CPAC: Trump Criticizes Biden on Ukraine, Hints at 2024 White House Bid

ORLANDO, Fla.—Former President

Donald Trump

asserted Saturday night that Russia wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine if he had been in the White House, and strongly suggested he plans to again run for the nation’s highest office.

In a speech to staunch conservatives, the former president said Russian President

Vladimir Putin

has played President Biden “like a drum” when it comes to the deadly fighting in Europe.

“It would have been so easy for me to stop this travesty,” Mr. Trump said, describing his relationship with Mr. Putin as friendly, but also tough. “He understood me and he understood that I didn’t play games.”

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Mr. Trump’s appearance was the highlight for many of those attending the four-day Conservative Political Action Conference, an event that is focused heavily on cultural issues, voting rules and the rejection of pandemic mandates.

On Sunday afternoon, convention organizers released results of a straw poll of attendees that showed Mr. Trump was the preferred 2024 GOP nominee among 59% of 2,574 voters. Florida Gov.

Ron DeSantis

finished second at 28% and former Secretary of State

Mike Pompeo

was a distant third at 2%.

Without Mr. Trump in the mix, the unscientific survey found Mr. DeSantis was a strong favorite with 61% support.

In the CPAC straw poll a year ago, 55% of attendees favored Mr. Trump in 2024 as the GOP nominee, followed by Mr. DeSantis at 21%, and South Dakota Gov.

Kristi Noem

at 4%.

The former president’s suggestion that he plans to make another White House bid triggered chants of “four more years” from an audience of several thousand packed into a ballroom at a resort here.

The former president’s suggestion that he plans to make another White House bid triggered chants of “four more years” from an audience of several thousand packed into a ballroom at a resort here.

He repeatedly suggested that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 election, even though there is no evidence of widespread fraud and numerous courts ruled against challenges filed by his campaign and its allies.

“We did it twice, and we will do it again,” he said of another presidential run in 2024. “We’re going to be doing it again a third time.”

Mr. Trump didn’t offer specifics on how he would have handled the Ukraine situation differently from Mr. Biden. During his time in the White House, he was often criticized by Democrats and some fellow Republicans as taking too friendly of a stance toward authoritarian regimes, including Russia and North Korea.

Former President Donald Trump’s appearance Saturday was the highlight for many attending the four-day Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla.



Photo:

chandan khanna/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The House impeached Mr. Trump in 2019 for pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate Mr. Biden and for making U.S. security aid to the country contingent on Kyiv going public with the investigation. The Senate acquitted Mr. Trump.

“After spending four years selling out Ukraine, the defeated former president took the stage at CPAC to double down on his shameless praise for Putin as innocent Ukrainians shelter from bombs and missiles at the hands of Russia,” Democratic National Committee spokesperson Adonna Biel said in a statement.

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump called Mr. Putin smart and criticized the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “He’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” he said during a fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “I’d say that’s pretty smart.”

President Biden announced additional sanctions on Russian banks and high-tech imports, and reiterated that U.S. troops wouldn’t be sent to Ukraine, after Russia attacked its western neighbor. Photo: Michael Reynolds/Shutterstock

During his remarks Saturday, Mr. Trump sought to add context to those comments. “The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he’s smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb,” he said.

In his roughly 90-minute appearance, Mr. Trump echoed themes he has hit during other campaign-style appearances since leaving office just over a year ago.

Senate Minority Leader

Mitch McConnell

(R., Ky.) and other party leaders in Washington have suggested the GOP needs to focus more on the future and criticizing Mr. Biden and Democrats, rather than discussing the 2020 election.

“I never knew how important being president was,” Mr. Trump said at one point, as he rattled off what he sees as the failings of the current administration.

Joe Biden

has turned calm into chaos, competence into incompetence, stability into anarchy, and security into catastrophe,” he said.

Cardboard cutouts of Melania and Donald Trump were available for CPAC photo opportunities.



Photo:

Zack Wittman for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Trump also outlined what seemed to be plans for another four years in the White House. “The wall will be quickly completed,” he said in a nod to a structure started along the U.S.’s southern border during his administration that Mr. Biden halted on his first day in office.

Write to John McCormick at [email protected]

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