague Joan E Greve’s preview of his return to the capital:

We’re closing the blog now, after a reasonably busy day in US politics.

Merrick Garland’s big NBC News interview is due at 6.30pm ET – here’s our story, which will develop, for those who want to carry on reading about whether Donald Trump will face criminal charges over January 6 and his attempt to overturn US democracy itself.

Otherwise, today saw:

  • Trump return to Washington to deliver a 90-minute speech at the America First Agenda summit. He didn’t get so far as to announce a new White House run. See Richard’s blogging below and David Smith’s report on the speech to come.
  • The New York Times reported more details of part of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, the fake electors scheme.
  • Mike Pence also gave a speech in Washington, in some mild sense dueling with his old boss and in some very mild sense rebuking him for fixating on the past.
  • CNN reported that John Roberts, the chief justice, tried to persuade Brett Kavanaugh to help him stop the other conservatives on the supreme court overturning the right to an abortion – but it didn’t work.
  • Nancy Pelosi’s mooted trip to Taiwan continued to cause all sorts of bother and headaches – and to attract Republican support.

The blog will be back tomorrow. Good night.

Donald Trump on Tuesday dropped more hints that he will imminently announce a third run at the White House.

In a largely subdued, and scripted, 90-minute speech to the America First Agenda summit in Washington DC, his first visit to the capital since leaving office last year, Trump said it would be his “very great honor” to run again, and that if he didn’t “our nation is doomed”.

But he stopped short of outright declaring his candidacy, the former president mindful he is mired in legal and political jeopardy amid numerous investigations into the insurrection and attempt to stay in office following his 2020 defeat to Joe Biden.

Trump said he could not just sit at home while the “persecution” continued:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}I can’t do that because I love our country. And I can’t do that because I love the people of our country. So I can’t do that. I wouldn’t do it, and people don’t want me to do it.

I’m not doing this for me because I had a very luxurious life. I had a very simple life. People say you sure you want to do this? But you know, there’s an expression. The best day of your life is the day before you run for president. And I laughed at it. I said that may be true, actually.

Trump’s speech was intended to be a laying out of Republican policy agenda for the November midterms and beyond, but it pivoted into a succession of familiar old Trump grievances, including attacks on Democrats over crime, immigration and the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

After an assault on the House panel investigating his illegal attempts to stay in office, Trump concluded:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}If I don’t [run] our nation is doomed to become another Venezuela or become another Soviet Union.

Please look in later for my colleague David Smith’s account of Trump’s speech.

And there it is, finally: Donald Trump’s lie that he really won the 2020 election.

The former president waited an hour into his speech at the America First Agenda summit in Washington DC, just as he was winding down, before turning to the falsehood that his defeat by Joe Biden was corrupt:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}I ran for president, I won, and I won a second time, but much better the second time, a lot better.

I always say I ran the first time and I won. We actually did it twice.

Toward the end of the speech, Trump riffed freely about Mexico, and immigration, telling a succession of “sir stories” and claiming his administration built hundreds of miles of southern border wall before his plans were thwarted by the “catastrophe” of the 2020 election:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}We had it almost finished, it was a catastrophe, that election, a disgrace to our country.

They [Democrats] didn’t want to build the wall. That’s when I started to think that maybe they really do want to have these borders open so everybody can invade our country.

A speech that was billed as a setting out of Republican policies pivoted quickly into an airing of Trump’s old grievances, including the “hoax” of the Mueller inquiry into his administration’s links with Russia, the “China virus” – his derogatory term for the Covid-19 pandemic – and an attack on Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top adviser on infectious diseases:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}I used to listen to Fauci and whatever he said I did the opposite. I came out very good.

As if realizing he’d reach the hour mark, and it was time to wind down, Trump indicated his speech was over. “I look forward to laying out many more details in the weeks and months to come,” he said.

Then came extra time, and the free-wheeling Trump of old stepped forward, with an assault on the “unfair January 6 unselect committee of political action thugs” investigating the insurrection.

“Where does it stop?” Trump wondered. “It probably doesn’t stop because despite great outside dangers this country remains sick, sinister, and evil people within.

“They want to damage me so I can no longer go back to work for you. But I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said, another tease that he might soon declare another White House run.

