Trump Says He’s “Angrier” And “More Committed” To His White House Bid

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump said Saturday that he is “more committed” than ever to reclaiming the White House job as he launched his election campaign for the first time since announcing a third presidential run in November.

Appearing in New Hampshire ahead of a second stop in South Carolina, Trump said he was “more angry” about the direction of the country and vowed to return to the nation’s first primary state “many, many more times” as he seeks to replicate his Ranked #1 in the Granite State in 2016.

“This is it,” Trump told members of the New Hampshire Republican Party at their annual gathering in Salem. “We are starting here as a candidate for president.”

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Trump promised that his 2024 campaign would be “about the future” in a speech that largely avoided repeating the lies about the 2020 election that he has been promoting for the past two years.

“This campaign will be about the future. This campaign will be about themes. Joe Biden has put America on the fast track to ruin and destruction and we will make sure he doesn’t get four more years,” the former president said at a small event at the Statehouse in Columbia.

En route to South Carolina, Trump took aim at potential 2024 contender Ron DeSantis, telling reporters aboard his plane that the Florida governor and his team are “trying to rewrite history” regarding their response to the covid-19 pandemic. He also called a potential presidential run by his Republican rival “very unfair.”

Trump also said that Nikki Haley, who served as his ambassador to the United Nations, called him in recent days to inform him that she is considering a 2024 presidential bid.

“I talked to her for a while, I said, ‘Look, you know, follow your heart if you want to run,’” Trump said. “She said publicly that she ‘she would never run me against my president, she was a great president.'”

Trump said he told Haley that she “should do it.”

Haley, who recently moved her top advisers to Charleston, is said to be weighing the timing of a campaign launch at this time, as she doesn’t want to be the first to take on Trump alone. In 2021, she said that she would not challenge Trump if he ran for the White House again in 2024.

CNN has reached out to DeSantis and Haley for comment.

Back to campaign events

Earlier Saturday, the Trump campaign sent out a fundraising email declaring that “no other candidate works this early to win every last vote,” and touts himself as “the first Republican presidential candidate to campaign in the first two primary states.

In New Hampshire, Trump announced that outgoing Republican Party Chairman Stephen Stepanek will join his campaign as a senior adviser.

Stepanek co-chaired Trump’s first presidential campaign before becoming the top Republican official in New Hampshire, serving two terms. He joins Trump’s team as the three-time presidential candidate faces dwindling support among state officials seeking a fresh face to head his party’s ticket.

In his remarks in Salem, Trump defended his months-long hiatus on the road, decrying media coverage that raised questions about his slow start to his campaign with him remaining in Florida since launching his candidacy in November. He insisted that his 2024 campaign is not playing “prevent defense,” referring to a strategy used in American football by a team with the lead late in a game.

“They said, ‘He’s not doing rallies, maybe he’s lost that step.’ I am now angrier and more committed than ever,” Trump said.

In New Hampshire, Trump also touted his new proposal to eliminate federal funding for schools that “promote critical race theory or left-wing gender ideology” and have parents elect school principals, a plan similar to which he referred to as “the last form of local control.”

Second stop of the day

Meanwhile, a who’s who of campaign aides and allies were on hand for Trump’s second campaign stop this Saturday in Columbia, South Carolina, including senior advisers Brian Jack and Chris LaCivita and the former director of social media for the White House, Dan Scavino.

With his podium stationed below the Capitol rotunda and flanked by American flags, the event had all the makings of a presidential event. He was deliberately chosen to appear that way by the Trump team, which was hoping to capitalize on its candidate’s unique position as former president, particularly as he prepares to draw in his rivals in the coming weeks, possibly including Haley.

Directly across the aisle from Trump’s announcement was the chamber of the South Carolina House of Representatives, whose Republican members approached the former president’s 2024 campaign with a mix of glee and apprehension.

While some enthusiastically accepted his offer, others told CNN ahead of Saturday’s event that they were waiting to see how the GOP primary field takes shape, especially if Haley and Sen. Tim Scott — two South Carolina natives who explore their own run for the White House — they decide to take on the former president.

Trump was in South Carolina on Saturday to introduce his campaign’s state leadership team, which includes Gov. Henry McMaster and Sen. Lindsey Graham. In the event, he stopped short of falsely claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, but he did vow to “restore the integrity of the election,” saying, “People have to believe in the election.”

Trump won the South Carolina primary by 10 points in 2016, a feat he hopes to accomplish again this cycle. Still, DeSantis, his main potential rival, is already working to cultivate her own allies in the state, according to a person familiar with the outreach.

“He already has a very close group and they are making calls to convince him,” this person said.

Trump continues to be investigated by the Justice Department, with special counsel Jack Smith overseeing criminal investigations into the withholding of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and into parts of the January 6, 2021 insurrection in the United States Capitol. Both investigations implicate Trump’s conduct.

Trump’s campaign events this Saturday come in the wake of recent revelations that classified documents were also found at locations linked to both Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a separate special prosecutor to investigate classified Obama-era documents found at Biden’s home and former private office.

Earlier this week, Facebook’s parent company Meta announced it would restore Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks, just over two years after suspending him following the January 6 attack.

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