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Trump Addresses An Ebullient CPAC Crowd


President Trump addressed the conservative conference known as CPAC this morning.




TRUMP: It's a place I have really...


TRUMP: I love this place.

INSKEEP: That's the president at National Harbor, Md., this morning. NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro is there at CPAC. Hi, Domenico.


INSKEEP: So he says he loves the place. Is he getting love?

MONTANARO: Absolutely. You know, this has not always been Trump's crowd. But this was his room today, no doubt about it. I mean, he said - he did say that the line stretched about six blocks to get in. That wasn't true. (Laughter).


MONTANARO: But the room - but the room was packed and dotted with a lot of red make-America-great-again hats. That is not something you would have seen a year ago. There were loud cheers and enthusiasm for this president. It's funny. Yesterday, Kellyanne Conway, Trump - adviser to Trump and the White House...


MONTANARO: ...Said during her speech that this is not CPAC any longer, but that people were going to be calling it TPAC (ph). And I think she's right. This was TPAC for sure during this speech.

INSKEEP: Forgive me, but what changed given that Mr. Trump has changed a lot of the - has gone against a lot of the ideologies of a lot of the people in that room?

MONTANARO: (Laughter) He won.

INSKEEP: OK, there you go.

MONTANARO: And I think that they - they know that a lot of what they are fighting for are going to get done. And, you know, he talked about this. His chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, yesterday kind of alluded to the fact that they don't always agree, but they agree on certain things.

And Trump made sure to give a list of all the kinds of things that he's trying to accomplish. And, you know what? He said for all the people who don't like what he's done - he wasn't talking about this crowd. He was talking about people outside, liberals and et cetera. He said that he's done nothing but try to keep his promises. Let's try to listen to some of that.


TRUMP: We're getting bad people out of this country, people that shouldn't be, whether it's drugs or murder or other things. We're getting bad ones out. Those are the ones that go first. And I said it from day one. Basically, all I've done is keep my promise.

MONTANARO: And there he's obviously talking about immigration. But he got lots of applause on talking about Second Amendment, defending the Second Amendment, repealing and replacing Obamacare. So for any past differences, this group is on board now.

INSKEEP: But I'm just thinking about what has really changed there, Domenico - because I think about the fact that there were some Republicans, Republican elites - maybe not the rank and file - who wanted a very different approach to immigration, who felt that it would be damaging for the future of the Republican Party to go after immigration in precisely the way that - that President Trump has done. Have those doubts completely vanished?

MONTANARO: Yeah, but, you know, immigration has always been an activist-based thing. Hard-line immigration is always popular, especially at CPAC. You know, the stuff that had been dividing the Republican Party when it came to CPAC and Libertarians had to do with privacy and overseas intervention. It wasn't - this wasn't ever really a free-trade, pro-free-trade, pro, you know, immigration crowd. So that's one issue that's actually pretty good red meat for this audience.

INSKEEP: I guess red meat also is when he goes after the media.

MONTANARO: No question about that - you know, Trump's very good at branding things. He's given alternative language now, calling the media fake news. He tried to refine some of that and said that he didn't mean all the media; he just meant those using blind quotes, really. So clearly, what this tells me is that they are getting annoyed in the White House with a lot of the leaks that are coming out, a lot of the palace intrigue stories. And he wants to try to make it stop. Of course, we don't like using blind quotes. But we do when those folks are under threat. And that's definitely happening.

INSKEEP: Just double checking, didn't White House officials themselves speak on background, without their names being used, just this very morning to attack a news story?

MONTANARO: Are you saying maybe it has more to do with whether or not the story's negative? That may be true.

INSKEEP: I think it might be something like that.


INSKEEP: Domenico, thanks very much.

MONTANARO: (Laughter) Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Domenico Montanaro at CPAC. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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