In NBC’s interview with Merrick Garland, Lester Holt also asked if the Department of Justice (DoJ) would welcome a criminal referral from the House January 6 committee.

The panel has made referrals for Trump aides. Steve Bannon has been convicted of criminal contempt of Congress and faces jail time. Peter Navarro has been charged. Dan Scavino and Mark Meadows were referred, the DoJ then deciding not to act.

Garland told NBC: “So I think that’s totally up to the committee.

“We will have the evidence that the committee has presented and whatever evidence it gives us. I don’t think that the nature of how they style, the manner in which information is provided, is of particular significance from any legal point of view.

“That’s not to downgrade it or to or disparage it. It’s just that that’s not … the issue here. We have our own investigation, pursuing through the principles of prosecution.”

“We should not allow men to play in women’s sports. It’s so crazy,” Donald Trump says, before going off script to allege he was advised not to bring up transgender issues.

“‘Sir, don’t say that, it’s very controversial,’” he claims he was told, launching into a bizarre tale of a transgender swimmer he says gave “wind burns” to a fellow competitor as she sped by. Then a story about a transgender weight lifter:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}This guy comes along, he’s named Alice … world record, world record. We could have put another couple hundred pounds on. It’s so unfair.

Now Trump says he would be the “world’s greatest women’s basketball coach” and that he doesn’t like LeBron James, with whom he has clashed previously.

NBC has released a clip of its eagerly awaited interview with Merrick Garland, in which Joe Biden’s attorney general is asked about the political sensitivities around potential criminal charges for Donald Trump concerning the attack on the US Capitol, arising from the work of the House January 6 committee.

Merrick Garland.

The interviewer, Lester Holt, said: “You said in no uncertain terms the other day that no one is above the law. That said, the indictment of a former president, of perhaps a candidate for president, would arguably tear the country apart. Is that your concern as you make your decision down the road here? Do you have to think about things like that?”

Garland said: “We pursue justice without fear or favour. We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for events surrounding January 6, or any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable. That’s what we do. We don’t pay any attention to other issues with respect to that.”

The Department of Justice is investigating Trump’s election subversion efforts on a number of fronts. The January 6 committee could make a criminal referral to the DoJ. Whether it should, or will, and whether it has presented sufficient evidence to do so if it chooses, is a matter of debate around the US and on the committee itself.

Holt said: “So if Donald Trump were to become a candidate for president again, that would not change your schedule or how you move forward or don’t move forward?”

Garland said: “I’ll say again, that we will hold accountable anyone who was criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer legitimate lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.”

So that’s that.

It’s certainly a very subdued speech by Donald Trump so far, his monotone delivery lacking the energy of his campaign rallies. He’s more than a half-hour in, and still talking about crime, which he’s now blaming on Democratic governors – and the homeless.

He’s lamenting what’s happened in “our beautiful cities”, San Francisco, Chicago … where he says people don’t have time to stop and admire the beauty, “they just want to make it to their offices”.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Let the liberals invite the homeless to camp in their backyards, soil their properties, attack their families and use drugs where their children are trying to play.

For the good of everyone involved, the homeless need to go to shelters, the long-term mentally ill need to go to institutions, and the unhoused drug addicts need to go to rehab, or if necessary and appropriate, jail.

On his first return to Washington DC since leaving the presidency, Trump says, he doesn’t recognize the place. He seems to be calling for a war on litter:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}The main roads had more bottles and cigarettes and everything you can imagine. Then you see the tents and the homeless and you ask ‘what’s happened to this great bastion’?

There’s very little applause, just the occasional trickle.

Crime, and support for law enforcement, has become the central theme in Donald Trump’s comments so far, although he hasn’t mentioned the officers beaten in the violent January 6 attack by his supporters during the deadly Capitol riot.

Trump is sticking strictly to the script, and reading diligently from his teleprompter:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}In the Make America Great Again, movement, we believe that every citizen of every background should be able to walk anywhere in this nation at any hour of the day, without even a thought of being victimized by violent crime. If we don’t have safety we don’t have freedom.

First, we have to give our police back their authority, resources, power and prestige. We have to leave our police alone every time they do something. They’re afraid they’re going to be destroyed, their pensions going to be taken away, they’ll be fired, they’ll be put in jail.

