As Trump warns that 'we're living in hell right now,' Biden team responds: 'Weird ramblings'

The former president's CPAC speech veered wildly in tone and topic.

February 24, 2024, 8:38 PM

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland on Saturday hours before the polls closed in South Carolina's Republican primary -- his next major faceoff with rival Nikki Haley -- Donald Trump made no mention of her.

Instead, in 90-minute remarks that veered wildly in tone and topic, the former president spent more time on a looming general election rematch against President Joe Biden, hurling a string of attacks against his presumptive Democratic opponent.

Just as he did during CPAC in 2020, Trump hugged and kissed the American flag as he took the stage.

The former president did not address controversial remarks he made the previous night at the Black Conservative Federation Gala, in which he said that Black Americans can relate to him being criminally prosecuted as he equated his indictments to the historic discrimination Black Americans have faced.

However, he did deliver disparaging comments about non-English-speaking immigrants.

"We have languages coming into our country -- we don't have one instructor in our entire nation that can speak that language. These are languages, it's the craziest thing, they have languages that nobody in this country has ever heard of," he claimed.

Last year at CPAC, Trump notably told the crowd: "I am your retribution."

This year, he had a slightly different message, saying, "The unprecedented success of the United State of America will be my ultimate and absolute revenge."

He repeatedly called the current political climate a "nightmare" of Biden's making and referred to himself as a "proud political dissident" who was allegedly facing biased attacks from the justice system, which prosecutors have rejected.

Trump denies all wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty.

In his CPAC speech, he warned that if Biden "and his thugs" are reelected instead of him, "The worst is yet to come."

He railed against what he called the misuse of law enforcement: "There's no way you get fair trials. ... It's sick. These are sick people," he contended.

Trump also zeroed in on immigration, ramping up rhetoric about "migrant crime," and he spent a majority of his speech highlighting the high rates of illegal immigration at the southern border, which polling has shown is a top concern for the public.

If elected, Trump promised the "largest deportation in the history of our country and we have no choice," he said.

At one point, while telling the story of negotiating with the Mexican president over the southern border wall, he started speaking in a Spanish accent.

Trump also spoke in foreboding terms about the stakes of the next election -- and the potential punishment for his enemies.

"Our country is being destroyed, and the only thing standing between you and its obliteration is me," he said.

"Nov. 5 [after the election] will be our new Liberation Day," Trump said to a large uproar, "It will be their judgment day."

Former President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting on Feb. 24, 2024, in National Harbor, Maryland.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

He again sought to reverse a frequent criticism Biden uses against him on the trail -- that he is running an anti-democratic campaign.

"A vote for Trump is your ticket back to freedom. It's your passport out of tyranny, and it's your only escape from Joe Biden and his gang's fast track to hell," Trump said. "And in many ways we're living in hell right now."

The Biden campaign seized on that in their response to his speech, calling it "weird, self-centered ramblings."

"America already had the opportunity to choose if they wanted another four years of hell with Donald Trump's chaos, division, and crazy - they said no," a Biden spokesperson said in a statement, in part.

Trump also referred to his "rambling" several times, noting that his long-winded and sometimes confusing storytelling habits were in fact a reflection of his "really smart person"-- remarking on his own cognitive abilities while also taunting Biden for Biden's habit of speaking blunders.

He went without his teleprompter for a large portion of his remarks, joking that he wouldn't be CPAC's greatest speaker because he went off the cuff.

"They'll say he rambled, he's cognitively impaired. No, it's really the opposite," he said. "It's total genius."

The future of the RNC's role in 2024 race

Elsewhere in the party, some have been considering how much to financially support Trump's multimillion-dollar court bills.

ABC News has obtained draft resolutions that are being circulated to Republican National Committee members, which, if approved, would prevent the organization from covering his legal fees and would prohibit the party from treating him as the presumptive presidential nominee until he secures the required majority of 1,215 delegates, which is likely to take several more weeks.

The sponsor for the two resolutions is RNC member Henry Barbour of Mississippi.

The documents are being shared with other members ahead of the party's meeting in Houston in early March.

Earlier this month, following his endorsement of his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to be co-chair of the RNC, she said that "every penny" of the RNC funds should be put toward the reelection of the former president.

However, the former president's campaign insisted that RNC funds wouldn't cover his legal bills, as they have previously.

Chris LaCivita, one of Trump's senior campaign advisers and the person he endorsed for chief operating officer of the RNC, responded to the draft resolution in a statement contending that "the primary is over and it is the RNC's sole responsibility to defeat Joe Biden and win back the White House."

The South Carolina GOP chairman and the current RNC co-chair, Drew McKissick, separately dodged a question on whether he'd vote against Trump-endorsed North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley for the next RNC chair spot (whom Trump is backing along with daughter-in-law Lara Trump as co-chair).

McKissick said he's focused on working with the Trump campaign and the party on electing and supporting him.

"I'm a team guy," he said on Saturday when asked about a possible bid against Whatley.

Of the potential RNC leadership change, McKissick stressed the importance of merging the Trump campaign and the national party's operation..

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Libby Cathey, Fritz Farrow, Lalee Ibssa and Soo Rin Kim contributed to this report.