U.S. President Donald Trump addressed a friendly audience Saturday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, capping a tumultuous week highlighted by failed talks at a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and damning testimony before Congress by former personal attorney Michael Cohen.
As expected, the conference was a welcome diversion for Trump. He called special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump 2016 campaign's possible collusion with Russia "this phony thing that now looks like it's dying," and he accused Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and other unnamed "senators and a few congressman" of shifting their focus from that probe to his finances.
"So they don't have anything with Russia," he said. "There's no collusion. So now they go and morph into 'Let's inspect every deal he's ever done. We're gonna go into his finances. We're gonna check his deals.' These people are sick."
Trump has been praised at the conference, primarily for fighting illegal immigration, nominating conservative judges and limiting the influence of the federal government.
Trump returned the favor, applauding conference organizers and attendees for being "on the front lines of protecting America's interests, defending America's value[s] and reclaiming our nation's priceless heritage."
The president discussed the trade war with China and a variety of other topics during a long speech. He did not elaborate on this week's summit breakdown in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim, other than to say Pyongyang has a bright economic future without nuclear weapons and that he would get other countries to provide aid to the country if "it all works out."
Opposition to socialism
It was the Republican president's third consecutive appearance at the three-day annual conference at National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington, where anti-socialism was the overriding theme.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the conference Friday, accusing Democrats of making a "hard left turn" before the 2020 elections and saying voters must choose "between freedom and socialism."
While the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls includes progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, there is no shortage of moderate establishment hopefuls such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who is widely expected to join the race.
Some Democrats have openly embraced objectives such as expanding health care coverage, combating climate change and providing debt-free college. Republicans have frequently labeled these Democrats as radical leftists and their agenda as costly socialist, business-unfriendly programs.
The facts, however, don't support the Republican narrative that the Democratic Party has turned to the left. In the November 2018 midterm elections, 33 of the 40 Republican seats captured by Democrats were taken by candidates endorsed by the moderate NewDem PAC.
Additionally, a Gallup poll conducted last November found that nearly 55 percent of Democrats and independents who tended to vote Democratic wanted the party to be "more moderate," compared with 41 percent who desired a more liberal party.