PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Staking his claim to the Republican Party, former President Donald Trump is casting his populist policies and attack-dog politics as the key to future GOP success.
In a closed-door speech Saturday night to donors at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump also reinforced his commitment to the party, according to prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press. His appearance came as Republican officials are trying to play down an internal feud over Trump’s role in the party, his commitment to GOP fundraising and his plans for 2024. While Trump’s advisers report he will emphasize party unity, he rarely sticks to script.
“The key to this triumphant future will be to build on the gains our amazing movement has made over the past four years,” Trump told hundreds of leading Republican donors, according to the prepared remarks. “Under our leadership, we welcomed millions upon millions of new voters into the Republican coalition. We transformed the Republican Party into a party that truly fights for all Americans.”
It was the final address of the Republican National Committee’s weekend donor summit in Palm Beach. Most of the RNC’s invitation-only gathering was held at a luxury hotel a few miles away; attendees were bused to Trump’s club for his remarks.
While a significant faction of the Republican Party hopes to move past Trump’s divisive leadership, the location of the event suggests that the GOP, at least for now, is not ready to replace Trump as its undisputed leader and chief fundraiser.
Despite Saturday’s intended message, Trump’s commitment to the GOP is far from certain.
Earlier in the year, he raised the possibility of creating a new political party. Just a month ago, Trump’s political action committee sent letters to the RNC and others asking them to “immediately cease and desist the unauthorized use of President Donald J. Trump’s name, image, and/or likeness in all fundraising, persuasion, and/or issue speech.”
GOP officials have repeatedly tried to play down the fundraising tensions and see Trump’s participation as a sign that he is willing to lend his name to the party. At the same time, Trump continues to aggressively accumulate campaign cash to fuel his own political ambitions.
Trump has also regularly attacked his Republican critics in recent weeks, especially Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and No. 3 House Republican Liz Cheney. Neither attended the weekend donor summit.
Politico added: “The former president spent several minutes tearing into McConnell, saying that he didn’t do enough to defend him during the February impeachment trial. At one point, three people familiar with the remarks said, Trump called the Senate GOP leader a “dumb son of a bitch.””
“Have you ever seen anybody that is so full of crap?” he said of Fauci, according to the Washington Post.