President Trump gave a vigorous defense of the First Amendment in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday morning and invoked his right to free speech to bash the “fake news media.”
“Nobody loves the First Amendment more than me,“ Trump told the crowd at the annual convention, held outside Washington, D.C. “But [the media] never will represent the people, and we’re going to do something about it,” he added ambiguously.
Trump criticized journalists for using anonymous sources in news stories that caused turmoil in the early days of his administration. Several recent stories quoting anonymous officials forced the resignation of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, when they revealed that Flynn had discussed economic sanctions with the Russian ambassador before taking office. Trump has repeatedly accused members of the intelligence community of leaking information to the press, as he did again Friday morning on Twitter.
Even if there are real leakers, Trump maintained that journalists “make up sources.” “They have no sources,” he said. If the sources are real, they must be named, he demanded.
The morning CPAC crowd whooped at the president’s attacks on the Fourth Estate, and Trump continued. The president criticized polls from CBS, ABC, NBC, and the “Clinton News Network” (or CNN), which brought more whoops of delight. When Hillary Clinton came up a second time, some of the crowd indulged in a “Lock her up” chant.
Red “Make America Great Again” hats dotted the sea of blue and black sport coats filling the ballroom wall-to-wall. In years past, Trump enjoyed a small but fervent fan base at CPAC — but the young, grassroots conservative crowd tended to cheer loudest for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian favorite, or for Sen. Ted Cruz, a champion of conservatives. Skepticism of Trump ran so hot last year during the presidential campaign that he skipped the 2016 CPAC, prompting Cruz and other GOP primary opponents to lambast him for the snub.
But Trump returned to CPAC Friday a happy, boastful warrior. He pledged that he would oversee “one of the greatest military buildups in American history.” He declared that the Republican Party “will now be the party of the American worker,” in seeming contrast to past Republican orthodoxy that highlighted business executives and entrepreneurs.
“America is coming back and it’s roaring and you can hear it,” Trump said. “It’s going to be bigger and better and stronger than ever before.”