GREENVILLE, N.C. — In one of his first public appearances since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Donald Trump spoke Saturday at the North Carolina GOP’s annual convention.
The crowd in Greenville was largely made up of Republican Party leaders from around North Carolina. The event was much more subdued than the raucous rallies that were a hallmark of Trump’s campaign.
The former president repeated familiar themes in his 90-minute speech: false claims about election fraud in 2020, criticizing China over the coronavirus and pushing his America-first agenda.
“The survival of America depends on our ability to elect republicans at every level,” Trump said to cheers from the crowd. “We can’t allow bad things to happen to our country. And bad, bad things are happening.”
Trump has largely been out of sight since the Jan. 6 attack, when five people died, including one police officer, after a group of pro-Trump supporters forced their way into the Capitol in a failed attempt to stop the certification of the election.
About 1,250 people were at the dinner, capping the state GOP’s annual convention, according to party spokeswoman Livy Pollen.
It was a formal event, with white table cloths and steak entrees plated with sweet potato and asparagus. Very few of the attendees appeared to be wearing masks.
Trump continued to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic, and drew some of his biggest applause when he suggested China should pay “reparations” for the virus.
Trump continued to repeat false claims about the 2020 election, which he characterized as a “corrupt election.”
Congress and the courts were clear about the results: Biden won the election.
Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election were received by less applause than some of his other remarks, such as the suggestion of reparations from China as well as supporting the police.
Trump praised states like Florida and Texas, where Republicans have passed restrictive voting laws.
The former president also responded to recent news that a grand jury in New York was talking to witnesses as part of an ongoing criminal probe into the Trump organization.
“It’s a disgrace to our country. It’s prosecutorial misconduct,” Trump said of the investigation, characterizing those leading the probe as “radical left prosecutors.” “It’s a fishing expedition.”
Prosecutors in New York City and for the state have been looking into the Trump organization for years. A potential criminal case appears to be taking shape as a grand jury continues to hear evidence.
Burr’s Senate seat
One of the biggest open questions in North Carolina politics is who can win the 2024 Senate election now that Sen. Richard Burr is not planning to seek reelection.
Early in his speech, Trump invited his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to the stage.
Many had speculated she would run for the U.S. Senate seat. But she ruled out that possibility in her remarks Saturday evening, telling attendees she had no plans to replace Burr.
The former president made another announcement, endorsing current House member Ted Budd, who currently represents the 13th District in central North Carolina, for the seat.