Donald Trump reminded Republicans there was no “you” in unity during a 50-minute speech to GOP donors on Saturday night. Top Republicans and their funders had flocked to Palm Beach, Florida, for a three-day RNC retreat, and at the headline Mar-a-Lago event, the former president played many of his biggest hits, such as his signature stolen-election routine, eye-defying crowd-size exaggeration, trademark xenophobia, and, of course, reprisals against his perceived Republican Party enemies — including an extended attack on Mitch McConnell, whom Trump referred to as a “dumb son of a bitch.” Below is a look at what Trump had on offer and repeat, according to various reports (the event was closed to the press, so this is all secondhand).
Scratching that Mitch: Trump reportedly aimed more animus at McConnell than anyone else. While complaining about how the former Senate majority leader didn’t help him unlawfully extend his presidency on January 6, “If that were [Senator Chuck] Schumer instead of this dumb son of a bitch Mitch McConnell they would never allow it to happen — they would have fought it.” (The crowd reportedly cheered in response, though some accounts indicated the reaction was actually muted.)
The ex-president, who has recently rebranded himself “The 45th,” previously called the senator “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack” after his second impeachment trial ended in acquittal — largely thanks to McConnell, though he then tried to condemn Trump after the fact. On Saturday night he also called McConnell, who is still a legitimately elected U.S. lawmaker and now the most powerful Republican in the country, a “stone-cold loser.” NBC News reports that Trump told the crowd that “a real leader” would have never accepted the 2020 election result, while Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey tweeted that “Trump claimed McConnell asked for help because ‘people can’t stand him in Kentucky.’ Says McConnell turned on him, has no personality, and is ‘stiff.’”
And don’t forget to mix in some patriarchy: Trump went after Elaine Chao, his administration’s former Transportation secretary and McConnell’s spouse. “I hired his wife. Did he ever say thank you?” Trump said, before mocking Chao for resigning from the administration in response to the January 6 pro-Trump insurrection.
Still ignoring those aides (and the good of the party): The Washington Post notes that Trump’s speech “was light on his actual presidency, which some aides had wanted him to address.” He also ditched the “boring” speech that he was supposed to read, which included the uncharacteristically non-self-referential declaration: “I stand before you this evening filled with confidence that in 2022, we are going to take back the House and we are going to reclaim the Senate — and then in 2024, a Republican candidate is going to win the White House.”
Teasing it out: Regarding the above prepared remark, Bloomberg reports that:
A person familiar with Trump’s thinking said the former president wasn’t explicitly acknowledging he may or may not run again, but rather is keeping everyone guessing, including the various Republicans considering their own 2024 campaigns. And a person who attended the event said the former president teased a potential run while speaking largely off-script for about an hour.
January 6 was about the crowd, stupid: Trump massively inflated the size of his infamous pre-insurrection rally on January 6, boasting that “some people say it was over a million people” who had come to back to his stolen-election lie — before many of them subsequently stormed the Capitol. He apparently added that he wasn’t “talking about the people that went to the Capitol.” There are no reported accounts of Trump expressing any other thoughts about the deadly riot he was impeached for inciting.
Speaking of bullshit: Trump reportedly called the 2020 election outcome “bullshit” and once again falsely claimed that the election was “rigged,” as he had said after the election, before the election, and before the 2016 election, which he won. And per the New York Times:
He referenced “Zuckerberg” and $500 million spent on a “lockbox” from which, he said, every vote was marked, according to remarks described by an attendee. “Biden. Saintly Joe Biden,” he said.
According the Post, Trump also “reiterated many of his false claims soon after beginning his remarks and dove into particular states in detail, such as Georgia and Pennsylvania, continuing to claim he won them and attacking politicians such as Georgia governor Brian Kemp.” He also said he was still “so disappointed” former vice-president Mike Pence didn’t back his attempted power grab:
Just ask a Democrat, when no one else is around: He apparently said that most Democrats know he won, but aren’t willing to admit it out loud.
The party still isn’t looking this grift horse in the mouth: The RNC reportedly paid Mar-a-Lago $100,000 to hold the event. As a reminder, Trump’s attorneys recently asked the RNC, National Republican Congressional Committee, and National Republican Senatorial Committee to cease and desist using Trump’s name and likeness in their fundraising appeals (the NRCC has adopted his scam-like fundraising scheme, as well). And as CBS News’ Grace Seger noted Friday:
Since the election the former president has also been raising money for his own PAC, competing with other Republican groups for donor money. In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump encouraged donors to give to his PAC, Save America, rather than to “RINOS” (Republicans in Name Only) “who nothing but hurt the Republican Party and our great voting base.”
Politico’s Playbook reports that some donors were unhappy Trump didn’t motivate them to donate:
“It was horrible, it was long and negative,” one attendee with a donor in the room tells Playbook. “It was dour. He didn’t talk about the positive things that his administration has done.” … Many major donors have been fed up with Trump’s antics since Jan. 6. While Trump was speaking, we spotted at least two — both of whom received prominent appointments during his administration — out dining with friends at a local restaurant in Palm Beach rather than sitting through the former president’s dinner at Mar-a-Lago.
Meanwhile, per the Times, “An adviser to Mr. Trump said he currently had about $85 million on hand, compared with nearly $84 million for the RNC.”
A re-pitched fit about Fauci: In addition to asking the crowd, “Have you ever seen anybody that is so full of crap?” and insisting he gave him bad advice, Trump once again brought up the opening pitch Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked to deliver at the Washington Nationals’ home opener last year — which reportedly made Trump jealous about how the nation’s most trusted infectious-disease expert was getting more positive attention than the nation’s least popular president during a pandemic said president flagrantly mishandled. Florida governor Ron DeSantis also reportedly attacked Fauci in an address preceding Trump’s.
And a race-baiting callback to 2015: The former president, whose war on immigrants was the signature policy goal of his administration, once again referred to immigrants as rapists, drug dealers, and murderers who are coming from the Middle East. (Speaking of Islamophobic fear-mongering, Trump also reportedly made sure to refer to President Obama as “Barack Hussein Obama.”)
Pouring one out for the “perfect phone call”: Trump reused that term to describe his attempt to pressure the president of Ukraine to provide politically damaging dirt on the Biden family, which prompted Trump’s first impeachment.
Like Trump steak for your immune system: The former president also complained that he was not getting enough credit for overseeing the development of COVID vaccines amid the devastating pandemic he mismanaged, and reportedly suggested the vaccine should be be referred to as “Trumpcine.”