Donald Trump has told his Twitter followers this morning he is “Going to CPAC!”, but he also has other matters on his mind.
In two tweets this morning he attacked the FBI for not being able to stop leakers to the media – even “within the FBI itself”.
This may have been prompted by a CNN story last night stating that Reince Priebus, Donald Trump’s chief of staff, asked the FBI to deny media reports that campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election. The FBI rejected the request, CNN reported, citing “multiple US officials brief on the matter”.
A White House official said the request was only made after the FBI suggested to the White House it did not believe the reports to be accurate, CNN reported.
Democrats said Priebus had violated policies intended to limit communications between the law enforcement agency and the White House on pending investigations.
The slew of leaks to the press from intelligence agencies about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia and many other matters, including phone calls from the president to world leaders, have enraged Trump and led to the resignation of Michael Flynn as his national security adviser. He has frequently attempted to redirect attention away from the substance of the leaks towards the leaks themselves.
Hello, and welcome back to our coverage of CPAC, America’s biggest conservative conference, where Donald Trump is due to address attendees this morning.
The president – once a poor fit at this mecca for traditional American conservatism – seems likely to be received with open arms on Friday, judging by the people we spoke to here on Thursday.
Whatever ideological differences they may once have had with him, and whatever doubts about his conservative bona fides they may still have, attendees in the main seem delighted that their team is now back in charge of the White House and Congress after eight years they regard as a disaster.
“I think by tomorrow this’ll be TPAC!” joked senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway at CPAC on Thursday. It didn’t appear to be far from the truth.
Attendees bounded down the hallways donning Trump’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hats, flitting between discussions often framed around what they dubbed a campaign by the “dishonest media” to discredit Trump and his administration.
Richard Barrett, a 21-year-old student who identified himself as an early Trump supporter, said he felt vindicated by the pro-Trump tone that dominated CPAC’s first full day.
“I was here last year, and this convention was pretty anti-Trump,” Barrett said. “It was really funny, because everybody here was ‘Never Trump’; [they said] he’s never going to win the primary, it’s going to be Ted Cruz all the way.’
“And, well, here we are.”
Pete Logsden of suburban Washington echoed this praise. “If I was going to think of any other president to compare him with it would be Reagan, and honestly, he’s more conservative in a lot of ways.”
Yesterday the main event for many was a rare public sighting of Steve Bannon, seen by many as the power behind the throne and the engine of Trump’s ideology, which he described as “economic nationalism”.
Bannon and his White House colleague Reince Priebus, who comes from the establishment wing of the party, put on a show of unity. But although Priebus, a former party chair, listed Trump’s policy priorities and made it clear he was committed to trying to deliver them, it was the former Breitbart boss Bannon who seemed to truly embody the worldview of the Trump White House.
And his fury at the media, which he calls the “opposition party”, was never far from the surface. “If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you’re sadly mistaken,” he said of the media. “Every day is going to be a fight. That is the promise of Donald Trump.”
Media coverage of the Trump administration would never improve, Bannon claimed, because the “corporatist, globalist” nature of the media meant it was intrinsically opposed to the new president’s policies.
Vice-President Mike Pence and controversial White House aide Kellyanne Conway also spoke.
Trump is due to speak today at about 10am ET – the White House says 10am, the agenda says 10.20am.
He’ll be followed later on by two other political figures who have found themselves making a sudden move from the fringes to the mainstream over the last year: National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre and UK Brexit leader Nigel Farage.
Here are some highlights:
• About 10am ET: Donald Trump
• 11.55am: Nigel Farage on “Brexit and what it means for the world”
• 12.55pm: Wayne LaPierre
• 1.35pm: Armed and Fabulous: The New Normal – a discussion featuring many NRA representatives
• 2pm: Revolt of the Deplorables: Inside Election 2016
• 2.20pm: John Bolton, George W Bush’s ambassador to the UN
• 3pm: Carly Fiorina, former presidential candidate
• After 5pm: Draft Sheriff Clarke for Senate event featuring Dog the Bounty Hunter and “Sheriff Clarke’s 18 inch bobblehead”
• 5.45pm: Repealing Obama’s Banking Monstrosity and Making Money Work Again: Making Money Great Again
• 7.30pm: Michael Reagan, son of the former president
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