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Former President Trump spoke at the Road to Majority Policy Conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative advocacy organization, in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday.
Trump repeatedly mentioned the ongoing investigations into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection throughout the speech, attacking the probes’ legitimacy and defending those accused of having been involved in the riot.
The comments come as the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 is in the midst of holding a series of public hearings in which it is making the case that a Trump-led effort to retain power led directly to the insurrection.
Trump also criticized the Biden administration over rising inflation and its policies on a range of other issues while defending conservative measures opposing abortion rights and discussions of gender identity in schools.
Here are some of the most notable moments from Trump’s speech.
Trump floats pardons for Jan. 6 defendants after a potential 2024 win
Trump said he would “very, very seriously” consider issuing pardons to defendants in cases connected to the Jan. 6 riot if he were reelected president. He claimed the defendants are being “treated worse than terrorists and murderers” and that most are charged with “parading” through the Capitol.
Trump has not yet announced whether he will run for president again in 2024 but has teased the possibility more than once.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release earlier this month that more than 840 people have been charged so far with crimes relating to the insurrection, ranging from assaulting officers to entering a restricted federal building. More than 300 have pleaded guilty.
“If we’re going to be one people and one nation, America must have one set of laws and one system of justice,” Trump said. “We don’t have that. We have two systems. The radical left is not above the law, and conservatives are not beneath the law.”
He has previously said that if he ran and was elected president again, he would treat those charged in connection with the Capitol attack “fairly.”
Before leaving office, Trump issued pardons to several of his allies, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
Trump continues attacks on Pence over 2020 election certification
Trump continued to criticize former Vice President Mike Pence for rebuffing the former president’s calls for him to refuse to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. He called Pence a “human conveyor belt” for asserting that he was constitutionally required to oversee the certification and could not reject electoral votes over Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.
“Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be frankly historic. But just like [former Attorney General] Bill Barr and the rest of these weak people, Mike — and I say it sadly because I like him — but Mike did not have the courage to act,” Trump said.
In its public hearing on Thursday, the House Jan. 6 committee sought to show how Trump and his allies put pressure on Pence to block the certification of the election and lionized the former vice president for refusing to do so.
Pence has repeatedly stated that he did not have the authority to reject the electoral votes, saying in February, “President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election.” His break from the former president on the matter has been an ongoing source of tension between the two.
Trump claims without evidence that Jan. 6 videos shown as evidence are doctored
Trump questioned the validity of the evidence the select committee has shown during its hearings, saying without providing evidence that the video has either been doctored or intentionally edited to make the day’s events appear worse than they were. He said the committee has shown five-second clips of multihour depositions to make “everybody look bad.”
“They ripped completely out of context these statements in many cases to create an impression that’s the exact opposite of the truth so that what you’re seeing is a complete and total lie, complete and total fraud,” Trump said.
He accused the committee of postponing its hearing scheduled for this past Wednesday to have time to doctor additional videos. The committee said it postponed the hearing to give staff members more time to prepare the video the members wanted to play.
Trump asserts Capitol riot was ‘a simple protest that got out of hand‘
Trump sought to downplay the size of the mob that stormed the Capitol and the violence that occurred that day.
He said the crowd he spoke to at the rally at the Ellipse near the White House before the riot was possibly the largest group he had ever spoken to and said a “very small percentage” of those people went to the Capitol. He additionally claimed that many of those who did go the Capitol “did nothing wrong.”
Trump also argued that no one who stormed the Capitol had weapons, but, according to the DOJ, more than 80 people have been charged with entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon in connection with the attack, and 90 have been charged with using such a weapon.
In one such case, Texas native Guy Reffitt, a member of the militia group the Texas Three Percenters, was convicted in March of bringing a firearm into restricted grounds of the Capitol in addition to four other counts.
Trump bashes ‘left-wing indoctrination’ in education
Trump spoke in opposition to a range of issues that he identified as part of a “left-wing indoctrination” of children in schools. He claimed the “radical left” is at war with Western civilization, science, truth and morality.
He accused educators of “pushing inappropriate sexual, racial and political material” on children.
“You can’t teach the Bible, but you can teach that men can get pregnant, and kindergarteners can pick their own gender,” he said.
Trump’s comments are in line with steps that Republicans in various states have taken on LGBTQ issues. Eighteen states have passed laws banning transgender students from competing on sports teams reflecting their gender identity, according to the nonprofit think tank Movement Advancement Project.
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law placing restrictions on discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools has gained national attention, and conservative state lawmakers around the country are considering similar legislation.
LGBTQ advocacy groups have condemned such laws, calling them discriminatory. President Biden this week signed an executive order that aims to use the authority of the federal government to push back on the measures, with a senior administration official calling them “hateful discriminatory laws that target children.”
Trump called for parents having the right to “opt out” of the alleged “indoctrination” and send their children to the school they want.
“Pushing woke gender ideology, woke gender ideology, think of it, on young people is nothing less than child abuse,” he claimed. “No teacher should be allowed to teach transgender to our children without parents’ consent.”