Trump free speech, characteristically wide-ranging.
In one of his longest – and characteristically wide-ranging – speeches as president, Donald Trump Saturday went after both Democrats and fellow Republicans, said people are trying to get him out of office with “bull—-,” and announced he will be signing an executive order to require universities to support “free speech” or forfeit federal dollars.
“You know, I’m totally off script right now,” Trump said early on in his approximately two-hour speech to supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland. “This is how I got elected, by being off script.”
The remark earned him one of his standing ovations.
Trump’s appearance follows a week in which his former attorney Michael Cohen accused him of criminal conduct in testimony before Congress. He also visited Vietnam for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that failed to produce a nuclear weapons deal.
North Korea has contradicted Trump’s account of the failed negotiations in Hanoi. And Trump was criticized Friday for his apparent acceptance of Kim’s denial that he had any involvement in the death of a young American who had been held in North Korean custody.
Trump said Saturday he was in a “horrible position” over the situation with Otto Warmbier.
“In one way, I have to negotiate. In the other, I love Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier. And I love Otto,” Trump said. “It’s a very, very delicate balance.”
In his introduction of Trump, Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said that when the president wants to recharge, he returns to his base.
After stepping out on the stage and hugging an American flag, Trump did a lot of recharging. He reveled in the applause and remarked more than once that the crowd was still with him during the lengthy address.
“I’m watching those doors and not one person has left,” Trump said near the end, although some people did leave early. “And I’ve been up here a lifetime.”
The speech was more than 30 minutes longer than Trump’s previous longest speeches – a 2017 rally in Alabama and this year’s State of the Union address – according to the website Factba.se, which tracks Trump’s words. At a minimum, it is 25 minutes longer than remarks at a cabinet meeting on 1/2/19.
Here are some of the highlights of the address:
Free speech executive order
Trump invited on stage Hayden Williams, a conservative activist punched on the University of California at Berkeley’s campus last month.
Praising Williams for “taking a hard punch in the face for all of us,” Trump urged Williams to sue his attacker, the college and possibly the state of California.
“He’s going to be a very wealthy young man,” Trump said. “Go get ‘em, Hayden.”
He also announced he will be signing “very soon” an executive order requiring schools to “support free speech” if they want to receive federal research dollars.
“If they want our dollars, and we give it to them by the billions, they’ve got to allow people like Hayden…to speak,” Trump said.
The crowd responded with chants of “USA! USA! USA!”
In addition to the many students attending the CPAC conference in Maryland, others were listening at satellite locations on campuses in Virginia, Colorado and California.
The White House has not announced any details about the executive order.