Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday called the U.S. a “cesspool of crime” and said a forceful response is needed to stem the violence, in his first remarks in Washington since leaving office.
Speaking at the America First Agenda Summit, the former president said the U.S. needs an “all-out effort to defeat violent crime.”
“Be tough, and be nasty and be mean if we have to,” he said. ” ‘America first’ must mean safety first,” Trump said. He referenced examples including an assault against Republican New York gubernatorial hopeful Lee Zeldin last week and endorsed “stop and frisk” policies.
The summit is a program of the America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization headed by Brooke Rollins, who ran the Domestic Policy Council in the Trump White House. Former National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow is vice chair of the institute’s board.
Trump focused much of his Tuesday remarks on crime and public safety, two issues on which Republicans aim to paint Democrats as weak as midterm elections approach. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, last week proposed to spend $37 billion to fight crime and help communities hire more police officers.
Seeking to draw a contrast between Trump allies’ claims to be backers of law and order even as many opt not to disavow the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Biden on Monday said this: “You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-cop. You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-democracy. You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-American.”
Republicans are attacking Democrats over crime in key states including Pennsylvania, charging that Senate hopeful John Fetterman, the commonwealth’s lieutenant governor, is soft on the issue. Fetterman is facing Republican Mehmet Oz in one of a handful of races that will decide control of the Senate.
Trump has openly flirted with, but not declared, a 2024 presidential campaign. Doing so would subject him to campaign-finance requirements.
As he prepared to give Tuesday’s speech, Trump was far ahead of his nearest potential Republican competitor, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in 2024 betting markets. Former Vice President Mike Pence, also a potential 2024 contender, is far behind both Trump and DeSantis, given just 5% chance in the PredictIt market.
Trump’s likelihood of winning the GOP nomination currently stands at 44%, with DeSantis at 34%, according to PredictIt.
That’s a reversal from a bit more than a month ago, when DeSantis’s odds outstripped the former president’s.
Pence also spoke in Washington on Tuesday, to the National Conservative Student Conference. He blasted “big tech, big media, big government [and] even big business” for advancing what he called a “pernicious woke agenda,” reported the New York Post.
Trump in his remarks referenced high U.S. inflation and gasoline
prices, two worries for congressional Democrats seeking re-election this fall. He called the midterm elections an “incredible opportunity” to “vote to rescue America’s future.”
Trump spoke a day before a Federal Reserve interest-rate decision, with the central bank widely expected to raise rates by 0.75 percentage point. On Thursday, the government will report second-quarter gross domestic product, and Friday will bring inflation data for June.