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This giant conservative convention used to hate Trump. Now it's a MAGA rally.

CPAC coincided with Michael Cohen's three days of trashing the president. But his accusations were far from most attendees' minds.

by Evan McMorris-Santoro
Mar 1 2019, 5:02pm

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Just three years ago, attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference, D.C.’s biggest annual right-wing convention, threatened to walk out if then-candidate Donald Trump showed up. Now, it’s basically a big, conference-sized ode to the president.

MAGA hats are everywhere, Trump’s former adviser Sebastian Gorka gave an impassioned speech about the Left stealing America’s hamburgers, and young conservatives gathered to be indoctrinated into Washington’s right-wing scene.

The convention happened to coincide with former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's three days of trashing the president on Capitol Hill. But his accusations of fraud, racism, and deceit against Trump were, for the most part, far from attendees' minds.

Read more: 7 things you need to know about Cohen's testimony.

When CPAC speakers did mention Cohen, it was to dismiss him as a liar and a buffoon. But they didn't do it very much, preferring to rally conservatives to the Trump cause under giant signs reading “What Makes America Great.”

In the halls, though, it was clear that many attendees had watched Cohen's televised testimony Wednesday and followed the news of his allegations. Mostly they toed the GOP party line on Cohen. But not everyone did.

We spoke to young Republicans who were taken aback by the revelations that came out of Cohen’s explosive testimony. It was clear that many attendees were watching. And while some of the biggest names on the conservative scene bashed Cohen from their soapboxes on stage, some of the younger audience members were starting to feel Trump fatigue.

Read more: Cohen's testimony is bad news for Don Jr.

“I used to be all-in on him,” Nate Medeiros, a conservative college student at CPAC, told us. “It gets old after awhile, this whole Twitter thing. He sounds like a fool. It terms of policies, I like some of the stuff he’s doing, but he derails his own agenda.”

“I’ll still vote for Trump,” Medeiros added. “I’m just — I’m not sold completely on the man himself.”

Still, the Trump skeptics weren’t in the majority at CPAC. Despite the near-constant drumbeat of bad Trump news over the last few months, many of the young conservatives at the conference still have the president’s back.

Jacqueline Fowler, who just moved to D.C. and is looking for a job in conservative politics, sounded like a veteran Republican operative talking about Cohen.

“He’s done a lot of shady stuff. He’s lied to Congress before, so it makes no sense to me that you would have someone who’s a known liar and put them on a pedestal in front of America knowing that they’re inclined to lie,” she told us. “You’re kind of just putting seeds in people’s heads knowing that it may or may not be truthful.”

This segment originally aired February 28, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

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