Without irony, or any acknowledgement of the police officers who were injured by the Trump-inspired mob defending politicians at the Capitol building, he continued:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Let them do their job. Give them back the respect that they deserve.

Donald Trump has begun his remarks at the America First Agenda summit by tearing into the Biden administration’s policies he says have “brought our country to its knees”.

“We made America great again,” Trump said, referring to what he considered was the state of the country, and economy, he left to Joe Biden, his successor.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Inflation is the highest in 49 years … gas prices have reached the highest in our country. We’ve become a beggar nation, grovelling to others for energy.

He’s following up with attacks on Democratic immigration policy and levels of crime, and a drugs crisis, which he sees as happening only in “Democrat-run cities”:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Our country is now a cesspool of crime … because of the Democratic party’s efforts to destroy and dismantle law enforcement throughout America.

There is, however, no evidence that Democrats have defunded law enforcement anywhere, and Biden has made a specific point of saying it is not his party’s policy.

So far, at least, there have been no references to the 2020 election, which Trump maintains was stolen from him …

Donald Trump was due to take the stage at 3pm but, just like at countless rallies before, during and subsequent to his single term in office, he is running late.

Currently Newt Gingrich, a Republican former House speaker, and Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader who would like the job himself, are engaged in a roundtable discussion extolling Trump’s policies and looking ahead to the midterm elections, which McCarthy says will be a “one in 50-year election.”

“We can lock in a conservative majority for the decade,” he says.

Meanwhile, it appears a group of anti-Trump protesters have reached the hotel before the former president, and are making some noise:

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Protestors in the hotel at the America First Policy Initiative event chanting “no trump no kkk no fascist USA” pic.twitter.com/c37IVacDDP

&mdash; Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) July 26, 2022

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Protestors in the hotel at the America First Policy Initiative event chanting “no trump no kkk no fascist USA” pic.twitter.com/c37IVacDDP

— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) July 26, 2022

A number of Florida families and coalition of equality activist groups have filed a lawsuit over Republican governor Ron DeSantis’s “don’t say gay” law that bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.

The bill signed by DeSantis in March is “based on undefined standards of appropriateness [and] effectively silences and erases LGBTQ+ students and families,” the lawsuit, filed against four separate Florida school districts claims.

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Good morning. My lawsuit against #DontSayGay has been filed. Children deserve to be loved and respected no matter how they identify. Read more about it here:https://t.co/2YWEtftpMa pic.twitter.com/RaTJEl90we

&mdash; Jen 🏳️‍🌈 SAY GAY 🏳️‍⚧️ Cousins (@slytherbitch6) July 26, 2022

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Good morning. My lawsuit against #DontSayGay has been filed. Children deserve to be loved and respected no matter how they identify. Read more about it here:https://t.co/2YWEtftpMa pic.twitter.com/RaTJEl90we

— Jen 🏳️‍🌈 SAY GAY 🏳️‍⚧️ Cousins (@slytherbitch6) July 26, 2022

“This law will prevent our two youngest children, rising first and third graders, from discussing their older non-binary sibling in the classroom for fear of their teacher or their school getting in trouble,” said plaintiffs Jennifer and Matthew Cousins, according to a press release announcing the legal action.

“The law also robs them of the opportunity of discussing their family like other non-LGBTQ+ children. It’s heartbreaking to know that my children may be bullied because this law paints our family as shameful.”

DeSantis insists that the law, officially called the Parental Rights in Education act, is designed to stop “wokeism” in Florida’s schools and empowers families by giving them choice over their children’s educational activities.

DeSantis’s taxpayer-funded press secretary Christina Pushaw has previously called opponents of the bill “groomers”.

Greetings from the ballroom of a swanky Washington hotel that has been turned into an indoor Donald Trump rally as the former US president makes his return to the nation’s capital.

Just like a Trump rally, music from Elton John and Frank Sinatra boomed from loudspeakers, then warm-up acts came out to lavish praise on Trump.

Brooke Rollins, president and chief executive of the American First Policy Institute (AFPI), a thinktank created by Trump alumni which is hosting the speech, described him as “one of the greatest Americans of all time”. Televangelist Paula White added: “He wears a bigger mantle than I think many of us even recognise.”

