Former US President Donald Trump on Friday rebuked the committee investigating the January 6 uprising and continued to tease his plans for a third presidency.
This was his first public appearance since the committee hearings began.
Speaking to religious conservatives at a sprawling resort near the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Mr Trump blasted the committee’s efforts as a “theatrical production of partisan political fiction” and insisted he did nothing wrong. has done.
“What you’re seeing is a complete and complete lie. It’s a complete and total hoax,” he told the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference.
He denied the video footage and testimony submitted by the committee – including direct accounts of senior aides and members of their own family – had been selectively edited.
He also underestimated the rebellion as “a simple protest that got out of hand”.
Mr Trump’s appearance at an event long known as a testing ground for presidential candidates comes as he was considering formally launching a White House campaign.
According to people familiar with the discussions, the debate has centered on whether to make a formal announcement later this summer or wait until the fall or, as is customary, after the November midterm elections.
While aides insist he has not yet made a final decision about his plans, Mr Trump has been airing his intentions for months and continued to tease them on Friday.
“One of the most urgent tasks facing the next Republican president – I wonder who he will be,” Trump said at one point, with a standing ovation and “USA!” indicated the mantras.
“Would anyone want me to run for president?” he asked the crowd, cheering more.
Ralph Reid, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said: “We don’t know whether he will run or not, although certainly given his speech, I think he wanted to let everyone know that this is his plan.”
“I think a lot of Trump’s future plans are based directly on (Joe) Biden, and I think that as more Biden stumbles across the world stage and on the domestic stage, people are going to see the dark side of Trump’s presidency. Forget about it, said Brian Lanza, GOP strategist and former Trump campaign official.
An announcement in the near future could complicate efforts by other aspiring Republicans to run campaigns of their own. For example, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who was ambassador to the United Nations under Mr Trump, has said she will not run against him.
I think a lot of Trump’s future plans are based directly on Biden, and I think the more Biden stumbles on the world stage and on the domestic stage, the more people talk about the dark side of Trump’s presidency. Forgets.Brian Lanza, GOP Strategist
And there are concerns that a near-term announcement could push the Republican Party into the final stages of a midterm congressional campaign that seems increasingly favorable.
Trump’s candidacy could unite otherwise dismayed Democratic voters, which revived the energy that eluded the party in its 2018 and 2020 campaigns.
Republicans want November’s election to be framed as a referendum on the first two years of Biden’s presidency. They don’t want anything to turn them down that path, including Mr. Trump.
Despite his decision, the aura of inevitability that Mr Trump sought to create from the moment he left the White House has been punctured. A long list of other Republicans are laying the groundwork for potential campaigns of their own and some have clarified that Trump’s candidacy will have little effect on their own decisions.
They include Mr Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, who has been hailed by a January 6 committee as someone who put the national interest ahead of his political views.
With an eye on the White House bid, Mr. Pence is maintaining a sharp political program focused on drawing attention to Democratic weaknesses. But his challenges were relieved on Friday, as Mr Trump continued to blast him for failing to go through with his plan to reverse the results of the 2020 election.
While he denied ever calling Mr Pence a wimp, Mr Trump railed against his former deputy, saying: “Mike didn’t have the courage to act.” It drew applause from the crowd that Mr. Pence, himself an evangelical Christian, has spoken many times before.