Facing strong criticism and increased scrutiny from congressional Democrats, President Trump turned to a friendly and raucous crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday to denounce the special counsel’s Russia investigation, rail against undocumented immigrants and accuse Democrats of having a fringe socialist agenda.
With a fiery speech that ran for more than two hours — his longest as president — Mr. Trump distanced himself from the heavy criticism he has received this week for an unsuccessful summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, as well as congressional testimony from his former fixer Michael Cohen and a New York Times report that he ordered former chief of staff John Kelly to give his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance despite concerns raised by White House lawyers and intelligence officials.
“Unfortunately you put the wrong people in a couple of positions and you leave people for a long time that shouldn’t be there and all of a sudden they’re trying to take you out with bullshit,” he told the crowd, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in U.S. elections and possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin.
Along with mocking progressives’ “Green New Deal” proposal and claiming that some members of Congress “hate” the U.S., the presidCent vowed to sign an executive order that would withhold federal funds from schools that fail to protect “free speech” on campus. But he did not specify when he would sign such proclamation.
Here are the most noteworthy moments from the speech:
Trump links undocumented immigrants and criminality
Mr. Trump again argued for the construction of his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border by linking undocumented immigrants to criminality and casting them as a burden to the American economy.
He accused Democrats and the press of disseminating “false propaganda” that says undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than American citizens.
However, multiple studies, including one by the libertarian Cato Institute, have found that native-born residents are more likely to be convicted of a crime than immigrants living in the country legally or illegally.
Employing his signature hardline rhetoric on immigration, Mr. Trump also denounced the “lawless chaos” at the southwestern border, birthright citizenship and so-called sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with immigration authorities.
“We are being invaded,” he claimed.
Trump vows to sign order to withhold funds from schools that don’t protect “free speech”
The president vowed to sign an executive order that would withhold federal funds from schools that fail to protect “free speech” on campus.
Mr. Trump did not specify when he would sign such order and did not provide additional details.
The proposal is likely designed to appease concerns by some conservatives that their voices are stifled on college campuses.
Decrying socialism, Trump blasts Democrats
Continuing fiery rebukes of socialism by previous CPAC speakers, Mr. Trump suggested the Democratic Party is embracing fringe, far-left proposals.
The president highlighted Democrats’ support for “Medicare for all” — which he said would precipitate a “socialist takeover of American healthcare.”
He again denounced the Green New Deal as a proposal that would dismantle the American economy and force people to travel by train. After underscoring the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela — led by a leftist authoritarian leader — Mr. Trump repeated a pledge he made during his State of the Union address earlier this year.
“America will never be a socialist country,” he said to fervent applause.
Trump takes aim at Fed chair, again
Accusing him of liking raising interest rates, the president took aim — again — at Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
“We have a gentleman that likes raising interest rates in the Fed,” Mr. Trump said.
“Can you imagine if we left interest rates where they were?” he later added.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly blamed Powell for downturns in the stock market and accused him of threatening economic growth by raising federal interest rates.
In a report to Congress this week, Powell said the Federal Reserve will be “patient” in determining when to boost its rates in light of the various “crosscurrents and conflicting signals.” He said the Fed’s rate decisions will be “data dependent” as the economic outlook evolves.
Some in Congress “hate our country,” Trump claims
Mr. Trump claimed some members of Congress “hate” the U.S., citing remarks he did not identify but said he has heard about.
“We have people in Congress that hate our country,” he said without naming any specific senators or representatives.
He suggested he could be referring to some foreign-born members of Congress. Mr. Trump asked the crowd, “How did they do in their countries?”
Trump on Mueller probe: “They’re trying to take you out with bullshit”
The president continued his strong criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in U.S. elections and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow, saying some people are trying to take him out “with bullshit.”
“You put the wrong people in a couple of positions … and all of a sudden they’re trying to take you out with bullshit,” he said, prompting some in the crowd to repeat the profanity.
Mr. Trump added that Mueller, who he said “never received any votes,” appointed “the angriest Democrats” to his investigative team — a claim that has been widely debunked. The president also lambasted former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and mocked his recusal from the Russia investigation with a fake Southern accent.
Trump mocks Green New Deal proposal
Mocking the Green New Deal being pushed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and most 2020 Democrats, the president advised his congressional opponents to continue backing the bold proposal designed to mitigate climate change.
“I think it’s really something that they should promote,” he said sarcastically.
Trump bills himself as grand trade negotiator with China
The president said he’s the first American leader to hold China accountable for what he believes were years of disparity in trade between the two economic giants.
“They wouldn’t negotiate with previous administrations,” Mr. Trump said, repeating his claim that Chinese President Xi Jinping told him other U.S. presidents did not ask for changes to the trade relationship between both countries.
Trump: “The numbers are going to be even bigger” in 2020
After boasting about his poll-defying and unexpected triumph in 2016 against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump predicted a similar outcome during the 2020 presidential election.
“The numbers are going to be even bigger,” he said, provoking fervent chants of “USA!” from the raucous crowd.
Other speakers at CPAC
Other prominent speakers and administration officials have spoken at the 2019 CPAC. They include Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, Donald Trump Jr. and far-right British politician and Brexit crusader Nigel Farage.
Pence: Trump is “the most pro-life president” in U.S. history
Addressing the CPAC gathering Friday, Vice President Michael Pence touted the passage of the Republican tax overhaul bill in 2017, as well as the administration’s staunch support for the anti-abortion movement, calling Mr. Trump “the most pro-life president in American history.”
What is the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)?
The Conservative Political Action Conference, which was first held in 1974, is an event attended by conservative activists and elected officials who tend to identify with the Republican Party. It is hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU). Former President Reagan gave the conference’s inaugural keynote speech in 1974.