Former President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail Saturday night, calling the direction of the country since his departure from the White House a 'catastrophe' and saying that he could run again in 2024.
'We won the election twice,' Trump said as the audience cheered. 'And it's possible we'll have to win it a third time!'
He said the country was tilting in a 'woke' direction and slammed Critical Race Theory, which he banned by an executive order that was rescinded, and made fun of President Joe Biden's military directives on race and gender that have been pilloried for their political correctness.
Trump targeting GOP impeachment voter at Ohio revenge rally https://t.co/lMlMwO7uu6— New Delhi Times (@NewDelhiTimes) June 26, 2021
As thousands of people at an Ohio fairgrounds cheered him on in MAGA hats and Trump-themed T-shirts, the former president warned of illegal immigration, which he said has spiraled out of control under Biden and said the only reason Vice President Kamala Harris made a brief touchdown at the border is because he announced he'd be going there next week.
Trump welcomed the crowd gathered at the Lorain County Fairgrounds, southwest of Cleveland to the 'first rally of the 2022 election.'
'We're going to take back the House, we're going to take back the Senate,' he announced.
The rally was billed as a 'revenge' rally on behalf of a former aide who's running against a GOP congressman who voted for the ex-president's impeachment. There wasn't an immediate estimate of how many people were in attendance.
Trump immediately called President Joe Biden's tenure a 'complete and total catastrophe.'
'I told you – crime is surging, murders are soaring, police departments are being gutted, illegal aliens are running over our borders,' Trump said.
Trump, whose hardline stance on immigration made him stand out when he first announced his run for the White House in 2015, sang that tune again.
'There is no more dire threat today than the crisis on our southern border,' he said. 'Other than our elections, that's a dire threat,' he then uttered, calling it a 'disgrace.'
He boasted that Vice President Kamala Harris only traveled to the border because he announced a trip there next Wednesday.
'I'm going to the border next week. Oh if I didn't do that I don't know if she was ever going to go.'
He said his immigration policy was, 'We caught them, we detained them and we rapidly threw them the hell out of our country.'
'Once we got the word out people didn't come,' Trump said.
He added that the current border numbers are incorrect, guessing 'you have millions of people coming into this country.'
He held his first 'revenge' rally Saturday night outside of Cleveland, Ohio - hitting the campaign trail for the first time since leaving the White House.
Trump said it's time to return to the U.S. to law and order - cracking down on crime and illegal immigration - and said it was imperative for Republicans to take back the House in 2022.
During the rally, Trump also credited himself for the Afghanistan pull-out, which Biden said would be completed by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Trump also mocked White House press secretary Jen Psaki, noting her 'red hair,' for insulting Space Force, something he pressed that the country needs.
'We fully rebuilt the United States military, created Space Force. Everybody laughed. Remember when the press secretary, with the extremely red hair, remember what she said. She laughed at the. She laughed, remember that? And she got decimated by everybody because she laughed. We need Space Force.'
At the same time he mocked the 'woke' military under Biden.
'Our generals and our admirals are now focused more on this nonsense than they are on our enemies. Do you see these generals lately on television? They are woke. They are woke. Our military will be incapable of fighting and incapable of taking orders.'
'I know some of these guys. Boy they change quickly. They went right over to the other side.'
'The military brass have become weak and ineffective leaders, and our enemies are watching, and they're laughing. We need a Republican Congress to ban Critical Race Theory.'
On COVID, Trump continued to push the lab leak theory telling the crowd the coronavirus 'most likely came out of the Wuhan lab.'
He also boasted that 'hydroxychloroquine works.' The drug, which Trump took preemptively, hasn't been proven to help those suffering from COVID-19.
And Trump continued to push the so-called big lie - that he was the true election winner, which he was not.
'This was the scam of the century and this was the crime of the history,' he said.
He told supporters that in some states there 'more votes than voters' and that there was 'North Korean-style turnout' and that 'ballots were wheeled in backdoors.'
'There's just mountains of evidence,' the ex-president claimed.
'They used COVID in order to cheat,' Trump went on, pointing a finger at Democrats.
He said the Trump campaign lost dozens of court cases because 'many of our judges were gutless.'
'And I am ashamed of our Supreme Court,' he added.
The court, which skews 6-3 conservative, refused to take up the election fraud cases.
Trump called out for Mike Lindell, who's been publicly pushing the conspiracy theory that Trump won. 'Where's Mike, the pillow man?' Trump asked, referring to Lindell as a 'patriot.' Earlier a Lindell associate, Dr. Douglas Frank, had tried to walk the crowd through why he believed the election was stolen.
