Former President Donald Trump promised attendees at an ultra-conservative gathering Saturday night that he would use a second term in the White House to implement an authoritarian vision for policing crime that would include deploying the National Guard into US cities with high crime rates.
“I will send in the National Guard until law and order is restored. You know we’re not supposed to do that,” Trump said in his address closing out the annual Conservative Political Action Conference conference in Oxon Hill, Md., where he easily won a presidential straw poll of attendees.
Trump used his diatribe against cities to zero in on nearby Washington, D.C., whose federal prohibition on fully governing itself has drawn increased attention in recent days, as President Joe Biden and Congress appear poised to block the district’s divisive crime bill from becoming law.
The CPAC crowd, made up largely of right-wing political supporters and various officials from his former administration, stood and applauded when Trump called for full federal control of the city that is also the nation’s capital. “Frankly the federal government should take over control and management of Washington, D.C.,” Trump said, adding at one point, “I wouldn’t even call the mayor.”
Washington, DC, is run by an elected city council and a mayor, but its laws can be overridden by Congress. The 700,000 residents of Washington, DC, who are 47% Black,. aren’t allowed to vote for members of Congress or the Senate, and the city’s license plates read: “Taxation Without Representation.”
Trump’s comments came a day after President Joe Biden when he announced he would not veto a bill overriding changes to DC’s crime laws passed by the DC city council. The move amounted to a flip-flop from Biden’s long-standing position that DC should become a state and be allowed to govern itself, and came just weeks after Biden had signaled he would back the DC council’s autonomy. The President’s decision seemed to show that he considers the public’s perceptions of crime rates, and Republican claims that Democrats are soft on crime, to be a political vulnerability going into the 2024 elections. Biden has said he intends to run for a second term, but hasn’t formally announced his candidacy.
Without evidence, Trump claimed that, as President, he ordered the clearing out of homeless encampments in Washington, DC. He also bemoaned how his chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen. Mark Milley objected to Trump’s June 2020 order for National Guard forces to use tear gas and rubber bullets to push out racial justice protestors from Lafayette Park in front of the White House so Trump could stage a photo op with a bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. “He didn’t like me holding up a bible in front of a church,” Trump said about Milley.
Trump handily won the annual CPAC straw poll, with 62% support of attendees picking him to be the party’s nominee, followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 20%, according to the Associated Press. Trump did not directly mention DeSantis or any of his other current or likely opponents for the 2024 GOP nomination by name.
In an hour and 45 minute speech to a receptive audience, Trump repeatedly praised the use of force to address the nation’s problems. He also praised those who continue to defend the rioters who broke through police lines at the Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, and said that if he is elected back into the White House, he would be “your warrior” and “your retribution.”
“The sinister forces trying to kill America have done everything they can to stop me, to silence you, and to turn this nation into a socialist dumping ground for criminals, junkies, Marxists, thugs, radicals and dangerous refugees that no other country wants,” Trump said.
Trump also echoed the pledges of his first White House run, vowing to beef up immigration enforcement and pitching policies that at times seemed to equate immigrants with criminals.
Along with pushing to pass a funding bill that would deliver a “massive increase in border patrol and colossal increase in the number of ICE deportation officers,” Trump said he would ask every state and federal agency to identify every known or suspected gang member in America that is in the country illegally.
“We will pick them up and we will throw them out of our country,” Trump said. “And there will be no questions asked.”