President Donald Trump used his first presidential appearance before the nation's largest gathering of conservative activists on Friday to sharply escalate his criticisms of the news media and take direct aim at the use of anonymous sources. Reporters "shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name," he declared, just hours after members of his own staff held a press briefing and refused to allow their names to be used.
"A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being, let them say it to my face," Trump told the Conservative Political Action Committee. "Let there be no more sources."
Members of Trump's White House team regularly demand anonymity when talking to reporters. Trump said he wasn't against all the press, just "the fake news media or press."
"I'm against the people that make up stories and make up sources," he said. "They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name."
It was a triumphal return to CPAC for Trump, warmly welcomed by a crowd that gave him a more wary reception on his first appearance.
Six years ago he stepped to the stage as the "money, money, money, money" chorus of his reality TV show theme song blared. The crowd was less than adoring, occasionally laughing and booing the former Democrat.
Although Trump returned in ensuing years, he was notably absent last year. American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp said the presidential candidates were asked to participate in a question-and-answer session, but Trump had wanted to make a speech.
He did show up in 2015, however, a few months before he announced his candidacy.
"I am really inclined. I want to do it so badly," Trump said about the likelihood he'd run.CPAC in Maryland Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA
Joshua Platillero chats with Kaitlyn Dillingham at the 44th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 23, 2017.
Joshua Platillero chats with Kaitlyn Dillingham at the 44th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 23, 2017.(Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA)
Now, CPAC is largely the Trump show — "TPAC," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called it.
Schlapp said Trump will be the first president to address the group during his first year in office since Ronald Reagan in 1981. He called that a "huge sign of respect."
In his first appearance, Trump tried to burnish his conservative credentials with assertions that he is prolife and anti-gun control, while heaping praise on himself and his business acumen.
And he appeared to test-drive the "make America great again" phrase that would become his 2016 presidential campaign slogan. "Our country will be great again," he said. He trademarked that phrase in 2012, just after Mitt Romney lost to Obama.
He told the skeptical crowd: "I have a reputation for telling it like it is. I'm known for my candor."
An angry audience member shouted: "You have zero chance of getting elected."
Trump also vowed again to deport immigrants in the U.S. illegally who have committed crimes, telling the gather that ""as we speak today, immigration officers are finding gang members, drug dealers and criminal aliens and throwing them the hell out."
His declaration comes the day after he and one of his Cabinet secretaries offered clashing takes on the nature of the deportation push.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly pledged in Mexico that the United States won't enlist its military to enforce immigration laws and that there will be "no mass deportations."
But only hours earlier Trump suggested the opposite, saying it would be a "military operation."
Press secretary Sean Spicer later said Trump used "military" as an adjective and was stressing "precision."
Trump said he inherited a "failed health care law" which threatens the nation's medical system with "total catastrophe.""Obamacare" doesn't work and it covers "very few people," Trump said, even though the 2010 health law has provided medical insurance to 20 million Americans. The president says he and the GOP-led Congress will "make it much better" and "less expensive."
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