With Speech Friday, President Completes CPAC’s Transformation To A Full-On Trump Show
President Trump is speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. His comments come amid a debate about gun laws after a shooting a high school in Parkland, Fla.
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre spoke at CPAC on Thursday, warning conservatives of a "socialist agenda" to take firearms from law-abiding citizens. Trump called the NRA and LaPierre "Great American Patriots" in a tweet Thursday morning and later said the organization "is ready to do things" to address the problem of gun violence.
Updated at 9:47 a.m. ET
President Trump will reiterate his call Friday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference for arming some teachers and school personnel in the wake of last week's shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that killed 17 people.
"When we declare our schools to be gun-free zones it just puts our students in more danger — well-trained gun-adept teachers and coaches should be able to carry concealed firearms," Trump will say, according to excerpts released by the White House. "We should do what works. This includes commonsense measures that will protect the rights of law-abiding Americans while helping to keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves and to others."
Trump raised that suggestion earlier this week when he met with survivors of the Florida attack, the families of some of the victims and those affected by prior mass shootings. "Our whole nation was moved by their strength and courage," Trump will say of the Parkland survivors.
Many other of the teen survivors have mobilized to call for more gun regulations. However, top officials from the National Rifle Association made similar calls at CPAC on Thursday for rolling back gun-free school zones, and remained defiant against any push for more gun control in the aftermath of the attack.
Trump has enjoyed deep support from the NRA and tweeted out support for the group shortly before NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre spoke. But in recent days the president has also seemed open to some proposals that the gun-rights lobby has opposed, such as raising the age requirement to purchase some weapons, including semi-automatic guns.
Trump will also hammer in on some of his most predictable applause lines with his base — standing for the National Anthem and his promise to build a vaunted wall along the Mexican border.
"To secure our country, we are calling on Congress to build a border wall to stop dangerous drugs and criminals," Trump will say.
Trump will also preview the sanctions against North Korea he's set to unveil later this afternoon.
"Today I am announcing that we are launching the largest-ever set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime," Trump will say. "The Treasury Department will soon be taking new action to further cut off sources of revenue and fuel that the regime uses to fund its nuclear program and sustain its military by targeting 56 vessels, shipping companies, and trade businesses that are assisting North Korea in evading sanctions."
Trump's appearance for the second time as president before CPAC find him speaking to a movement that's evolved over the years from its former libertarian-leaning likeness to a full-on Trump show.
The transformation began last year, with conservatives finally embracing a man and his populist policies they'd long been skeptical of but who had finally delivered to them unified control of all three branches of government. Members of Trump's team were trotted out, comparing him to the movement's idol, former President Ronald Reagan.
A year later, almost all the major speakers come from Trump's administration and Cabinet or are top allies, with no vocal detractors on the lineup. Once prominent draws such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., or his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, were nowhere to be found. Congressional leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., didn't attend either. The one former Trump foe who was on the schedule was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, once known as "Lyin' Ted" but who has since appeared to mend fences with the president.
Instead, there was a sense of unity projected on the first day of the conference, which was dotted by attendees wearing the president's signature "Make America Great Again" hats and his branded political merchandise for sale in the exhibit area.
As Vice President Pence previewed in his warm-up pitch to the crowd on Thursday, this year it's all about outlining the "promises made, promises kept" from their administration, from enacting tax cuts to rolling back regulations and putting more conservative judges on the bench.
"2017 was the most consequential year in the history of the conservative movement," Pence boasted.
There was much Republicans didn't accomplish last year, though — chiefly their long-held promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. And Trump's approval numbers, while on a slight uptick recently, still remain at historic lows as Democratic enthusiasm is on the rise after blows at the ballot box.
There was another clear theme that ran throughout the first day of CPAC: how Republicans plan to counter those pitfalls, share their message about the economy and attack Democrats ahead of this fall's midterm elections. Pence and several other speakers seized on Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's past comments that the tax bill only gives "crumbs" back to working Americans while helping corporations the most.
"Any leader who says that $1,000 in the pockets of working families is 'crumbs' is out of touch with the American people," the vice president said.