Trump at NRA convention floats 3-term presidency

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Former President Donald Trump on Saturday floated the idea of a third term if he wins in November.

“You know, FDR 16 years — almost 16 years — he was four terms. I don’t know, are we going to be considered three-term? Or two-term?” Trump quipped at the National Rifle Association annual meeting, speaking before a crowd of gun rights supporters.

Some in the crowd shouted in response: “Three.”

It’s not the first time Trump has mentioned extending his stay in the White House, an idea he suggested while on the campaign trail in 2020. His latest remarks provide more fodder for the Biden campaign, which seized on the comments as it tries to paint Trump as a threat to democracy and institutional norms.

But Trump has more recently shut down the proposition of seeking a third term, which is barred by the Constitution. And he told Time magazine in an April interview that he wouldn’t be in favor of challenging the 22nd Amendment, enacted after FDR's presidency:

“I wouldn’t be in favor of it at all. I intend to serve four years and do a great job. And I want to bring our country back. I want to put it back on the right track. Our country is going down. We’re a failing nation right now. We’re a nation in turmoil,” he said.

During a meandering speech in Dallas, Trump addressed thousands of gun rights supporters on Saturday. The former president spoke about guns and the Second Amendment, but also tackled immigration, foreign policy, the economy and abortion. He at one point slammed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as “radical left,” while continuing his attacks on Biden and CNN about the debates.

His trip to Dallas comes as his criminal trial in New York heads toward the finish line, with closing arguments expected as soon as Tuesday. By this time next week, the former president could be a convicted felon or newly acquitted on charges of concealing a 2016 hush money scheme. Trump on Saturday railed against his indictments and also complained about the gag order issued under Justice Juan Merchan.

Trump, intermittently pivoting back to the gun issue, spoke before a vastly different NRA than the one that threw its support behind him just eight years ago. In May 2016, the organization backed Trump and would go on to spend more than $30 million to help send him to the White House. On Saturday, the NRA endorsed Trump again, support that comes as both the former president and the nation’s top gun group face mounting legal challenges, raising questions about how much money the organization will be able to put behind Trump’s 2024 bid to return to power.

“The endorsement of the proud patriots of the NRA. These are great patriots. These are great people. We’re going to do things like nobody can believe,” Trump said.

He also urged gun owners, who he said he’s heard “don’t vote,” to turn out in November to ensure his victory.

“Let’s be rebellious and vote this time, OK?” Trump said.

Trump used Saturday’s speech — his ninth time addressing the nation’s top gun lobby — to gin up enthusiasm among some of his staunchest supporters, a key constituency for fundraising. The NRA cheered Trump during his first term in office, as he appointed three conservative Supreme Court justices and took steps pushed by the gun lobby, including his designation of gun and ammunition retailers as critical infrastructure during Covid.

Trump also used the venue to rail against President Joe Biden’s restrictions on gun ownership and vowed to roll back gun safety provisions passed by his administration.

Biden has taken a number of steps to tackle gun violence, issuing a slew of executive actions and establishing the first-ever federal office of gun violence prevention — moves that have angered the gun lobby. The president most recently moved to expand background checks for gun purchases, in an effort to eliminate a loophole that has allowed sales of guns without background checks outside of brick-and-mortar stores.

“If the Biden regime gets four more years, they are coming for your guns,” Trump said. “Crooked Joe Biden has a 40-year record of trying to rip firearms out of the hands of law abiding citizens.”

As Trump headlined the event, the weight of the NRA’s backing and its relevance in the country’s politics this cycle is increasingly murky. The group has been embattled with scandals, internal power struggles and lawsuits that have emptied its coffers, spurring uncertainty about how much cash it can put forward to support Trump at a time his own war chest lags behind Biden’s.

“No matter what you’ve heard, we are strong. We are healthy. We are resolute, committed and united as ever,” said Andrew Arulanandam, interim CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, before Trump’s speech.

The politics around guns has shifted in recent years, as gun violence continues to plague the country. After the Uvalde school shooting in 2022, Democrats and Republicans voted for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first gun safety legislation in 30 years. Candidates from both parties didn’t pay an electoral price in the midterms, which gun safety advocates attribute to what they see as a seismic shift in the politics around the issue that’s been underway for years now.

Timed with Saturday’s event, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee launched the “Gun Owners for Trump” coalition, led by Olympic athletes, firearms industry leaders and public advocates. The release said the coalition will “push back against Biden and the gun-grabbing Democrats’ attempts to erode the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

The Democratic National Committee, for its part, had a mobile billboard in Dallas, attacking Trump’s NRA speech. The billboard cycled through headlines about the former president, his gun policies and past comments amid mass shootings. One screen showed the words “get over it” — a reference to Trump’s comments after a school shooting in Iowa earlier this year — while another highlighted the former president saying that mass shootings are not “a gun problem.”

“Donald Trump confirmed that he will do exactly what the NRA tells him to do — even if it means more death, more shootings, and more suffering," Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement.

"The American people want to see an end to the gun violence ripping apart their communities. President Biden has a 40 year record of taking on the NRA and winning, including passing the most significant gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years last year — and he’s proud to be the only candidate in this race who won’t sell Americans out to the gun lobby."