Donald Trump confronts repeated booing during Libertarian convention speech

Donald Trump was booed repeatedly while addressing the Libertarian Party National Convention on Saturday with many in the crowd shouting insults and decrying him for issues including his Covid-19 policies.

When he took the stage, many jeered while some supporters clad in Make America Great hats and T-shirts cheered and chanted “USA! USA!”.

It was a rare moment of Mr Trump coming face-to-face with open detractors, which is highly unusual for someone accustomed to staging rallies in front of ever-adoring crowds.

Libertarians, who prioritise small government and individual freedoms, are often skeptical of the former president, and his invitation to address the convention has divided the party.

Mr Trump tried to make light of that by referring to the four criminal indictments against him and joking, “If I wasn’t a Libertarian before, I sure as hell am a Libertarian now”.

donald trump confronts repeated booing during libertarian convention speech

Libertarian delegates jeer Donald Trump as he speaks at the Libertarian National Convention (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Mr Trump tried to praise “fierce champions of freedom in this room” and called US President Joe Biden a “tyrant” and the “worst president in the history of the United States,” prompting some in the audience to scream back: “That’s you.”

As the insults continued, Mr Trump eventually hit back, saying “you don’t want to win” and suggesting some Libertarians want to “keep getting your 3% every four years”.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson won about 3% of the national vote in 2016, but nominee Jo Jorgensen got only a bit more than 1% during 2020’s close contest.

Libertarians will pick their White House nominee during their convention on Sunday.

donald trump confronts repeated booing during libertarian convention speech

A sign reading ‘No Wannabe Dictators’ is shown at Mr Trump’s speech (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Mr Trump’s appearance also gave him a chance to court voters who might support independent presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr who gave his own Libertarian convention speech on Friday.

Polls have shown for months that most voters do not want a 2020 rematch between Mr Trump and Mr Biden.

That dynamic could potentially boost support for an alternative like the Libertarian nominee or Mr Kennedy, whose candidacy has allies of Mr Biden and Mr Trump concerned he could be a spoiler.

Despite the raucous atmosphere, Mr Trump continued to press on with his speech, saying he had come “to extend a hand of friendship” in common opposition to Mr Biden.

That prompted a chant of “We want Trump!” from supporters, but more cries of “End the Fed!” — a common refrain from Libertarians who oppose the Federal Reserve.

One person who held up a sign reading “No wannabe dictators!” was dragged away by security.

donald trump confronts repeated booing during libertarian convention speech

Security personnel grabs a Libertarian delegate who was booing Republican presidential Mr Trump (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

Mr Trump tried to win over the crowd by pledging to include a Libertarian in his Cabinet, but many hissed in disbelief.

The former president did get a big cheer when he promised to commute the life sentence of Ross Ulbricht, the convicted founder of the drug-selling website Silk Road, and potentially release him on time served.

But those for and against Mr Trump even clashed over seating arrangements. About two hours before the former president’s arrival, Libertarian organisers asked Trump supporters in the crowd to vacate the first four rows.

They wanted convention delegates — many of whom said they had travelled from around the country and bought expensive tickets to the proceedings — to sit close enough to hear the speech.

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