The crowd chanted “lock her up!” Donald Trump gleefully veered off-script, saying his prepared speech was “a little boring.” He depicted undocumented immigrants as “the snake” that inevitably will deliver a “vicious bite” to American citizens.
And he told the crowd he tries “like hell” to hide a bald spot on his head.
The president’s Friday appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference did not disappoint, with Trump warning Democrats want to take away his supporters’ money and gun rights.
Trump declared his first 13 months in office the most successful start “in the history of the presidency,” coaxed the packed ballroom to call for Hillary Clinton’s arrest, predicted a Democratic-controlled Washington would bring a repeal of the Second Amendment, and warned the audience that only increasing military spending to new record levels will allow them to keep their homes.
“Don’t worry, you’re getting the wall,” Trump said of his proposed southern border wall. The conservative crowd responded with another chant that was a regular part of his 2016 campaign rallies: “Build the wall! Build the wall!”
In another unscripted moment, the president recalled his 2016 race against Clinton, saying, “We had a crooked candidate, by the way.” The CPAC attendees booed at first, before breaking into another chant that dominated Trump-Pence campaign events: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Watch: Trump Plays to Supporters, Bald Spot in CPAC Address
An audience member, however, went off script to voice some frustration, shouting back at the president: “You said you would!” Undaunted by that remark, Trump vaulted right back into his bold rhetoric about Democrats, saying “they committed a lot of atrocities.” He did not specify any high crimes, only that party’s lawmakers opposing his agenda and holding opposing policy views.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and former Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, often frustrate all of Washington — including House GOP leaders and other Republicans. But the president on Friday branded both conservative members “warriors.”
As the president left the White House on his way to the conference in suburban Maryland outside Washington earlier Friday, he promised to talk about gun violence and school shootings at CPAC. He did, and he used the occasion to throw some red meat at the conservatives in the hall while also praising survivors of school shootings he met with on Wednesday at the White House.
‘Don’t be complacent’
“You have to get out” and vote in November’s midterm elections, he said, noting incumbent presidents often lose seats in Congress. “People get complacent. … Don’t be complacent.”
Democrats, “if they get in, they will repeal your tax cuts, they will put judges in that you wouldn’t believe. They’ll take away your Second Amendment,” Trump said, eliciting perhaps his appearance’s biggest reaction from the audience.
He then asked if those in the room would rather, if they had to choose, keep the GOP tax rate cuts or the Second Amendment. The latter appeared to get more applause.
“We’re going to say you want the Second Amendment the most,” Trump quipped.
He used another part of his remarks to reiterate his stance that some teachers and school employees should receive special training and firearms so they could take on mass shooters.
“I don’t want 100 guards with rifles standing all across the school,” he said. “You do a concealed carry permit. And this would be a major deterrent because these people are inherently cowards. If this guy thought other people would be shooting bullets back at him, he wouldn’t have gone to that school.
“I’m not talking about teachers,” the president said. “Out of your teaching population, you have 10 percent, 20 percent of very gun-adept people. … A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.”
As he said while leaving the White House, Trump called for schools to be “hardened” with “offensive” weaponry above cries from critics that more guns at schools would create a list of other potential problems.
Earlier Friday, Trump dubbed an armed Florida sheriff’s deputy who remained outside the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were gunned down last week a “coward.”
Scot Peterson, a Broward County sheriff’s deputy, was at the high school when a 19-year-old former student entered with an AR-15 assault rifle and began firing. Peterson, local law enforcement officials said Thursday, did not go inside to confront the gunman. Peterson has resigned.
“He was there for five minutes, for five minutes. That was during the entire shooting. He heard it right from the beginning. So he certainly did a poor job,” Trump said. “But that’s a case where somebody was outside, they’re trained, they didn’t act properly or under pressure or they were a coward.”
Watch: Trump’s Clout on Gun Control is Limited, and House GOP Won’t Help
On immigration, Trump served up more red meat, saying his administration would get violent criminals who also are undocumented immigrants “the hell out of our country.”
He promised to combat gangs like MS-13 with force because that’s all, to him, they understand.
“They cut people, they cut them into little pieces because they want them to suffer,” he said of MS-13 members and their enemies. He wants Congress to enact new laws that will allow his administration to “when we catch these animal killers, so we can lock them up and throw away the keys.”
He even did something he dubbed “the snake,” reading a short story — saying conference attendees requested it — that warned against taking in beings that are unlike oneself. In reality, according to Trump, immigrants would be the snake, which in the story gave the woman that took him in “a vicious bite.”
“We’re going to take care of our country” said the president who ran on a nationalist platform, repeating himself with emphasis on a key part of the statement: “We’re going to take care of our country.”