Less than a mile from the White House, it’s Trump’s first visit to Washington since he snubbed Joe Biden’s inauguration and took flight to Florida.

Numerous Trump White House officials have been giving speeches or wandering the corridors during the AFPI summit, where face masks or mentions of January 6 are almost non-existent. I just overheard someone ask Kellyanne Conway: “Can I have a selfie?”

Donald Trump is set to take the stage shortly in Washington DC to address the conservative America First Agenda Summit, his first return to the capital since leaving office last year.

Conference organisers at the America First Policy Institute say the former president, who is mulling a third run at the White House in 2024, will focus on the Republican party’s plans to combat inflation and improve the US immigration system.

But it remains to be seen if Trump can resist recirculating his lies about the 2020 election, especially following an appearance by his former vice-president, Mike Pence, at a conference of conservative students this morning.

Pence took thinly-veiled shots at his old boss, and his obsession with his defeat to Joe Biden, telling his audience: “Some people may choose to focus on the past. But elections are about the future.”

It is unlikely the notoriously thin-skinned ex-president will be able avoid the temptation to fire back.

Stay with us, and we’ll bring you Trump’s comments as they happen. While we wait, take a read of my colleague Joan E Greve’s preview of his return to the capital:

The New York Times has published details of “previously undisclosed” emails between associates of former president Donald Trump, including some from lawyers in which they purportedly acknowledge a scheme to keep him office was likely illegal.

Some of the messages refer to “fake” electors who were in place in certain key states to falsely declare Trump the winner of the 2020 election, and prevent Joe Biden from reaching the White House.

The Times said they showed “a particular focus on assembling lists of people who would claim – with no basis – to be electoral college electors on his behalf in battleground states that he had lost.”

One lawyer used the word “fake” to refer to the so-called electors, the Times said, while “lawyers working on the proposal made clear they knew that the pro-Trump electors they were putting forward might not hold up to legal scrutiny”.

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SCOOP: @lukebroadwater and I reviewed dozens of emails between Trump campaign officials and lawyers, including one in which a lawyer described the slates of electors they were putting together as “fake” https://t.co/P36lgMtFuA

&mdash; Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 26, 2022

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SCOOP: @lukebroadwater and I reviewed dozens of emails between Trump campaign officials and lawyers, including one in which a lawyer described the slates of electors they were putting together as “fake” https://t.co/P36lgMtFuA

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 26, 2022

The “fake electors” scheme was a central plank of Trump’s strategy to remain in power, and has become a focus of the House panel investigating his insurrection. In declaring Trump the rightful winner, the committee asserts, the fake electors’ goal was persuading the then vice-president, Mike Pence, as Senate president, to refuse to certify Biden’s victory.

The panel has already examined previously-known communications about it between Trump allies.

The Times quotes, among others, an email reportedly sent by Jack Wilenchik, a Phoenix-based lawyer who helped organize the pro-Trump electors in Arizona, to a Trump adviser in the White House.

“We would just be sending in ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted,” he wrote.

Wilenchik wrote in a later email, adding a smiley face emoji, that “‘alternative’ votes would probably a better term than ‘fake’ votes”.

Joe Biden has said that his presidential predecessor Donald Trump “lacked the courage to act” as a mob of his supporters tried to halt the congressional certification of his defeat in the 2020 election by mounting the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

In virtual remarks Monday to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Biden – who was recovering from Covid-19 – said police officers defending the Capitol were “speared, sprayed, stomped on, brutalized” for hours by white nationalists and other Trump sycophants who bought his false claims that he’d been robbed of victory by electoral fraudsters.

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Brave women and men in uniform across America should never forget that the defeated former president of the United States watched January 6th happen and didn’t have the spine to act.

In my remarks today to @noblenatl, I made that clear: https://t.co/pQ8E4IcZR1 pic.twitter.com/uO60QO0Wrz

&mdash; President Biden (@POTUS) July 25, 2022

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Brave women and men in uniform across America should never forget that the defeated former president of the United States watched January 6th happen and didn’t have the spine to act.

