Trump returns to CPAC for victory lap

Posted at 10:45 AM, Feb 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-24 17:55:18-05

President Donald Trump credited a crowd of right-wing activists with his unlikely political success Friday, telling a rapturous crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference he first thought about running after his speech there six years ago.

"I loved the people, I love the commotion," Trump said in his remarks. "I'll never forget it really."

He said he arrived at the CPAC conference in 2011 with "very little notes and even less preparation."

"When you have practically no notes and not preparation and everyone was thrilled, I said I like this business," Trump said.

Trump's speech is the highlight of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, held at a hotel and convention center outside Washington. Trump plans to arrive in his helicopter Marine One to the event, attended by conservative activists.

He first spoke at CPAC in six years ago, then as a brash billionaire with a popular reality television series. He told the crowd then he was considering a run for president -- though he ultimately waited until the next election cycle to step into the fray.

Trump mocked and disparaged the news media on Friday in his speech, repeating his attack that they represent "the enemy of the people."

"I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news," Trump told attendees.

"A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are," he added, referring to a tweet last week. "They are the enemy of the people because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none."

He also said reporters "shouldn't be allowed" to use unnamed sources.

Attacks on the press defined Trump's campaign and have been a theme of his first month in office. On Friday, it took the president roughly a minute to call out the "dishonest media," after telling the attendees in the crowded ballroom to sit down.

"The dishonest media, they'll say, 'He didn't get a standing ovation,'" Trump said. "You know why? Because everybody stood and nobody sat."

Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon told the CPAC audience Thursday that Trump was returning to the conference to express his "appreciation" for the activists' support.

"This is really where he got his launch, you know, with his ideas in the conservative movement," Bannon said.

While Trump spoke at CPAC most years after his debut, he was conspicuously absent last year, in the height of the Republican primary contests. Organizers said he wanted only to deliver a speech when they requested he participate in a question-and-answer session.

His GOP rivals did attend, and lightly mocked Trump for his absence.

Trump arrives Friday vindicated and prepared to bask in his unlikely victory.

"I think by tomorrow this will be TPAC," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told the crowd on Thursday.