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Trump draws mixed reaction with Libertarian convention speech

Former President Trump drew mixed reactions from a rowdy crowd as he worked to appeal to the Libertarian National Convention, urging the party to “combine with us” to beat President Biden in November.

“The fact is we should not be fighting each other. If Joe Biden gets back in, there will be no more liberty for anyone in our country. Combine with us in a partnership, we’re asking that of the libertarians. We must work together. Combine with us. You have to combine with us,” Trump told an audience at the Washington Hilton on Saturday night. 

The remarks drew a mix of boos and cheers from a crowd of both Libertarians and pro-Trump attendees.  

The former president said his appearance at the convention was to “extend a hand of friendship” to the party, which he argued “can make a big difference.” 

“I’m asking for the libertarian party’s endorsement, or at least lots of your votes,” Trump said, prompting boos — but he also garnered “we want Trump” chants from his supporters in the crowd. 

“Maybe you don’t want to win … Keep getting your three percent every four years,” Trump said in an apparent knock at the party’s recent polling success. 

As part of his appeal to the party, Trump also committed to putting a Libertarian in his Cabinet if he wins the Oval Office in 2024 — and to commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht, who is serving life in prison for his role in operating a platform for buying and selling illegal drugs. Chants of “free Ross” had erupted several times throughout the night’s events. 

Trump’s remarks come a day after independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. addressed a crowd at the same event. Kennedy, who is running a long-shot bid to take on Trump and President Biden in the fall, knocked the former president on Friday over his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kennedy had challenged Trump to formally debate him at the convention, and though the White House rivals ultimately appeared on different days, Trump’s decision to attend the Libertarian event underscores the potential spoiler threat posed by Kennedy’s third-party bid.  

Staff brought out additional chairs ahead of Trump’s speech to accommodate both the Libertarians and Trump supporters that crowded into the ballroom, after Kennedy’s showing reportedly drew a more meager audience. Libertarian leaders urged the mixed crowd to hear each other out.

Trump is heading toward a tight rematch with Biden in the fall, and the pair have committed to two head-to-head debates — as Kennedy decries his exclusion. Several recent polls have heralded in bad news for Biden in key battleground states. 

Biden’s campaign knocked Trump ahead of the Saturday speech. 

“Freedom isn’t free in Trump’s Republican Party and this weekend will be just one more reminder of that,” Biden-Harris spokesperson Kevin Munoz said in a statement. 

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