President Donald Trump, basking in the adoration of the crowd, glossed over the North Korea summit’s collapse, instead reviving several of his greatest hits, from rehashing the 2016 election to obsessing over the crowd size at his inauguration. | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
In an epic two-hour speech, the president claims Mueller’s probe is ‘bull—‘ as he regales a conservative crowd after his North Korea summit failure.
By ANDREW RESTUCCIA
03/02/2019 12:59 PM EST
Updated 03/02/2019 01:58 PM EST
President Donald Trump on Saturday delivered a scorched-earth speech to conservative activists, calling the Russia investigation “bullshit,” adopting a southern accent to mock his former attorney general, and asserting that some members of Congress “hate our country.”
The rollicking two-hour appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland offered the president a brief respite from an otherwise miserable week in which his much-touted summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ended in failure and his former personal lawyer delivered explosive testimony to Congress. Story Continued Below
Trump, basking in the adoration of the crowd, glossed over the North Korea summit’s collapse, instead reviving several of his greatest hits, from rehashing the 2016 election to obsessing over the crowd size at his inauguration.
“You know I’m totally off script right now,” Trump said at the beginning of his speech. As his meandering speech continued, it become clear that his assessment was an understatement.
At one point, Trump regaled the crowd with a story about a general he said was named “Raisin Caine” (it wasn’t immediately clear who he was referring to). He said he always sits with the pilots when airplanes are landing: “They know what we’re doing.” He said he has good eyesight and later added, “I don’t have white hair.” He derided a Hawaii senator as a “crazy person.” And he accused Hollywood of discriminating against conservatives.
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He even revisited his campaign kickoff speech from June 2015. “From day one, I mentioned the word rape. If you look at that first speech, that was very innocent compared to what’s happening,” Trump said.
Trump came under fire for his 2015 comments, which appeared to broadly assert that Mexicans were rapists.
Later, the president sounded off on the 2020 election, expressing regret that he attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren so early. “I should have saved the Pocahontas thing for another year,” he said. “I’ve destroyed her political career and I won’t get a chance to run against her and I would have loved that.”
The president’s remarks overlapped with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ first major speech as a 2020 presidential candidate — marking the first of many split-screen moments between Trump and the many people who are trying to ensure he doesn’t win a second term.
Trump clearly delighted in the passion of the conservative audience, pointing to onlookers and applauding as Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” blared on the speakers. At one point, the president wrapped his arms around an American flag on the stage, mugging for the cameras as he held the hug for a moment.
“I’m in love, you’re in love and we’re all in love together,” the president said at one point.
The president also revisited his infamous 2016 appeal to Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, arguing that he was just joking and criticizing the press for taking his comments seriously.
“So everybody is having a good time, I’m laughing, we’re all having fun. Then that fake CNN and others say, ‘He asked Russia to go get the emails. Horrible,’” Trump continued, adding, “These people are sick, and I’m telling you, they know the game and they play it dirty, dirtier than anybody has ever played the game.”
Trump is still under fire for his 2016 campaign plea to Russia, in which he appeared to ask the foreign power to recover the emails from Clinton’s private email server when she was secretary of State. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said in July 2016. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Prosecutors for special counsel Robert Mueller later said that Russian spies began trying to hack into Clinton’s server after Trump’s plea.
The speech marked Trump’s third consecutive appearance as president at the gathering of conservative leaders.
Before Trump spoke, the television screens in the room played a contentious interview between American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, the organizer of the conference, and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. At one point, Cuomo said the president “lies all the time.” Schlapp shot back, “Not true.”
At one point, as the CPAC crowd looked on, CNN flashed a chyron that said, “Conservatives fail to call out Trump’s repeated lies.”
Schlapp later introduced the president, making a point to stress the crowd size at the event, a metric that the president obsesses over. “We’re so full that even our overflow rooms have overflow rooms,” Schlapp said.
“Even in the midst of nuclear diplomacy, Mr. President, we are happy that when you walked away, you walked here to be with us,” Schlapp added later.
Trump spent Saturday morning tweeting and, apparently, watching cable news. He promoted his Scottish golf course, calling it the “greatest golf course anywhere in the world” and arguing it improves the United States’ relationship with the United Kingdom. He also retweeted a video promoting Trump campaign merchandise and corrected Fox News host Neil Cavuto for erroneously saying Kim’s trip to Vietnam took three hours. “It was a 3 day train ride to Vietnam, not 3 hours!” Trump said.
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