Former President Donald Trump told the Republican Party's top donors on Saturday night that he's optimistic about the GOP's chances for success in the 2022 midterms and to recapture the White House in 2024, according to prepared remarks obtained by CBS News. Mr. Trump did not say whether he would be on the ticket in that election, but he twice teased a potential candidacy, according to an attendee at his speech.
"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," Mr. Trump's prepared remarks said.
The former president, though, often deviated from the script during his nearly hour-long speech, according to an attendee at the event. Mr. Trump again took aim at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blasted Mr. Trump following his acquittal in his second impeachment trial, calling McConnell a "total stone cold loser."
Mr. Trump also brought up McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, who was transportation secretary during the Trump administration, saying, "I hired his wife, did he ever say thank you?"
And Mr. Trump painted the Republican Party as weak under McConnell's leadership on the issue of election certification.
"If that were Schumer instead of this dumb son of a b**** Mitch McConnell they would never allow it to happen. They would have fought it," Mr. Trump said, according to a source.
Mr. Trump again complained about fraud in the 2020 election during his speech, according to a source. The Washington Post reported that the former president said he was "disappointed" in former Vice President Mike Pence for confirming the results of the 2020 election.
Mr. Trump and his allies lost more than 60 court cases after the November election and his own attorney general said there was no evidence of fraud at a level that "could have affected a different outcome in the election."
The former president's speech was the keynote address of the Republican National Committee's. The event brought the GOP's top donors to South Florida over the weekend to discuss the party's future and plot a path toward recapturing Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024.
The key to that success, according to Mr. Trump's prepared remarks, is to "build on the gains our amazing movement has made over the past four years." He highlighted the new voters that he brought into the GOP and stressed that his populist "America First" message will help the party continue to grow.
The former president also took shots at President Biden over various policies the current administration has implemented that Mr. Trump feels have unwound his work in areas such as energy policy and border security.
The closed-press weekend retreat also featured appearances from potential 2024 candidates, including Senators Tom Cotton and Rick Scott and Governors Ron DeSantis and Kristi Noem. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senators Lindsey Graham, Ron Johnson and Marco Rubio and former counselor to President Trump Kellyanne Conway also spoke or were featured on panels. Some of the panels during the retreat focused on issues such as party unity, growing the GOP and big tech censorship.
Mr. Trump and other speakers at the retreat skewered corporations over recent political activism, particularly those that spoke against. During a reception on Friday night, Cotton took aim at companies who spoke out against the bill while still maintaining ties to China, according to a source familiar with his remarks.
"Major League Baseball and massive corporations like Delta and Coca-Cola are boycotting an entire state for passing voter ID laws," Cotton told donors. "To those corporations, I say this: if you're silent about the Chinese Communist Party's genocide while begging for their business, don't start lecturing Americans about voter ID."
The donor conference came as the GOP continues to navigate its next steps with the 2022 midterm elections inching closer. While some party leaders distanced themselves a bit from Mr. Trump following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the former president's prime speaking spot during this retreat, and bringing the event partly to his Mar-a-Lago golf club, indicates many in the GOP believe he needs to play a role in the party's future.
"Palm Beach is the new political power center, and President Trump is the Republican Party's best messenger," said senior Trump aide Jason Miller.
The former president had a strained relationship with the party's fundraising apparatus in late February and early March, but that appears to be resolved. During his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Mr. Trump encouraged activists to give to his political action committee, Save America.
In March, he clashed with the RNC and other GOP committees over using his name and likeness for fundraising. In a statement issued on March 9, Mr. Trump indicated he fully supported "the Republican Party and important GOP Committees, but I do not support RINOs," an acronym for "Republican in name only."
Mar-a-Lago has been a frequent destination for Republicans to fundraise or meet with the former president. Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is running for, was among the latest to hold an event at the club this weekend. McCarthy and other top Republicans have visited the former president at his club.
Mr. Trump has been rolling out some endorsements, mostly to incumbents, but this week weighed in on his first open Senate primary when he endorsed Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, who was an early advocate of objecting to the Electoral College results. In his statement endorsing Brooks, Mr. Trump wrote that Brooks "is fighting for voter integrity (like few others)."
The former president has also endorsed Sanders in her gubernatorial bid and former aide Max Miller, who is running against Ohio GOP Representative Anthony Gonzalez — one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president.
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