(URBANDALE, Iowa) — Former President Donald Trump returned to Iowa on Thursday for a full day of campaign events, taking multiple jabs at 2024 primary rival Ron DeSantis and defending people imprisoned in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters.
In particular, Trump took issue with a comment the Florida governor has used on the campaign trail in recent days, when DeSantis has said he’s gunning for “eight years” in office in order to deliver on a myriad of conservative promises — an implicit contrast with Trump, who can only serve one more term.
“You don’t need eight years, you need six months,” Trump said Thursday morning during a breakfast with the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale.
“We can turn this thing around so quickly. If you need eight years — who the hell wants to wait eight years? You don’t need eight years,” he said to laughter and a few claps.
“He’ll stop saying that — watch,” Trump added during his speech. “Every time I hear, I wince because if it takes eight years to turn around, you don’t want him as president,” to which someone in the crowd yelled, “You’re hired!”
Trump made similar comments earlier Thursday morning as he entered the Machine Shed restaurant for the breakfast, saying, “We only need five months.”
As part of his “eight years” argument, DeSantis has pointed to things like the Supreme Court.
Speaking last month in Florida, he said that the next “two terms” could be especially relevant for whoever is in the White House, because the president may be able to further cement the Supreme Court’s conservative majority in light of some justices’ advancing ages.
“I think if you look over the next two presidential terms, there is a good chance that you could be called upon to seek replacements for Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito and the issue with that is, you can’t really do better than those two,” DeSantis said then, adding that there may also be a chance to “make improvements with those others, and if you were able to do that, you would have a 7-2 conservative majority on the Supreme Court that would last a quarter century.”
Such comments come as DeSantis has become sharply critical of Trump, a former ally. The governor officially entered the 2024 race last week and is traveling through three early nominating states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, this week.
“[Trump] used to say how great Florida was. Hell, his whole family moved to Florida under my governorship. Are you kidding me?” DeSantis told reporters after a campaign kickoff outside Des Moines on Tuesday.
During his own campaign events Thursday, Trump sometimes answered questions from the crowd, including from one girl who said she just graduated from high school.
When a person at one event called for “justice for people that have been in prison since Jan. 6,” Trump repeated his rhetoric of defending the rioters and said the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot one of them, Ashli Babbitt, was a “rogue cop” and a “thug.”
Authorities have said the officer acted lawfully in shooting Babbitt and a federal investigation found that Babbitt and others were trying to break through barricaded entrances near the Speaker’s Lobby that leads to the Chamber of the U.S. House, from which members of Congress were being evacuated.
In Iowa, however, Trump tried to cast the events of Jan. 6 differently, saying those arrested around the riot were being treated worse than in past protests like those related to racial inequality demonstrations.
“You look at what they’ve done to the Jan. 6 people, they’ve destroyed them and destroyed their lives,” he insisted. “And a lot of them didn’t even go into the building. It was a disgrace what’s going on.”
The Department of Justice reports that more than 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with the government’s Jan. 6 investigation.
More than 300 people have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees that day, the DOJ has said, and more than 100 defendants have been accused of using deadly weapons.
Trump was impeached by the House and accused of inciting the events of Jan. 6, but he was acquitted by the Senate. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Elsewhere in Iowa on Thursday, Trump pointed to his experience in Washington as a reason he should earn Iowan votes — a stark pivot from what he’s used as a selling point in the past: his background as a political outsider.
“I’m very experienced now, you know, it’s not like I’m going in and saying, ‘Oh, this nice office, is this the Oval Office?"” he said, adding, “I think within six months you’re gonna see a major part of the comeback.”
Trump attended three total events ahead of a town hall on Thursday night with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
ABC News’ Luke Barr, Chris Boccia, Hannah Demissie and Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.
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