He’s back: Trump returns to Washington for first time since leaving office

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

Mr Trump is going (back) to Washington. The former president will return to the nation’s capital on Tuesday, marking his first visit to the city since leaving office last year.

Trump will deliver the keynote address at a summit held by the America First Policy Institute, a thinktank formed by some of his former White House advisers.

AFPI’s leaders have said the America First Agenda Summit will focus on the Republican party’s plans to combat inflation and improve the US immigration system, but that agenda is unlikely to stop Trump from recirculating his lies about the 2020 election.

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The summit comes less than a week after the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection held its second primetime hearing, which focused on Trump’s inaction during the deadly Capitol attack. The committee outlined how Trump refused for hours to intervene and instead watched television coverage of the violence, even as some of his closest advisers pleaded with him to take action.

Trump is expected to confront the committee’s accusations in his Tuesday speech, as he has remained determined to criticize those who did not support his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference in Nashville, Tennessee, last month, Trump again attacked Mike Pence, his former vice-president, for refusing to interfere with the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory on January 6.

“Mike Pence had a chance to be great. He had a chance to be frankly historic,” Trump said. “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.”

The select committee has shown how Trump’s pressure campaign on Pence incited his supporters, who chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” as they stormed the Capitol. According to the committee, Pence was just 40ft from the mob on January 6, as he was evacuated from the Senate chamber due to security concerns. A former Trump administration official told investigators that members of Pence’s security detail were so concerned for their safety they called family members to say goodbye.

Pence was supposed to have his own opportunity to address the committee’s revelations on Monday, as he was scheduled to speak at an event for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank. The event was delayed because of bad weather in Washington, which impacted Pence’s flight.

Trump’s speech comes as both he and Pence consider presidential campaigns in 2024. Trump has teased the idea of a Washington comeback since leaving office last year, and he has recently been dropping more hints that an announcement could come soon.

Pence’s speech at the Heritage Foundation is the latest in a series of public appearances for the former vice-president, which have intensified speculation about his 2024 plans. In addition to his busier speech schedule, Pence has recently formed his own political advocacy group, and he has been visiting battleground states that could decide the next president.

But both Trump and Pence will have their work cut out for them if they run for office in 2024. According to a New York Times/Siena College poll taken this month, nearly half of Republican primary voters said they would support someone other than Trump if he ran again in 2024. Only 6% of those voters said they would support Pence in the primary.

Trump’s approval rating also remains alarmingly low if Republicans hope to regain control of the White House in 2024. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 37% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Trump, while 55% have an unfavorable impression.

The winner of the Republican primary in 2024 will (most likely) face off against Biden, who has seen his own approval rating drop in recent months, as high inflation and the war in Ukraine have soured the nation’s mood. A majority of Democrats now say they would prefer a different nominee for 2024.

Trump will try to capitalize on Biden’s vulnerabilities with his speech on Tuesday – if he can avoid fixating too much on his election lies.