Former President Donald Trump spoke on Saturday night to some of his most staunch conservative supporters, filling a speech at the New York Young Republican Club’s annual gala with praise for his political allies on the far right and doubling down on his controversial comment that he’d only be a “dictator” if reelected on “Day 1.”
He also bragged about his ability to win the 2016 election after the release of a video from behind the scenes of “Access Hollywood” years earlier, where he was seen making lewd and vulgar statements about women.
Trump spotlighting the “Access Hollywood” tape — an infamous episode late in his 2016 campaign that fueled widespread condemnation and calls for him end his campaign — started out on Saturday as a seemingly off-the-cuff remark.
In his speech, he mentioned “the biggest inescapable” situation he endured in politics and then shared more details, making it clear he was talking about the “Access Hollywood” video.
In that notorious clip, he had said, “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women] — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. … And when you’re a star they let you do it.”
“Grab them by the p—-,” Trump said in the video. “You can do anything.”
He later tried to play that down as “locker room talk,” including during one of the 2016 debates, but his defense only fueled some other notable Republicans to call for him to step aside.
Trump on Saturday described how all of his political advisers, except Steve Bannon, encouraged him to drop out of the 2016 race after the video resurfaced. Trump claimed that an unnamed general told him the “locker room talk” explanation he gave was the “bravest thing I’ve ever seen” over witnessing people die on the battlefield.
“It was an incredible campaign and we won and nobody thought we could win,” Trump said.
The unusual rehashing of the “Access Hollywood” video — which has not been in the headlines for years — is the latest example of how Trump continues to brush aside scandal while remaining popular with the Republican base.
Trump is campaigning for the White House for a third time while facing numerous legal battles, including four sets of criminal charges. He denies all wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty to all of his charges.
In Saturday’s speech, he claimed it was another example of his opponents attempting to stop his political rise — an accusation prosecutors have rejected.
“Our mission in this race is to win a historic and powerful mandate to take back our nation from the shadow government of corrupt alliances,” he said.
He also continued focusing on a theme of retribution and retaliation, seemingly threatening President Joe Biden.
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He has said that as president, he would appoint a special prosecutor “to go after” Biden and Biden’s family, whom he blamed for the destruction of the country.
“They’ve opened up a Pandora’s box and I only can say to Joe is: Be very careful what you wish for,” Trump said Saturday.
In front of a friendly crowd, he joked about his comments from a town hall with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last week where he said he wasn’t going to be a dictator if reelected “other than Day 1,” when he would focus on the border and drilling.
That statement raised new alarms about whether Trump would abuse his power as president, something he did not rule out when questioned by Hannity.
“You know why I wanted to be a dictator, because I want a wall. Right? I want a wall and I want to drill, drill, drill,” Trump said on Saturday to “build the wall” chants.
The club’s gala is known for making headlines with its speeches and a room full of guests with their own controversies.
Saturday’s event honored figures like Bannon, who was sentenced last year after being convicted of contempt of Congress.
Bannon has had an off-and-on relationship to Trump, including serving briefly as a senior White House strategist in 2017. Trump pardoned him in early 2021 after Bannon was accused of money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud by federal prosecutors. Bannon has pleaded not guilty to similar charges filed by prosecutors in New York City.
Other guests on Saturday included former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is charged with Trump in a Georgia election subversion indictment (Giuliani has pleaded not guilty); and Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who was previously censured and removed from committees after posting a graphic anime clip featuring violence against New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
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At one point during the gala, host Alex Stein tried to make a punchline out of stereotyping the Black and Hispanic community as criminals and gang members, saying it would be “good if Donald Trump went to jail” because it would help him earn the support from those communities.
Stein then repeated the joke later in the night when Trump was in the room.
“Once President Trump is back in office, we won’t be playing nice anymore. It will be a time for retribution,” the club’s president, Gavin Wax, said in his own remarks. “After baseless years of investigations and government lies and media lies against this man, now it is time to turn the tables on these actual crooks and lock them up for a change.”
Trump again defends infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ comments and warns Biden, ‘Be very careful’ originally appeared on abcnews.go.com