Trump faces cheers in hostile territory during the Libertarian Party convention as members choose their candidate

Former President Donald Trump faced repeated cheers from a crowd during his speech at the Libertarian Party convention Saturday evening, appearing unsuccessful in his efforts to sway libertarian voters who have criticized him for his COVID-19, immigration , drug war and foreign policy. as well as for his increased federal deficits and support for unauthorized espionage and more.

The convention will be held this weekend at the Washington Hilton hotel as Libertarians make their choice for the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate, with candidates including Chase Oliver of Georgia, Michael Rectenwald of Pennsylvania, Charles Ballay of Louisiana and Lars Mapstead of California.

Trump's appearance at the convention suggested an attempt to draw libertarian voters away from their party's presidential nominee or independent candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who also spoke at the convention.

When Trump, a Republican Party presidential candidate, took the stage for his speech, he heard boos from many libertarians, while some Republican supporters wearing “Make America Great” hats and T-shirts cheered and shouted “USA!” USA!' sang.

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP)

In his remarks, Trump attempted to praise “fierce champions of freedom in this room” and described President Joe Biden as a “tyrant” and the “worst president in the history of the United States,” but some people in the audience fired back : “That's you.”

Trump asked for the support and votes of libertarians during his speech, which was met with cheers from the crowd.

The former president, who is used to campaign rallies in front of his supporters, found himself in uncharted territory as libertarians do not support him or many of the policies he proposed during the campaign or while in office.

Libertarians, who value small government and individual freedoms, have long been critical of Trump, and his invitation to the convention divided the party, with some saying that a candidate who opposes libertarian values ​​would run for another party, should not be welcome, because this would distract from libertarian values. candidates and causes, while others praised the move because Trump's presence would draw media attention to the convention.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who ran for president in the Republican primaries before withdrawing to support Trump, was another non-libertarian alongside Trump and Kennedy Jr. who spoke at the convention.

Ramaswamy also heard boos as he spoke Friday when he mentioned Trump's name.

Trump tried to appeal to the hostile crowd by referencing the four criminal charges against him and joking, “If I wasn't a libertarian before, I'm certainly a libertarian now.”

Libertarians criticize Trump

Libertarian delegates mock former President Donald Trump as he spoke at the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP)

As the boos and criticism continued throughout his speech, Trump at one point insulted the libertarians he was trying to convince to vote for him.

“Maybe you don't want to win… Keep getting your 3% every four years,” he said.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson won about 3% of the national vote in 2016, and the party's 2020 candidate, Jo Jorgensen, received just over 1% in that year's election.

Polls have shown for months that most voters do not want a rematch of the 2020 election between Trump and Biden, leaving an alternative like the Libertarian candidate, Kennedy Jr. or another third-party candidate, could see a boost in support.

Despite the contentious crowd, Trump continued his speech, saying he came to “extend a hand of friendship” in shared opposition to Biden.

Chants of “End the Fed!” — a common message from liberals opposed to the Federal Reserve — then began. One person held up a sign that read “No wannabe dictators!” was escorted out by security.

Libertarian delegates mock Trump

Libertarian delegates criticized former President Donald Trump as he spoke at the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP)

Trump tried to reach the crowd by promising to appoint a libertarian to his Cabinet if he were elected president, but many in the crowd hissed in disbelief.

But the crowd cheered loudly when the former president promised to commute the life sentence of the founder of the anonymous marketplace Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, and possibly release him on time. Ulbricht was convicted because his website was used to sell illegal drugs, even though he didn't sell anything himself.

The pledge to commute Ulbricht's sentence was intended to win over libertarians who believe government investigators have gone too far in their case against the Silk Road and who generally oppose the War on Drugs. Ulbricht's case was a hot topic at the convention, and many in the crowd held “Free Ross” signs and chanted the phrase as Trump delivered his speech.

But despite Trump's promises, many in the crowd remained hostile to the former president.

One Libertarian candidate, Rectenwald, said in his speech before the former president's arrival that “none of us are big fans of Donald Trump.” Rectenwald and several other libertarian candidates took the stage to mock Trump and his speech.

“The truth is, I don't like having a war criminal on this stage. I don't think he deserves a place on this stage,” Oliver said of Trump's performance.

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Libertarians cheer for Donald Trump

Libertarian delegates hold “Free Ross” signs as former President Donald Trump speaks at the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (AP)

A few hours before Trump's arrival, libertarian organizers asked Trump supporters in the crowd to vacate the first four rows of seats so that convention delegates, many of whom had just returned from selecting their preferred libertarian candidate, could sit closer to the front . Several Trump supporters initially resisted before eventually moving, and organizers later added more seats.

Kennedy Jr. accused Trump and Biden in his speech at the convention of infringing on personal freedoms during the coronavirus pandemic. He said Trump heeded pressure from public health officials such as former White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci and closed businesses, and he knocked Biden for mandating vaccines for millions of workers.

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During his administration, Trump called the COVID-19 vaccine “one of the greatest miracles in the history of modern medicine.” Since leaving office, he has continued to tout the vaccines.

Trump's campaign claimed the former president's presence at the convention was part of an effort to reach potential supporters in places that are not heavily Republican, following his rally Thursday in the deep blue Bronx during a break in his hush money trial in New York .

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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