DES MOINES, Iowa — Ex-president Donald Trump made a town hall appearance in Iowa Thursday evening, continuing his 2024 presidential run with a pitch for a yearlong national birthday party and doubling down on debunked claims that he won the 2020 election.
The town hall, hosted at the Horizon Events Center in suburban Des Moines by Fox News personality Sean Hannity and broadcast on Hannity’s regular program later that day, was friendly territory for Trump. The host started in early on sitting president Joe Biden, claiming he didn’t seem to be “all there,” and most of his questions began with praise of Trump’s presidency.
That gave Trump plenty of space to outline grievances with the Biden presidency and wax nostalgic about his own. He steered clear, largely, of his still-frequent and widely debunked claims that he had been cheated out of a victory in the 2020 election, but took Biden to task over inflation and foreign policy concerns, particularly the U.S.’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“It was the most embarrassing and incompetent moment in the history of our country,” Trump said of the exit. “They gave away 85 billion dollars of the best equipment in the world.”
Asked by Hannity about a recently-released tape in which Trump appeared to acknowledge improperly retaining a classified Pentagon document, the former president disclaimed any knowledge. He instead pivoted to documents Biden is accused of mishandling, and threw in a hint of racial animus alongside.
“I don’t know anything about it, all I know is this — everything I did was right,” He said. Biden, he claimed, had kept documents in “Chinatown — where, nobody even speaks English in Chinatown, in Washington D.C., Chinatown is very in favor of China.”
Trump is currently leading most polls in the growing field for the GOP primaries. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott both announced their candidacies last week. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley joined the fray in February, and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and pharmaceutical mogul Vivek Ramaswamy have also embarked on campaigns. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Trump’s estranged ex-Vice President Mike Pence and former Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney are among a broad collection of Republicans still hinting at runs for the top spot.
Asked about the Republican field, Trump dismissed most of his rivals— Pence received boos — and said he didn’t believe DeSantis was long for the second-place spot.
“I don’t know why people are doing it,” he said. “They’re at 1 percent, some are at 0. I don’t know why Chris Christie’s doing it, he was at 6 percent in New Jersey… and he’s polling at zero.”
“I really go after the one who’s second, and I think the one who’s second is going down so much or so rapidly that I don’t think he’s going to be second anymore.”
Trump also fielded a handful of audience questions, including one from a veteran which prompted him to claim to have ensured the termination of 7,000 “sadists” from positions at the Veteran’s Administration — a claim that has been broadly debunked.
Trump’s latest big announcement, touted widely in his Iowa visit but largely left out of Thursday’s town hall, is a plan for a yearlong celebration of the 250th anniversary of American independence. The plan, as he has described it, would include an exhibition featuring pavilions from all 50 states, which he’s publicly pondered hosting at the Iowa state fairgrounds from Memorial Day 2025 through July 4, 2026.
Trump announced the plan on Wednesday, calling it a “Great American State Fair” and promising to resurrect the “National Garden of American Heroes” which he proposed in a pair of executive orders late in his term as a garden featuring statues of a number of notable Americans.
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