It was like hearing Donald Trump’s greatest hits, blasting “fake news,” deriding special counsel Robert Mueller and other investigators, encouraging chants of “lock her up,” venting on Democrats and fellow Republicans, mocking the Fed chairman, stoking fear about the border, while taking credit for the few GOP victories last November.
Forget Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America,” Trump insists it’s more like midnight, and he’s just fine with that.
Trump told the raucous crowd at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team are targeting him with “bullshit.”
“We’re waiting for a report by people who weren’t elected,” he complained. “Unfortunately you put the wrong people in a couple of positions, and they leave people for a long time that shouldn’t be there. And all of the sudden they’re trying to take you out with bullshit, okay?”
Trump was talking about the special counsel and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed him at the Justice Department.
He then mocked his first attorney general Jeff Sessions for handing the Russia investigation to Rosenstein by recusing himself from the probe early on without telling Trump of his plans.
“And as you know, the attorney general says, ‘I’m gonna recuse myself’,” Trump snarked in full southern drawl. “And I said, ‘Why the hell didn’t he tell me that before I put him in?’ How do you recuse yourself?”
Sessions said at the time that he couldn’t supervise the probe because he had himself advised Trump’s campaign on foreign policy.
The president also vented at the media for taking him seriously in 2016 when he joked that he wanted Russians to release Hillary Clinton’s tens of thousands of deleted emails to the public.
And he announced in a 2 hour, 5 minute oratory marathon – the longest speech of his political career – that he will soon sign an executive order requiring colleges that receive federal dollars to apply First Amendment speech protections on campus.
But his most aggressive words were reserved for people in his own Justice Department who he believes have been out to get him since before Inauguration Day.
“Robert Mueller never received a vote. And neither did the person that appointed him,” he said.
He also mocked House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff as ‘little shifty Schiff’ for expanding the scope of the investigation to a deep-dive into his personal finances.
‘They don’t have anything with Russia. There’s no collusion,’ he said. ‘So now they morph into “Let’s inspect every deal he’s ever done. We’re going to go into his finances. We’re going to check his deals. We’re going to check” – these people are sick.’
Trump’s speech zigzagging from trade to immigration, the 2016 campaign to last fall’s midterm elections came against the backdrop of the collapse of his summit with North Korea and the extraordinary congressional testimony from his former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.
Cohen testified in detail about how Trump manipulated financial records and learned of WikiLeaks’ efforts to dump damaging information on Hillary Clinton in advance.
Few targets were spared in Trump’s wide-ranging speech, which included jabs at various unnamed Republican senators — “Where do these people come from?” — his potential Democratic challengers in 2020 and a swipe at Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell.
“We have a gentleman who likes raising interest rates, a gentleman who likes quantitative tightening,” said Trump. “Can you imagine if we left interest rates where they were? If we didn’t do quantitative tightening, taking money out of the market?
Trump has repeatedly slammed Powell for raising interest rates too quickly.
Powell has said the rate hikes were necessary in light of the economic evidence, but in January acknowledged the case for raising rates “has weakened” somewhat.
He also dismissed one prominent argument from Republicans on his recent decision to declare a national emergency to redirect federal funds for his border wall.
While GOP lawmakers have argued that his move could set a precedent for future Democratic presidents, Trump argued that the answer to that is for him to be reelected instead.
“What we did in 2016, ‘The Election’ we call it, with a capital E, it’s never been done before,” Trump said. “And I think we’re going to do it again in 2020.”
“I think we’re going to do even better in 2020,” he said, projecting Electoral College numbers like “nobody has seen in a long time.”