President Trump To Speak At CPAC Gathering Near Washington

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — President Donald Trump will be a guest of honor at this year’s Conservative Political Action Committee meeting — an event he skipped last year during his candidacy.

The event opened Thursday morning near Washington, D.C.

Many in the conservative movement are working to overcome doubts about the depth of Trump’s dedication to the cause. He skipped the event last year and only accepted his invitation to this year’s meeting a few days ago.

“I didn’t have any confidence in him advancing a conservative agenda, but guess what, that’s exactly what he’s doing,” one man said.

“I think he’ll do fantastic with the economy, I think he’ll well with the immigration problem that we have in this country,” one woman said.

“I think he’s making quite a statement, a statement of respect to the conservative movement, which is the heart and soul of the Republican party that I’m going to dance with the one who brung me, which is what Ronald Reagan said. And I think they’re going to appreciate it very much,” CPAC Chair Matt Schlapp said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was among the first speakers at the event. He offered some advice to Trump saying, “Do what you said you were going to do.” He also urged the president and conservatives to “go big, go bold.”

Walker ran for president last year and after dropping out endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Walker endorsed Trump after the Republican National Convention.

Counselor to Trump, Kellyanne Conway, was among the new administration movers and shakers speaking at the event.

“I think Donald Trump, because he’s not a legacy candidate, he’s not a Bush or a Clinton, he’s sort of the first candidate of his type, that non-politician, true outsider who’s coming to shake up the system,” Conway said.

The controversial chief strategist to the president, Steve Bannon, spoke at the event Thursday afternoon.

“If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken,” he said. “Every day, every day it is going to be a fight.”

Bannon appeared with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, which was seen as an effort to squash rumors of tension between the men, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

They said Trump has made his plans clear and will carry them all out.

“All he’s doing right now is he’s laid out an agenda with those speeches, with the promises he made, and our job every day is just to execute on that,” Bannon said.

“It was Donald Trump that was able to bring this party and this movement together,” Priebus added.

Vice President Mike Pence, a longtime conservative favorite, speaks Thursday night.

Trump is scheduled to speak at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

When Trump cancelled last year, CPAC tweeted “his choice sends a clear message to conservatives.”

But now he is ready to take a victory lap, and the CPAC chair says Trump has “conservative instincts” married to “a populist appeal.”

Also Thursday, the president focused on bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, meeting with CEOs from companies that have plants in the United States.

“The United States lost one third of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA,” Trump said.

“We in the manufacturing sector, all the CEOs that were here today and in the last meeting, are very encouraged by the pro-business policies of Mr. Trump and his Cabinet. Some of us have said this is probably the most pro-business administration since the Founding Fathers,” the CEO of Down Chemicals said.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s foreign minister told Trump administration officials his country is opposed to the president’s immigration policies.

The Department of Homeland Security issued new guidelines calling for stricter enforcement of immigration laws, which expands the number of undocumented immigrants to be immediately deported.

However, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the rules will focus on criminals.

“Let me be very, very clear. There will be no, repeat no, mass deportations,” he said.

Trump is also preparing to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress next week.

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