The ex-president also raged at the government's treatment of the 'greatest mayor in the history of New York' Rudy Giuliani, who lost his law license over the election fraud farce and, unrelatedly, had his home raided by the FBI.
'I'm not the one trying to undermine American democracy, I'm the one trying to save American democracy,' Trump went on.
And he suggested there was a media conspiracy to keep under wraps that the Pfizer vaccine worked until after the 20202 election.
'The first vaccine was known to be affective before the election,' Trump said. 'Right after the election - big vaccine story, the greatest thing ever.'
The former president also continued to mock mask-wearing.
'Nancy Pelosi had the single largest make I've ever seen on a human,' Trump said, speaking about Pelosi's look at Biden's first Congressional address. 'The biggest masks I've ever seen.'
Trump turned media critic again saying that when he watched Biden's 100-day speech he thought the Democrat was 'going to be killed by the media.'
Instead, Trump recalled, Biden got compared to FDR.
Trump complained about other coverage too, saying, 'Hunter Biden's laptop was real.'
'Lafayette Square was not cleared for a photo-op,' he added.
The crowd screamed at the press risers.
In the lead-up to the rally traffic was backed up hours around Wellington, the small town adjacent to the site.
Trump allies Mike Lindell, the CEO of My Pillow, Inc. who has continued to push the ex-president's false election fraud claims, and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan walked around the media pen, inspiring cheers from the crowd. Planes flew overhead dragging signs including one that said 'Ohio is Trump Country.'
Trump's warm-up act included QAnon Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene who pushed that the election had been stolen from Trump.
She said she's become controversial in Washington because 'I want to fire Joe Biden.'
'And I want to expel Maxine Waters,' she continued. 'And I want to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci.'
A 'lock him up' chant started at the mention of Fauci's name.
'Did you hear that Tony? They want you locked up!' Greene exclaimed.
Greene also knocked Biden's Justice Department for going after Capitol insurrectionists, saying he 'weaponized' the agency against Trump supporters.
She also slammed 'critical race theory.'
'How many of you stood in line and picked your skin color before you were born?' she asked the crowd.
Greene then transitioned to saying 'trans men' don't belong in girls' sports – which has become a popular anti-LGBTQ talking point on the right.
Finally Greene slammed her fellow House members, calling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the so-called 'squad,' the 'jihad squad,' adding that AOC is the 'little communist from New York.'
Greene pushed that Ocasio-Cortez is 'not an American' because she pushes for a Green New Deal, climate change plan.
The Georgia Republican also complained about being fined for not wearing a mask on the House floor, calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a 'maskhole.'
'What we need to do in '22 is rip that gavel out of her hand and we need to fire Nancy Pelosi,' Greene said.
Trump is stumping for his former aide Max Miller, who is running to unseat Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in Ohio's 16th Congressional district.
Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the ex-president for inciting the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.
Miller took the stage before Trump appeared and nicknamed Gonzalez, 'Turncoat Tony,' for his pro-impeachment vote, which Miller called a 'betrayal.'
Miller said that if he beats Gonzalez in the Republican primary Gonzalez's political career 'will look like his professional football career: all-star recruit to out in four short years.'
Gonzalez played for both Ohio State and later the Indianapolis Colts.
'Now let's make America great again, again!' Miller said, as 'Macho Man,' a Trump rally favorite, began to loudly play.
Trump gleefully knocked around Gonzalez, the Ohio Republican he wants his former aide, Miller, to take out.
Trump called Gonzalez a 'grandstanding RINO, not respected in D.C.' before promptly bringing up the Ohio Republican's pro-impeachment vote.
The ex-president then recalled how Gonzalez had once asked him for a ride on Air Force One, before casting his vote with Democrats and nine other House Republicans – all of whom Trump wants gone.
'That's not the reason why I'm doing this,' Trump said of Gonzalez's Air Force One ask. 'But I just thought it was a character trait that was not good.'
'He's not the candidate you want representing the Republican Party,' Trump said. 'He's the candidate of Liz Cheney. Mitt Romney,' the former president said to jeers from the crowd.
Trump wants all the Republicans who voted against him excised from the party.
He's also already pledged to hit the trail for Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who's running to unseat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska.
'We're giving tremendous endorsements,' Trump told Newsmax on Friday. 'Fake Republicans, anybody that voted for the impeachment doesn't get it,' he said.
'But there weren't too many of them. And I think most of them are being, if not all, are being primaried right now, so that's good. I'll be helping their opponent.'
Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump a second time, only New York Rep. John Katko hasn't attracted a MAGA opponent.
Since leaving office on January 20, Trump has maintained a fairly low profile - speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando in February and at a North Carolina GOP event earlier this month. He's called in and done interviews, or appeared on podcasts, with like-minded, right-wing hosts. And he's sent out statements through his Save America PAC, as he continues to be banished from Twitter and Facebook.
The Saturday night rally, being held at the Lorain County Fairgrounds, to the southwest of Cleveland, will kick off more regular public appearances from the ex-president.
He'll hit up the swing state of Ohio first, before traveling to Florida for a July 3 rally and fireworks show in Sarasota.
His return to the trail comes as the ex-president looks to be in imminent legal jeopardy.
Manhattan prosecutors informed the Trump Organization Thursday that it could face criminal charges over its business practices, with The New York Times reporting that charges could come as early as next week.
Trump also returns to the trail at a time when the coronavirus threat has decreased, yet still exists - especially to those who are unvaccinated.
Ohio falls in the middle of U.S. states' vaccination rates, with 44.1 per cent fully vaccinated.
While Trump has tried to take credit for COVID-19 vaccine development, he also didn't receive his doses of vaccine publicly.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from earlier this month found that nearly half the unvaccinated respondents to the survey, 49 per cent, were Republicans. That's in comparison to 29 per cent who said they were Democrats.
Part of Trump's legacy will be his politicization of the pandemic response.
Trump flouted his own government's advice and started holding large rallies - which had the potential to become 'superspreader' events - starting last June.
His disastrous indoor Tulsa rally wasn't well attended, but outdoor rallies afterward attracted large, mostly mask-less crowds through the November 3 election.
There were already droves of Trump supporters at the Ohio site Saturday morning, with the rally slated to begin at 7 p.m. Some had been camping at the site for days, according to The Associated Press.
(President Trump) boasts Kamala Harris only traveled to the border because he's going, mocks Biden's woke military and teases another presidential run as he returns to the campaign trailhttps://t.co/Er1oKXwSqV via @MailOnline— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) June 27, 2021
Trump's bet to beat Gonzalez, who is a former Ohio State and Indianapolis Colts football player, is Miller, who worked in the Presidential Personnel Office.
The office was featured in a March 2018 investigation by The Washington Post.
The Post found inaccuracies on Miller's LinkedIn page, which said he attended Cleveland State University from 2007 to 2011, worked on the presidential campaigns of Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio and worked as a Marine recruiter.
Cleveland State University said Miller graduated in 2013.
Once the newspaper started asking questions Miller removed the dates of his education and the claim that he was a Marine recruiter.
In an interview with the paper, he called them mistakes and blamed them on a relative he said made his LinkedIn page.
Miller was introduced to the Trump campign by his cousin, Eli Miller, who was a senior official in the Treasury Department.
Miller told The Post that it was his 'work ethic' that won the Trump campaign over, not his familial ties.
Politico reported that Miller was the grandson of real estate executive and philanthropist Sam Miller.
While a source told Politico Miller already had a six-figure sum pledged to him by potential donors, he also had family money to pull from.
The Washington Post also reported on Miller's criminal record, including a 2007 charge for assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after he reportedly punched a man in the back of the head and ran away from police.
He pleaded no contest for two misdemeanor charges. The case was later dismissed as part of a program for first offenders, the Post reported.
In 2009, Miller was charged with underage drinking, which was also dismissed as part of a first offenders' program.
In 2010, he pleaded guilty do a disorderly conduct charge, stemming from a late night fight after Miller left a hookah bar. During the fight, police said he punched through a glass door, cut his wrist and then wandered off, the Post wrote.
'Growing up, everyone makes mistakes,' Miller told The Post. 'Who I was in the past is not who I am now,' he told the paper in 2018.
The Post investigation highlighted frat-like behavior at this White House office, which was responsible for vetting key posts across government. Memorably, The Post found that PPO staff was playing the drinking game 'icing' at work happy hours, where a Smirnoff Ice would be hidden and the person who found it would have to take a knee and chug the bottle.
Miller moved on from the PPO to become director of advance and left the White House for the 2020 campaign after the disastrous Tulsa, Oklahoma rally, which featured droves of empty seats.
He served as deputy campaign manager for presidential operations.
'Every day, our campaign grows in strength, and Max's wealth of experience and expertise is an important addition to our team's world-class advance efforts,' then Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in the July 2020 announcement.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.