In my remarks today to @noblenatl, I made that clear: https://t.co/pQ8E4IcZR1 pic.twitter.com/uO60QO0Wrz

— President Biden (@POTUS) July 25, 2022

“The defeated former president of the United States watched it all happen as he sat in the comfort of the private dining room next to the Oval Office,” Biden said, alluding to evidence and testimony staged by the congressional committee investigating the assault during a series of public hearings throughout the summer. “While he was doing that, brave law enforcement officers are subjected to the medieval hell for three hours … dripping in blood, surrounded by carnage, face to face with a crazed mob that believed the lies of the defeated president.

“The police were heroes that day. Donald Trump lacked the courage to act.”

Read the full story:

Let’s take stock of where we are on a lively Tuesday in US politics:

  • Mike Pence took shots at Donald Trump during a speech to young conservatives in Washington DC, the ex-vice-president telling them “elections are about the future”. The former president, obsessed by his 2020 defeat to Joe Biden, addresses the rightwing America First Agenda summit a little later this afternoon.
  • Biden’s recovery from his Covid-19 infection has allowed him to resume exercising, physician Kevin O’Connor said in a morning update. But the president’s health will not have been improved by polling news from New Hampshire, where only one-fifth of residents want him to seek a second term, according to Politico.
  • January 6 rioter Mark Ponder, who attacked police officers with poles during the deadly attack on the Capitol, was sentenced to at least five years in prison, one of the lengthiest terms so far handed out to those convicted. Ponder, 56, from Washington DC, said he “got caught up” in the chaos and “didn’t mean for any of this to happen”.
  • Senators voted 64-32 to move forward on the Chips Act, which seeks to provide about $52bn for US companies manufacturing computer chips, plus tax credits and other incentives. Biden says the money is essential to reverse a shortage of semiconductors in the US, and keep the country at the cutting edge of defense, healthcare and the burgeoning electric vehicle market.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts made ultimately fruitless efforts to persuade fellow supreme court conservatives to preserve abortion rights, CNN said. The network published an analysis of events leading up to the court’s overturning of almost half a century of federal abortion protections last month, including a claim that Roberts pressed Brett Kavanaugh – one of three Donald Trump-appointed justices – in particular to change his vote.

Stick with us, there’s plenty more to come this afternoon, including Trump’s return to the capital for the first time since he left office last year.

Poll shows Biden’s deep unpopularity in New Hampshire

It is just one poll and just it is just one state, but a new survey of voters in New Hampshire makes grim reading for the White House.

In the state which holds the crucial first primary in the presidential nomination process, Joe Biden’s numbers are cratering.

Politico has the details and you’ll find their quick top line rundown below:

Only one-fifth of New Hampshire residents want Biden to seek a second term in 2024, according to the poll.

The president is statistically tied with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in 2024 presidential support, survey results show. He also trails a handful of potential 2024 candidates in favorability, including Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker.

The percentage of Democrats who want Biden to run again has tanked since this time last year, from 74 percent to 31 percent, according to this year’s poll.

And among New Hampshire members of both parties, the poll also shows concern for Biden’s age: 78 percent of respondents overall said they were at least somewhat concerned, including 75 percent of Democrats.

January 6 rioter Mark Ponder gets at least five years in jail

The Associated Press has news on a lengthy sentence for a January 6 rioter. The story follows:

A man who attacked police officers with poles during the riot at the U.S. Capitol was sentenced on Tuesday to more than five years in prison, matching the longest term of imprisonment so far among hundreds of Capitol riot prosecutions.
Mark Ponder, a 56-year-old resident of Washington, D.C., said he “got caught up” in the chaos that erupted on Jan. 6, 2021, and “didn’t mean for any of this to happen.”
“I wasn’t thinking that day,” Ponder told U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, asking her for mercy before she sentenced him to five years and three months in prison.
That was three months longer than the prison sentence requested by prosecutors. And it’s the same sentence that Chutkan gave Robert Palmer, a Florida man who also pleaded guilty to assaulting police at the Capitol.
More than 200 other Capitol riot defendants have been sentenced so far. None received a longer prison sentence than Ponder or Palmer.
Chutkan said Ponder was “leading the charge” against police officers trying to hold off the mob that disrupted Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
“This is not ‘caught up,’ Mr. Ponder,” she said. “He was intent on attacking and injuring police officers. This was not a protest.”