WASHINGTON - Donald Trump announced plans Wednesday to form a presidential exploratory committee.
"I am the only one who can make America truly great again," the Republican businessman and reality television star said in a statement announcing the move.
While a step short of a formal campaign launch, formation of an exploratory committee allows Trump to begin raising money and hire staff as he weighs a White House bid. Trump said he had already hired political aides in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, which host the first three contests on the presidential nominating calendar.
"I have a great love for our country, but it is a country that is in serious trouble," he said in a wide-ranging statement that called for rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, improving border security, strengthening the military, and improving the economy. "Americans deserve better than what they get from their politicians who are all talk and no action."
At the Iowa Freedom Summit in January, Trump said he was pondering a run and criticized 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is exploring a presidential run.
"The last thing we need is another Bush," Trump said then.
Trump, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $4 billion, would be able to self-fund a run.
He has long hinted at presidential aspirations, but he appears more serious this time. He recently said he would not renew his contract with NBC for his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice.
NBC, which said last month that it was proceeding with a Season 15 of the show, declined comment to the website Politico on Wednesday.