Targeting the Jan. 6 committee during a Friday night speech in Arizona, Donald Trump painted the ongoing investigation into his actions on the day of the Capitol riot as a conspiracy witch hunt aimed at permanently blacklisting him from politics put.
“If I announced that I would no longer run for political office, the persecution of Donald Trump would stop immediately,” he said. “They’re after me because I stand up for you.”
The former president’s appearance at the so-called “Save America” rally in Prescott Valley was meant to build support for a handful of Trump-backed Arizona candidates — including gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Senate candidate Blake Masters — but quickly evolved into the type one meandering, ego-stroking affair emblematic of the Trump presidency.
Trump took the stage over an hour late and delivered a rambling speech that focused mostly on touting his self-proclaimed accomplishments during his tenure and continuing the unsubstantiated narrative that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 election. The former president also focused on the Biden administration and the Democrats, and blew the popular conservative dog whistles you jour – rising gas prices, border controls, critical race theory, LGBT awareness in schools, voter fraud and (amusingly) the war at Christmas. He also falsely claimed to have completed the border wall, a statement applauded by the crowd.
It took almost two hours for Trump to finally mention the January 6 proceedings. “Where does it stop? Where does it end?” he said of the committee’s investigation. “Never forget: Everything this corrupt establishment is doing to me is only to maintain its power and control over the American people, for whatever reason. You want to harm me in some way so that I can no longer represent you.”
At one point, Masters joined Trump on the podium and said the former president “literally saved this country‘ – a curious claim given the committee’s latest findings showed that despite repeated pleas from White House staffers and other officials, Trump willingly and deliberately refused to take any action during the Capitol siege.
Republican Blake Masters says Trump “literally saved America” - which is what Arizona means for “sat in the White House dining room for four hours on Jan. 6 and did nothing.” pic.twitter.com/tAR5mq3rTK
— Kat-Bee (@katbeee) July 23, 2022
Trump then railed against his former deputy press secretary, Sarah Matthews, one of the committee’s witnesses, accusing her of being an attention-seeking hypocrite. “I saw this quip last night where this young lady was like, ‘Oh, I’m so heartbroken,'” he said, referring to Matthew’s appearance at the July 22 prime-time hearing. “But three weeks after January 6, she wrote us a letter saying, ‘Oh, I loved working for the President. He’s so great.’”
He also attacked the credibility of Cassidy Hutchinson, assistant to former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, whose bombastic testimony before the committee gave a damning glimpse into the inner workings of the Trump administration in the days leading up to Jan. 6. “I mean, I’m the President of the United States. Can you imagine this made-up story?” he said while recounting the now infamous incident in which he allegedly lunged at an intelligence agent. “It’s pure fiction.”
What Trump seemed most angry about was not the investigation itself, but the unflattering anecdotes told during the hearings that revealed his fondness for childish outbursts. “They make me throw food. I don’t throw food in the White House. I don’t throw food anywhere. I eat the food, which is a problem,” he said, referring to a segment of Hutchinson’s testimony in which she revealed Trump aides witnessed the president throwing a plate of food at the wall in a fit of rage. “I have too much respect for the White House.”
— Acyn (@Acyn) July 23, 2022
The ailing ex-president spent the rest of the speech emphasizing his self-imposed ordeal – “I had a very good and luxurious life before entering the wonderful world of politics,” he said – Peddling sexism and transphobia, and declares war on the education system. “It’s time to finally and completely crush the left’s corrupt education cartel,” he said. “Our children are prisoners of crazy Marxist educators. Where are you from?”
But for all the talk about protecting children from liberal bugbears, Trump failed to mention the massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas — let alone the recent mass shooting that took place across the country this summer. (He did, however, promote the Arizona candidates’ commitment to protecting the Second Amendment.)
The House of Representatives committee will resume hearings in September after a brief hiatus — and as members of the committee have previously indicated, the investigation is far from over. “We get new information every day,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said in a recent appearance on CNN. “You will definitely hear from the committee again.”