President Donald Trump yesterday rallied right-wing activists with a speech offering conservative red meat on immigration, trade and the threat of “socialism” as he sought to move on from a bruising week in domestic and international politics.
“We believe in the American dream, not in the socialist nightmare,” he said to boisterous applause from hundreds of supporters at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) near Washington.
“America will never be a socialist country,” Trump added in a mammoth two-hour speech that seemed to draw energy from the fervent reception offered by some of his influential supporters in the room.
It was his first public appearance since coming home empty-handed, and to brickbats from all sides, from a nuclear-disarmament summit with North Korea’s reclusive leader Kim Jong-un.
“North Korea has an incredible, brilliant economic future if they make a deal, but they don’t have any economic future if they have nuclear weapons,” Trump said.
He added that the relationship with North Korea seemed to be “very, very strong.”
The United States and North Korea have said they intend to continue talks, but have not said when a next round might take place.
The collapse of the summit leaves Kim in possession of what analysts say could be an arsenal of 20 to 60 nuclear warheads, which, if fitted to its intercontinental ballistic missiles, could threaten the US mainland.
The White House is also smarting from explosive testimony last Wednesday on Capitol Hill by Trump’s former lawyer and fixer that branded him a criminal and a racist.
Trump, often speaking in mocking tones, portrayed the Democratic Green New Deal climate strategy touted by the left of the party as a socialist plan that will devastate the fossil fuel and motor industries.
He said progressive healthcare policies would “lead to colossal tax increases.”
Seeming to feed off the crowd’s support, he added: “We’re in the swamp of Washington DC, but you know what — we’re winning and they’re not.”
With the federal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia reportedly approaching its conclusion, Trump again berated Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as partisan hacks out to get him, adding that “these people are sick.”
His voice dripping with sarcasm, he suggested that his call in summer of 2016 for Russia to find and release Hillary Clinton’s emails was a joke that had been obtusely taken at face value by the media.
On the foreign front, Trump repeated his claim that the last Islamic State fighters in Syria would be captured or killed imminently — “as of tomorrow,” he said — and railed against Chinese tariffs on American goods.
The speech, at the National Harbor in Maryland, was Trump’s third to CPAC since he was elected.
Republicans hoped Trump’s address would serve as a diversion to the Mueller investigation and to the testimony this week on Capitol Hill by the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen implicating him in crimes.
In December a court sentenced Cohen, who worked for Trump for over a decade as his lawyer and vice president in the Trump Organization, to three years in prison for hush-money payments to two women and for lies to Congress — both of which he said were to protect Trump — and tax evasion.
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