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President Trump on Friday took credit for transforming the Republican Party to a stronger, populist movement that will focus first and foremost on American interests, in his highly anticipated speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.

“The GOP will be, from now on, the party also of the American worker,” Trump told the crowd at the annual meeting in Maryland. “You know, we haven’t been as a group given credit for this, but if you look at how much bigger our party has gotten this cycle … we have an amazing, strong, powerful party.”

“It’s going to be bigger and better and stronger than ever before,” Trump said of the U.S. under his “America First” policies. “I’m not representing the globe, I’m representing your country.”

The president touted the early accomplishments of his administration and previewed future ones, and said each one is designed to improve the lives of Americans.

“Basically, all I’ve done is keep my promise,” Trump said. “The era of empty talk is over. It’s over. Now is the time for action.”

Trump ticked through the actions his young White House has taken to date, from re-authorizing construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, cracking down on illegal immigration, preparing a surge in military spending and withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“It’s time for all Americans to get off of welfare and get back to work,” Trump said as he hinted at upcoming budget and Obamacare reform measures.

Trump dedicated a significant portion of his speech to his grievances with the media, an institution he has frequently blamed for twisting narratives about his campaign and administration. But Trump said the American people proved themselves stronger than the media by voting for him.

“The media didn’t think we would win. The pundits didn’t think we’d win. The consultants that suck up all that money … didn’t think we would win,” Trump said. “They all underestimated the power of the people — you.”

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The president ratcheted up his attacks on “fake news,” a term he has recently expanded to encompass a broad range of critical coverage.

“I want you all to know that we’re fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake,” the president said. “They are the enemy of the people.”

“They have a professional obligation as members of the press to report honestly,” Trump added. “It doesn’t represent the people. It never will represent the people.”

He sought to clarify his past criticisms of the media, which have been characterized by his opponents as an attack on free speech.

“I’m not against the media, I’m not against the press, I don’t mind bad stories if I deserve them,” Trump said. “But I am only against the fake news media or press.”

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“I am against the people that make up stories and make up sources,” he added. “They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name.”

Trump’s return to the CPAC stage on Friday marked one of the first major political speeches of his month-old presidency. It echoed the tone of his familiar rally-style speeches, by mixing prepared remarks with ad-libbed quips tailored to a deeply conservative audience.

“I’m also working with the Department of Justice to begin reducing violent crime,” Trump said after he described his administration’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. “I mean, can you believe what’s happening in Chicago?”

Responding to shouts of “build the wall” from the crowd, Trump vowed that construction of his promised wall along the southern border would begin “way ahead of schedule.”

“Our administration is running with great efficiency, even though I still don’t have my Cabinet approved. Nobody mentions that,” Trump added.

The president acknowledged his absence from CPAC in 2016, when he pulled out of a scheduled appearance to campaign in the Republican primaries.

“I would have come last year but I was worried that I would be, at that time, too controversial,” Trump said.

But he promised to attend future CPAC gatherings, noting the fact that his speech at the 2011 conference had launched his career in GOP politics.

“You know my first major speech was at CPAC,” Trump said. “I loved it, I love the people, I loved the commotion.”

“I love this place,” Trump added. “I’ll make sure that we’re here a lot.”



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