Donald Trump has called on Republicans to back candidates loyal to him at next year’s midterm elections as he sought to re-enter the US political arena with his first rally since leaving office.
He also demanded China pay the US $10 trillion in compensation for the pandemic as he took the opportunity to repeat the fiery rhetoric that defined his presidency.
The attacks came at the beginning of a 90-minute address to Republicans in North Carolina that will be seen by many as the beginning of Mr Trump’s long march to a second White House run in 2024.
Seeking to galvanise supporters ahead of next year’s elections for the Senate and House of Representatives, he hailed his administration’s achievements, repeated his unsubstantiated claim that the presidency was stolen, and launched typically colourful attacks on opponents foreign and domestic.
Mr Trump called Anthony Fauci, the man leading America’s Covid response, “not a great doctor but a great promoter” for his television appearances.
Dr Fauci was sceptical of the Wuhan lab leak theory and has become a lightning rod for right-wing ire after asking people to wear masks and endorsing lockdowns.
“But he’s been wrong on almost every issue and he was wrong on Wuhan and the lab also,” Mr Trump said.
He claimed Joe Biden, the US president who beat him in the 2020 vote, was leading “the most radical left-wing administration in history”.
“All Joe Biden had to do was sit back and do nothing – it was taking off like a rocket ship nobody’s ever seen,” Mr Trump said. “Instead, the economy is going to hell and inflation is going to cause a catastrophe in the near future.”
He added: “They’re also pushing a $2.25 trillion infrastructure bill. That’s not infrastructure. It’s the kind of things you don’t want. Nine per cent looks like it might be infrastructure, but mostly it’s not infrastructure at all.”
Turning to foreign policy, he said: “We demand reparations from the Communist Party of China. China must pay,” he said when talking about the virus.
He called for the US to impose 100pc tariffs on Chinese goods and urged other countries to repudiate their debts to Beijing for the economic devastation they had suffered.
The speech was Mr Trump’s first major public appearance since February when he spoke at a Republican fundraiser. His staff are believed to be planning further events in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Ohio.
The event was small compared with the mega-rallies he hosted during his presidency, with about 1,200 people seated at dinner tables rather than tens of thousands filling a stadium.
Mr Trump, who has not confirmed he will run in 2024, said he would campaign for Republicans who shared his views to be on the ballot.
“The survival of America depends on our ability to elect Republicans at every level, starting with the midterms next year,” he said before endorsing Representative Ted Budd for the Republican primary for the Senate race.
“You can’t pick people who have already lost two races and do not stand for our values,” Mr Trump said in an open swipe at Pat McCrory, a former Republican governor of North Carolina who is also standing in the primary and who criticised Mr Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about a stolen election. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)
Telegraph Media Group Limited