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Former President Trump returns to Washington to deliver a policy speech

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The last time former President Trump was in Washington, D.C., was on the morning of January 20. He flew away on Marine One before the inauguration, refusing to admit he lost. And that inauguration went forward despite an attack on the Capitol days earlier that was aimed at stopping the peaceful transfer of power.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Today, Trump is back in D.C. after eight televised congressional hearings laid out a case to the nation that he was singularly responsible for that attack on January 6 and that he is unfit for office in the future.

FADEL: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us now. Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So, Tam, what's the former president doing back in D.C.?

KEITH: He is the featured speaker at a conference of the America First Policy Institute. That's a group formed by former Trump administration officials to promote ideas that would have been on the agenda for a second Trump term or could be again. Trump's spokesman told me the former president's speech will focus on, quote, "a nation in decline that is driven in part by rising crime." And crime is an issue that Republicans plan to run on in the midterms, along with inflation and immigration. But if Trump were to give a totally focused, forward-looking policy speech, that would be a major departure for him.

FADEL: Right. And he's been giving a lot of speeches lately and continuing to push election lies.

KEITH: Yeah, he's never admitted he lost. Take this dose of alternate reality from a speech over the weekend to a group called Turning Point USA.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: I ran twice. I won twice and did much better the second time than I did the first.

KEITH: And to be very clear, he did not win the second time he ran.

FADEL: Right.

KEITH: But the crowd loved it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: And now we may just have to do it again.

KEITH: Trump is still actively trying to get states to revisit the results from 2020. And this comes with the backdrop of the January 6 hearings. The committee played outtakes last week of a recorded speech he delivered on January 7, where he wouldn't say the election was over.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: But this election is now over. Congress has certified the results. I don't want to say the election's over. I just want to say Congress has certified the results without saying the election's over, OK?

KEITH: Trump still hasn't admitted the 2020 election is over, even as he makes noise about running in 2024.

FADEL: The 2024 campaign appears to be beginning in earnest. Former Vice President Mike Pence is also speaking in Washington this morning. Are there any indications that he might run?

KEITH: Well, Pence is certainly behaving like a man who's running for president - giving speeches, endorsing candidates - often different ones than Trump, more establishment candidates. A recent PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, NPR poll shows Trump's favorability is higher among Republicans than Pence's, and part of Pence's challenge is that he wasn't willing to break the law on January 6 and do what Trump wanted. Pence doesn't talk about any of that, though, outside of the occasional veiled reference to needing to look ahead and not back.

FADEL: Now, Pence's former chief of staff testified last week to a grand jury in Washington, D.C. What do you read into that?

KEITH: Our colleague Ryan Lucas confirmed it with a source familiar with the matter. We don't know what former chief of staff Marc Short was asked about, but he would have insight into the pressure campaign on the vice president to block certification of the electoral results. This indicates the Justice Department investigation has moved beyond the hundreds of prosecutions of Trump supporters who busted into the Capitol and may be moving up the chain into the White House.

FADEL: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith - thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.