Former President Donald Trump traveled to the Houston headquarters of an offshore drilling company on Thursday to make overtures to oil-country voters in a meandering, 90-minute speech that touched on many of his base’s favorite issues, including rigged elections, transgender policy and inflation.
The speech, made from a stage in front of a warehouse and flanked by massive drilling equipment, came after Trump met with oil and gas executives and toured the Trendsetter Engineering Inc. headquarters in far northwest Houston.
Trump asked oil and gas workers to stand to be recognized by the more than 1,000 people in attendance, touted his recent endorsement for president in 2024 by the Oil and Gas Workers’ Association and invited Trendsetter CEO and President Mario Lugo to join him on stage near the beginning of his speech.
“With your vote we will fire crooked Joe Biden and we will reclaim America’s destiny as the greatest energy superpower on the face of the Earth,” Trump said.
While a large part of the speech focused on energy, Trump’s remarks touched on many of the classics from his career in politics, including nicknames for his political opponents, promises to toughen security on the country’s southern border and attacks on transgender athletes and people.
Trump continued to repeat the false claim that President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory over him was fraudulent.
Trump currently faces 91 indictments across four criminal cases in three states. Prosecutors allege he attempted to subvert democracy via fraud to overturn the 2020 election; paid hush money to hide an affair with a porn star; falsified business records; and endangered national security by mishandling top secret documents.
The former president railed against Biden and his administration at length, claiming Biden’s policies have damaged the country and created the current crisis in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Trump also accused Biden of declaring a “war on energy” through his policies to combat climate change by reducing emissions, arguing those policies are harming Texas’ oil and gas industry.
Electric cars, windmills and solar panels all faced Trump’s wrath as he promised to “drill our clean, beautiful” oil, if elected back into the White House. Trump argued the push to adopt renewable forms of energy and transportation will drive Houston’s energy industry out of business.
“Energy security is national security, and we don’t have national security now,” Trump said. “Like a bunch of very dumb people that have a rudderless ship. If you don’t have energy and you don’t have borders and you don’t have fair elections, then you don’t have a country.”
The backing of Texas’ oil and gas industry was welcomed by the rally’s attendees from the Houston area.
“When you’re paying $5, $6 a gallon for diesel, at the company I work for, it comes back to hurt you,” said Coy Rogers, a resident of Montgomery County. “I made more money when Trump was in office than I have with Biden.”
While the speech was meandering at times — at one point, Trump told a 15-minute story about an overpriced aircraft carrier — it carried dark themes of Christian nationalism and warnings of a bleak future if Trump is not elected next year.
“If we don’t win this election, I believe we will no longer have a country,” Trump said. “I really believe that.”
State and local Republican officials applauded along from the front of the crowd.
Several officials opened for Trump a little more than an hour before he walked onto the stage.
Megachurch pastor Ed Young, who leads the Second Baptist Church in Houston, read a prayer to the crowd, asking they be “awoken, not woke.”
State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller and Texas Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham both warmed up the crowd, voicing admiration for the former president.
U.S. Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Houston, gave the final introduction. The rally was held in Hunt’s district, and he noted his own support for the oil and gas industry.
“If Houston is the energy capital of the world, and if companies like Trendsetter are in my district, then that makes me the energy congressman of the world,” Hunt said. “I stand with you and I stand by you because you are the most important industry in the world.”
Miller, Buckingham and Hunt said the state would support Trump during the 2024 primary elections and the general election.
Trump was similarly confident in his chances, saying the Republican Primary was all but won despite no state having voted yet. He declared he would carry Texas in the primary and the general election.
Trump won Texas over Biden by less than 6 percentage points in 2020, the smallest Republican presidential margin in three decades. Biden easily bested the former president in Harris County 56 to 43 that year.
The enthusiasm for Trump from some Texans was on display before the rally began. Some rally goers were in line for the 4 p.m. speech as early as 9:30 a.m.
Markham Hodges, a 2016 and 2020 Trump voter from Houston, arrived early in hopes of convincing a member of the Trump campaign to play a song about the former president that he produced. Hodges said he had attended “three or four” previous Trump rallies.
Hodges also spoke at length about conspiracy theories and said he supports Trump because Christian figures he follows on social media claimed God told them Trump was destined to be president.
David Dunbar, a Tomball resident who came with his family, said he voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, but Thursday’s event was the first rally he has attended.
“We’ve always been too busy or too far away, and now here he is, one or two miles from our house,” Dunbar said.
Both men echoed Trump’s disdain for Biden and what they said was the falsehood that Biden won the 2020 election.
While enthusiasm was high in advance of the speech, by the time Trump’s remarks reached the hour mark, a trickle of attendees had left. Once Trump finished speaking and danced his way off the stage, however, the crowd roared with approval.