OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — In a slashing speech packed with braggadocio and grievance, President Donald Trump denounced Democrats as the party of “the socialist nightmare,” relitigated his crowd sizes back to the inauguration and took on “sick,” ''lunatic" and “dirty” foes at every turn, earning him the unvarnished adoration of cheering conservatives Saturday.
After a trying week of tumult and setbacks, Trump delivered a stemwinder that extended beyond two hours and hardly left him winded.
Trump let loose against House Democrats, who are broadening their investigations of him, predicted he would win re-election by a greater margin than his 2016 victory, taunted his potential White House challengers and sounded themes that are staples of his rallies. He complained often of getting “no credit” for his achievements as he proudly drifted “off script” at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
His remarks capped a week that saw his nuclear summit with North Korea's leader collapse without an agreement, his former lawyer deliver damaging congressional testimony about his character and business practices and Congress take action to nullify his emergency declaration to secure money for the border wall that lawmakers have denied him.
On the stage, he was a prideful and at times profane figure as he complained that political foes are “trying to take me out with bull----.” Trump reached back to old criticisms of his ex-attorney general, mocking Jeff Sessions’ southern accent. And he laced into the “New Green Deal or whatever the hell they call” the climate-change plan floated by some liberal Democrats that Trump showcased as creeping socialism.
It took him more than an hour to get to the message that Republicans and members of his administration have been spreading in recent weeks as they brand Democratic policy ideas as socialism.
"America will never be a socialist country," he said. "Socialism is not about the environment, it's not about justice, it's not about virtue." He said it's about "power for the ruling class."
For every prepared line like that, there were multiple improvisations from a president on policy and personality.
"That's how I got elected — by being off script," Trump said as the crowd roared its approval.
He took particular delight in going after the Democrats' Green New Deal, brought forward by some liberal Democrats in Congress and backed to varying degrees by several of the party's 2020 presidential candidates.
"I think the New Green Deal or whatever the hell they call it — the Green New Deal — I encourage it," Trump said mockingly as he wound up for a round of exaggeration. "I think it's really something that they should promote. They should work hard on it. ... No planes, no energy. When the wind stops blowing that's the end of your electric. Let's hurry up. Darling, is the wind blowing today? I'd like to watch television, darling."
Trump continued to bask in his 2016 victory and the crowds that attend his events. He talked of how few gave him a chance to win.
"I think we're going to do even better in 2020," Trump said. "I think we're going to see numbers we haven't seen in a long time."
When he made his prediction of a second term, the crowd responded with chants of "USA, USA, USA."
He also took a lengthy detour back to his inauguration, claiming that an enormous if not unprecedented crowd showed up, contrary to the thorough video and photo coverage that showed otherwise.
Trump claimed that as president he was "reversing decades of blunders and betrayals" by those who preceded him in office.
"These are serious, serious betrayals to our nation and everything we stand for," Trump said. "It's been done by the failed ruling class that enriched foreign countries at our expense. It's wasn't America first. In many cases, it was America last."
With special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation seemingly approaching its end, Trump spoke of the "collusion delusion" and lashed out at newly empowered House Democrats who are opening new inquires involving him.
"This phony thing," Trump said of the Russia probe, "looks like it's dying so they don't have anything with Russia there, no collusion. So now they go in and morph into 'Let's inspect every deal he's ever done. We're going to go into his finances. We're going to check his deals. We're going to check' — these people are sick."
House Democrats are undertaking several broad new investigations that reach far beyond Mueller's focus on Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign. So far, Mueller has not brought any public charges alleging a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and Russia; the investigation continues.
Their efforts increased this past week after Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, appeared before two House committees and a Senate committee. In his public testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cohen called the president a “con man” and a “cheat” and gave Democrats several new leads for inquiry.