Donald Trump took the microphone at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night, to praise a couple getting married at his Florida resort. Nearly 400 words later he did so, according to video published by the website TMZ, after a rambling complaint about Joe Biden’s policy towards Iran and China, the situation at the border with Mexico and the supposed fraud he claims caused his election defeat.
“Y’know,” the tuxedoed former president began, standing in front of a waiting band, “I just got, I turned off the news, I get all these flash reports, and they’re telling me about the border, they’re telling me about China, they’re telling me about Iran – how’re we doing with Iran, how do you like that?
“Boy, they were ready to make a deal, they would have done anything, they would have done anything, and this guy goes and drops the sanctions and then he says, ‘We’d love to negotiate now,’ [and Iran replies], ‘We’re not dealing with the United States at all,’ Oh, well, they don’t want to deal with us.”
“And China, the same thing, they never treated us that way, right?”
Biden officials have said the US stands with allies in the Pacific in the face of Chinese military ambition. Trump blamed Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic but also, in one instance recorded in a recent book by the Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin, carelessly angered China over his attitude to Taiwan, then told a senator if the Chinese were to invade, “there isn’t a fucking thing we can do about it”.
In Florida, Trump continued: “You saw what happened a few days ago, was terrible, and uh, the border is not good, the border is the worst anybody’s ever seen it, and what you see now, multiply it times 10, Jim – he’s the only one I know who would handle the border tougher than me.”
It was not immediately clear to which Jim the former president was referring, and pointing.
The Biden administration is struggling to deal with an increase in migrants at the southern border and the political fallout. Figures show the increase of arrivals is seasonal; the administration blames Trump for dismantling policy and infrastructure in pursuit of hardline goals. No one denies conditions in Texas are desperate.
Trump said: “What’s happening to the kids, they’re living in squalor, they are living like nobody has ever seen anybody, there’s never been anything like what’s, and you’re gonna have hundreds, and you have it now, they have the airplane photos, the shots, and they call ’em shots, and these things are showing thousands and thousands of people coming up from South America and it’s gonna be, it’s just uh, look, it’s a disaster.”
Trump did not mention his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents, which Biden is not following.
“It’s a humanitarian disaster from their standpoint,” he continued, “and it’s gonna destroy the country, and frankly, the country can’t afford it because you’re talking about massive, just incredibly massive amounts. Our school systems, our hospital systems, everything.
“So it’s a rough thing, and I just say, ‘Do you miss me yet?’”
Many Republicans apparently do, as Trump repeatedly tops polls of potential presidential candidates for 2024. The crowd at Mar-a-Lago cheered and applauded.
Trump duly moved on to the 2020 election, in which he insists Democrats cheated, a lie repeatedly laughed out of court but which inspired the 6 January Capitol attack, in which five people died and more than 400 people face federal charges. Trump was impeached a second time – and acquitted again.
“We did get 75m votes,” Trump said at Mar-a-Lago, which was nearly true, as he collected around 74.3m. Either way, his problem was that Biden got 81.3m.
“Nobody’s ever gotten that,” Trump said. “They said, ‘Get 66m votes, sir” – a fraction more than Hillary Clinton got when she beat him in the popular vote in 2016 – “and the election’s over.’ We got 75m and they said … but you know, you saw what happened, 10.30 in the evening, all of a sudden I said, ‘That’s a strange thing, why are they closing up certain places, right?’
“Now, a lot of things happening right now. I just wanted to say, it’s an honor to be here, it’s an honor to have you at Mar-a-Lago, you are a great and beautiful couple … have fun.”