Former US President Donald Trump has changed his mind about starting a new political party, telling it would split the Republican vote.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida on Sunday the 74-year-old dismissed any idea that he might start a new political party as “fake news”.
“Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Let’s start a new party so we can divide our vote and never win,” he joked.
“We have the Republican Party. It’s going to unite and be stronger than ever before.”
This was his first speech since Democrat Joe Biden became president,
The speech also comes weeks after Mr Trump was acquitted in an impeachment trial.
The former president remains banned from social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, over his response to January’s deadly riot at the US Capitol.
He has been living at his Mar-a-Lago Florida golf resort since leaving the White House.
Last week one US poll suggested 46% of surveyed Trump voters would vote for him if he left the Republicans and started his own party.
In his CPAC speech, Mr Trump repeated his false claims that he lost November’s election to the Democrats because of electoral fraud and he hinted at another run in 2024, saying: “Actually you know they just lost the White House. But who knows – who knows? I may even decide to beat them for a third time, OK?”
Mr Trump strongly criticised his successor for reversing his hard line on immigration and border security, saying US policy had gone from “America first to America last”.
“We all knew that the Biden administration was going to be bad but none of us even imagined how just how bad they would be and how far left they would go,” he told the cheering crowds, many of them not wearing masks.
The conference, which began in 1974, is seen as the most influential gathering of US conservatives and a barometer of the Republican party’s political direction.