President Trump made a historic return Friday to the Conservative Political Action Conference, telling the crowd, ‘You finally have a president,’ and delivering a wide-ranging speech in which he took aim at ISIS, pushed his plans to combat illegal immigration and vowed to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
He started with a familiar attack on the news media and went so far as to say reporters “shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name.”
“Let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources,” Trump said, though some of his administration officials recently have held briefings where they insisted no names be used.
“I’m not against the media,” Trump said. “I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources.”
Trump moved on to defend his agenda and vow major action ahead. On immigration, Trump touted plans for a southern border wall with Mexico and said it was “way, way, way ahead of schedule.”
The speech came as Republicans control Congress and the White House for the first time in a decade. Conservatives have been optimistic about the opportunity to enact big policy changes and looked to Trump to spell out his agenda.
“You finally have a president,” he told the packed room at the 44th annual conference, held this year at National Harbor, Md. “It took you a long time. It’s patriots like you that made it happen.”
In addition to media bashing, Trump’s characteristically muscular speech included a defense of his crackdown on illegal immigration.
“We’re getting the bad ones out,” he said, explaining that the Department of Homeland Security is prioritizing deportation of illegal immigrant criminals.
He repeated his pledge to repeal and replace ObamaCare, an effort that seems stalled in Congress, and touted his effort to get key oil pipelines back on track.
“We’re checking off the promises we made to the people of the United States,” Trump thundered.
Trump drew raucous applause when he vowed to rebuild the U.S. military and spoke of putting America first, a familiar theme from his campaign.
“I’m not representing the globe,” Trump said. “I’m representing your country.”
The speech ended with the campaign theme song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” the Rolling Stones early 1970s hit played at Trump rallies.
The president’s speech at CPAC also served as a prelude to his first State of the Union-style speech to Congress Tuesday night.
On Thursday night, Vice President Mike Pence as well as key White House advisers spoke at the annual gathering.
“We conservatives have an opportunity to that only comes around every few generations,” Pence told a pumped-up crowd. “My friends, this is our time.”
White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus shared the CPAC stage in the afternoon. The two top White House aides praised one another, bashed the press and laid the groundwork for Trump’s Friday speech.
Also making a CPAC appearance was White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway who teased Trump’s appearance: “Tomorrow it will be TPAC when (Trump’s) here.”
The conference, which is hosted by the American Conservative Union, began in 1974 and has since grown into a four-day- event. A closely watched straw poll will be conducted Saturday, the last day.
Trump’s appearance Friday marks the fourth visit by a sitting president.
Trump made his first speech at CPAC in 2011. At the time, he floated the possibility of a 2012 presidential run – a nomination that was won by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
He returned in 2015 and was booed after telling the crowd he wanted to use U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS.
Last year, Trump was scheduled to speak at the conservative confab but cancelled at the last minute, saying he would campaign in Kansas and Florida instead.
At the time, the American Conservative Union criticized the move and said his decision sent “a clear message to grassroots conservatives.”