BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. — Donald Trump sought to charge forward after a tumultuous week with a celebratory speech here Tuesday, in which he marked the formal end of the 2016 primary election while making no mention of the intense scrutiny he faced for attacking a Hispanic federal judge.
Speaking underneath crystal chandeliers at the Trump National Golf Course Westchester, Trump vowed to carry the Republican Party to victory in the fall during measured, carefully delivered remarks which he read from a Teleprompter. He struck a confident tone while talking about the general election, defying Republican critics who believe his penchant for feuds and controversial statements make him unelectable.
“This is not a testament to me, but a testament to all of the people who believed real change – not Obama change, real change – is possible. You’ve given me the honor to lead the Republican Party to victory this fall,” Trump told guests and reporters gathered for his remarks. “I understand the responsibility of carrying the mantle and I will never ever let you down.”
The real estate mogul has drawn sharp rebukes from Democrats and Republicans alike over his persistent attacks against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is hearing two lawsuits against the Trump University for-profit business. Trump has repeatedly said in recent days that the judge’s ethnic background posed a conflict of interest, making him biased against Trump.
Republican officials and strategists have pleaded with Trump to tone down his attacks, which have only served to draw further attention to the Trump University lawsuits. Republican lawmakers and party leaders have moved to distance themselves from Trump’s comments. On Tuesday, after days of negative headlines, Trump vowed in a public statement not to discuss the case further.
But he did seemingly nod Tuesday to accusations that he is racist, mentioning African Americans in his speech and vowing to “rebuild our inner cities.”
“We’re going to rebuild our inner cities which are absolutely a shame and so sad. We’re going to take care of our African American people that have been mistreated for so long,” Trump said.
Trump put presumptive Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton squarely in his crosshairs during the speech, seeking to pivot immediately to the general election and signaling the ways in which he will attack the former secretary of state in the coming months.
Trump also made an explicit appeal to voters who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, many of whom remain skeptical of Clinton and hold strong anti-establishment sentiments.
Characterizing her as a corrupt leader in the political establishment, Trump accused her and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, of misusing their experiences in government for their own personal benefit.
“We cannot solve our problems by relying on the politicians who created our problems. The Clintons have used the politics of personal enrichment into an art form for themselves,” he said in one instance. “They’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars selling access, selling favors, selling government contracts, and I mean hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“Clinton turned the State Department into a private hedge fund,” he also said.