Rebuking the unraveling of America under President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump struck back at media suggesting he is attempting to "undermine American democracy," defiantly declaring: "I'm the one that's trying to save it."
"They want to silence you; they want to silence your voice," Trump told the North Carolina Republican Party Convention on Saturday night in a raucous speech.
"Remember, I am not the one trying to undermine American democracy. I'm the one that's trying to save it. Please remember that."
Trump called for election integrity measures, including signature verification, voter identification, and regulation on Big Tech funding like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's hundreds of millions for election drop boxes in the past presidential election.
"We all know what happened with the election, and we can never, ever let that happen again," Trump said.
Trump said America under Biden is heading to a dictatorship, although he mocked the current president for not even being the one in charge.
"We're not going to have a country if you don't have election integrity, and if you don't have strong borders, our country can be run like a dictatorship, and that's what they'd like to do," Trump said. "I don't even think Biden is the dictator.
"If anybody knows who the hell is running that operation could you let us know? Because I don't think it's Joe. But who the hell knows? Maybe it is. Maybe it is."
The trademark Trump speech began with a vow to bring the Republican Party forward in 2022 as its top endorser.
"It's great to be back in Greenville, with so many proud North Carolina patriots who love our country, support our military, respect our police, honor our flag, and always put America first," Trump began. "We don't put America's second. As we gather tonight, our country is being destroyed before our very own eyes. Crime is exploding. Police departments are being ripped apart and defunded.
"Can you believe that?"
Trump lamented the bad policies of the Biden administration that Americans are coming to accept as the new normal.
"Speaking of our leaders: They're bowing down to China; America is being demeaned and humiliated on the world stage; our freedom is being overtaken by left wing cancel culture; and the Biden administration is pushing toxic critical race theory and illegal discrimination into our children's schools," Trump said.
"Now you tell me: We take this?"
Trump called out the violent protests that roiled American cities in 2020, along with Democrats who "stick together."
"They're violent, in many cases, hate our country, and they have bad policy now," Trump continued. "Bad news. From our standpoint, they stick together. They don't have some of the people like we have. Where they go on their own, and they do what they have to they stick together. And that's the one thing they have. They stick together, but their policy is so bad.
"And we're going to have a tremendous 2022 just like we did – frankly 2020 think of it: more votes than any sitting president in the history of the United States by far – we had a great election. Bad things happened, but we had a great election."
Trump gave the stage to daughter-in-law Lara Trump briefly, who announced she will not be running for the Senate in the state in 2022.
"Because of the values my parents instilled to me, they taught me that when you do something, you give 100%; that is the only way to operate," Lara Trump said. "And because of my two kids, who are very young – 1 and 3, Carolina and Luke – it is going to be very hard for me to enter this Senate race right now.
"But I am saying no for now, not no forever."
Instead, Trump threw his endorsement behind Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., who also appeared briefly on stage.
"Mr. President, Laura, this means the world to me, thank you," Budd said. "We got a lot of hard work ahead, so let's win this together, and let's get back to making America Great Again."
In a video earlier Saturday, Trump thanked supporters and teased a GOP return to the White House "sooner than you think."
"We're going to take back the Senate, we're going to take back the House, and we're going to take back the White House sooner than you think," Trump said in a video circulating on Twitter before his North Carolina GOP Conference speech Saturday night.
"It's going to be really something special. But the love and the affection and the respect you've given all of us, it's really important.
"The Republican Party is strong than it's ever been, and it's going to be a lot strong than it is right now."
Despite social media rumors the former president was talking about an August return to the White House, advisers and those close to the president have denied he is maintaining that belief.
There are election audits being conducted in Arizona and potentially starting up in Pennsylvania, key battlegrounds that went to President Joe Biden, but Trump's video did not mention election fraud or the audits before his anticipated address to the GOP in North Carolina, a state he won by around 70,000 votes last November.
"We're going to turn it around; we're going to turn it around fast," Trump concluded in the video. "Thank you all so very much. That support has been incredible. Thank you."
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