WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump will make his first return to Washington at the end of July, speaking before a group of his former administration officials, a year and a half after his calamitous departure from the White House.
The America First Policy Institute announced Tuesday morning that Trump would headline its America First Agenda Summit on July 26. The group, which is made up of a large number of former Trump White House and campaign officials, has been informally dubbed the “White House in waiting” among conservatives and Republican campaign operatives.
“It wasn’t that long ago that America was flourishing. Paychecks were growing. Poverty was shrinking. The price of gas was down. The stock market was up. And there were no new wars,” Brooke Rollins, president of AFPI and Trump’s former White House domestic policy director, said in a statement Thursday.
Trump left Washington 18 months ago under the cloud of the Jan. 6 insurrection and his many attempts to remain in power despite losing reelection in 2020. He refused to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration and instead departed for Florida at a lightly attended send-off at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Washington.
His return is set for just a few days after the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is expected to hold its last public hearing. Lawmakers on the panel have uncovered what they say is potential evidence of criminal activity by Trump and his top allies, ranging from witness intimidation to possible seditious conspiracy.
Trump has been increasingly talking up the possibility of launching a White House bid before this year's November elections, according to Republican operatives who have spoken with Yahoo News. The Washington Post reported Thursday that most recently he has been talking about a fall campaign launch.
Trump himself implied to New York Magazine that he has already decided to run for president a third time, saying, “Well, in my own mind, I’ve already made that decision, so nothing factors in anymore. In my own mind, I’ve already made that decision. … Do I go before or after [the midterm elections]? That will be my big decision.”
Trump adviser and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said the policy speech is designed to set up 2024 as a “binary choice” between Trump and Biden, to emphasize how much better key indicators were when Trump left office.
Conway, who advocated for Trump’s first speech in D.C. to be at AFPI, told Yahoo News that Trump will likely focus on the development of border security, gas prices and economic performance during his time in office.
“This is an excellent opportunity for Trump to return to D.C. and remind Americans suffering under the economy, the energy, the chaos and crises of the Biden-Harris White House how much better they had it when he was there,” Conway said.
Trump’s return to D.C. comes as the pre-campaign for 2024 has heated up. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has been making moves to launch a bid, will be in Washington the same day as Trump, but he will be attending a board meeting of his group Advancing American Freedom when Trump is speaking, according to an adviser.
And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to build momentum for a possible White House run, with Republican voters increasingly favoring him over Trump for the party's nomination in 2024.