Republican high-roller contributors gathered at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach for the Republican National Committee’s annual donor retreat. The star of the show was former President Donald Trump himself, who proved once again that he is a force to be reckoned with in GOP politics.
The event drew a large number of potential 2024 candidates including Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and Sen. Marco Rubio. Sens. Tom Cotton and Rick Scott were also in attendance. Noticeably absent was former Vice President Mike Pence, who is once again on the outs with his former boss.
The event included a Saturday night dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Largo resort, featuring every national Republican of note. No transcript of Trump’s speech is available as the RNC didn’t allow TV cameras inside. But enough of Trump’s speech has leaked to show that the former president hasn’t lost any of his zest for skewering those who displease him.
In particular, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell felt the full force of Trump’s wrath.
The former president spent several minutes tearing into McConnell, saying that he didn’t do enough to defend him during the February impeachment trial. At one point, three people familiar with the remarks said, Trump called the Senate GOP leader a “dumb son of a bit**.”
Trump also went after McConnell’s wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, for resigning her cabinet post after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
A spokesperson for McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who was just reelected to a seventh six-year term last year, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump also referred to McConnell as a “total stone-cold loser” and said that “If that were Schumer instead of this dumb son of a bit** Mitch McConnell, they would never allow it to happen. They would have fought it,” he said of the election certification on Jan. 6.
As expected, Trump spoke at length about his election defeat and his belief that the presidency was stolen from him.
Much of Trump’s Saturday night speech was aimed at relitigating the election results, on which the former president has remained fixated. At one point he said he remained disappointed with Pence for not doing more to stop the certification of the election, which he called “rigged.”
Trump’s ongoing criticism of Pence has created a rift in their relationship. While several other potential 2024 Republican hopefuls made the trek to South Florida for the event, Pence did not.
The former president also predicted a GOP sweep of the House and Senate in 2022 and a Republican president in 2024. After trashing McConnell and several other Republicans, he called for “unity” in order to defeat the Democrats.
Of course, the number one question on everyone’s mind was whether Trump would run in 2024 or not. He teased the crowd, according to witnesses, but did not clarify his plans. Trump won’t announce his intentions until he has to. Many states have filing deadlines for declared candidates and signature requirements and we should expect Trump to wait as long as possible before letting us in on his plans. Waiting is good for Trump and bad for everyone else.
It remains to be seen whether Trump’s scorched-earth tactics with the Republican establishment will bring about the desired success at the polls.