Donald Trump declared himself a supporter of Ukraine on Saturday, just days after calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “genius” for initiating the invasion, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando.
“The Russian attack on Ukraine is appalling. It’s an outrage, and an atrocity that should never have been allowed to occur. We are praying for the proud people of Ukraine,” he said.
Trump quickly returned to his favourite subject: his false claim that he was the winner of the 2020 election. “As everyone understands, this horrific disaster would never have happened if our election was not rigged, and if I was the president. Very simple: it wouldn’t have happened.”
“Do you remember in Democrat debates when they said he’s going to get us into a third world war? I’m the one that didn’t have any wars. I’m the one that got us out of wars. The world is always in danger with a weak American president. Putin is playing Biden like a drum,” Trump said, in an attack at US President Joe Biden.
He said the radical left was trying to “extinguish our very identity as Americans”. so when they try to take our freedom, we do not even think to resist. “The crackdowns, censorship and cancel culture are not an expression of confidence. They are an expression of cowardice and fear,” he said.
The hotel hosting the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida is crowded with seas of red hats and US flags brought out to welcome the still wildly popular former president, due to headline the key Republican event.
The 75-year-old billionaire took to the podium on the third day of the conference, playing to his strength as a rousing speaker beloved by his base. Vanessa Broussard, who traveled from Texas for the event, was so excited to see Trump speak she could barely sleep.
“I don’t think that there are words to really describe how I feel about Donald Trump. I’m a huge fan,” 40-year-old Broussard said. “I have seen what he has done as the 45th president of the United States. We had a booming economy… we had a wall being built at our southern border. He just had this country glowing.”
Trump’s upcoming appearance changed the atmosphere at the hotel hosting the convention, with a proliferation of banners supporting a Trump 2024 presidential run and claiming the last election — won by President Joe Biden — was stolen. Signs insulting Biden mixed with hats emblazoned with Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” that were worn by students, couples with young children and seniors alike.
Five people sporting t-shirts, each with one letter of Trump’s name, sat side by side in the hall waiting for the evening speech. For many at the conference, Trump is the man they hope to see back in the White House and a driving force for Republicans to take back legislative seats in November midterm elections.
“Without Donald Trump, nobody is going to win these elections,” said Maria Boham, 59, of the November and 2024 polls. “We are going to stick by him because he stands for God, he stands for the family, he stands for its existence, he stands for my values. Period.”
With AFP inputs