Donald Trump took aim at the Jan. 6 committee during a speech in Arizona Friday evening, painting the ongoing investigation into his actions on the day of the Capitol insurrection as a conspiratorial witch hunt designed to permanently blacklist him from politics.
“If I announced that I was not going to run any longer for political office, the persecution of Donald Trump would immediately stop,” he said. “They’re coming after me because I’m standing up for you.”
The former president’s appearance at the so-called “Save America” rally in Prescott Valley was intended to build support for a handful of Trump-endorsed candidates in Arizona — including gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and senate candidate Blake Masters — but rapidly devolved into the type of meandering, ego-stroking affair emblematic of the Trump presidency.
Taking the stage over an hour late, Trump delivered a rambling speech focused primarily on touting his self-proclaimed achievements while in office and perpetuating the unfounded narrative that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 election. The former president also zeroed in on the Biden administration and Democrats, pushing the popular conservative dog whistles du jour — rising gas prices, border control, critical race theory, LGBT awareness in schools, voter fraud, and (amusingly) the war on Christmas. He also falsely claimed to have completed the border wall, a statement that was met by applause from the crowd.
It wasn’t until nearly two hours had elapsed before Trump finally mentioned the Jan. 6 proceedings. “Where does it stop? Where does it end?” he said of the committee’s investigation. “Never forget: Everything this corrupt establishment is doing to me is all about preserving their power and control over the American people, for whatever reason. They want to damage me in any form so I can no longer represent you.”
At one point, Masters joined Trump at the podium, stating the former president “literally saved this country” — a curious claim considering the committee’s latest findings showed Trump willingly and deliberately refused to take any action during the siege of the Capitol, despite repeated pleas from White House staff and other officials.
Republican Blake Masters says Trump “literally saved” America — which I guess is Arizona speak for “sat in the White House dining room doing nothing for four hours on Jan. 6” pic.twitter.com/tAR5mq3rTK
— kat bee (@katbeee) July 23, 2022
Trump then railed against his former deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews, one of the committee’s witnesses, accusing her of being an attention-seeking hypocrite. “I watched this hoax last night where this young lady said, ‘Oh, I’m so heartbroken,’” he said, referring to Matthews’ appearance during the July 22 primetime hearing. “But, three weeks after January 6th, she wrote us a letter saying, ‘Oh, I loved working for the President. He’s so great.’”
He also attacked the credibility of Cassidy Hutchinson, the aide to former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows whose bombshell testimony before the committee gave damning insight into the inner workings of the Trump administration in the days leading up to Jan. 6. “I mean, I’m the President of the United States. Can you imagine this made up story?” he said while recounting the now-infamous incident where he allegedly lunged at a Secret Service agent. “It’s total fiction.”
Trump appeared most enraged not by the investigation itself, but by the unflattering anecdotes shared during hearings that revealed his penchant for childish temper tantrums. “They have me throwing food. I don’t throw food in the White House. I don’t throw food anywhere. I eat the food, which is a problem,” he said, referring to a segment of Hutchinson’s testimony during which she revealed Trump staffers witnessed the president throwing a plate of food at the wall in a fit of rage. “I have too much respect for the White House.”
Trump: I don’t throw food in the White House. I don’t throw food anywhere. I eat the food… pic.twitter.com/uy82wa4Ja3
— Acyn (@Acyn) July 23, 2022
The beleaguered ex-president spent the rest of the speech emphasizing his self-imposed martyrdom — “I had a very good and luxurious life before entering the wonderful world of politics,” he said — peddling sexism and transphobia, and declaring war against the education system. “It’s time to finally and completely smash the left’s corrupt education cartel,” he said. “Our children are captives to unhinged, Marxist educators. Where do they come from?”
Yet, for all the talk of protecting children from liberal boogeymen, Trump failed to mention the massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas — let alone any of the recent mass shootings that have taken place across the country this summer. (He did, however, tout the Arizona candidates’ commitment to protecting the Second Amendment.)
The House committee will resume hearings in September after a brief recess — and, as members of the committee have previously suggested, the investigation is far from over. “We are receiving new information every single day,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) said during a recent appearance on CNN. “You will definitely be hearing from the committee again.”