President Trump made a victorious return to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, where he sought to assure cheering audience members that they now have a top advocate for their policy priorities in the White House while also taking aim at his favorite target, the media.
"All of these years we've been together and now you finally have a president, finally," Trump said.
Trump was notably absent from the annual conservative gathering during his presidential run in 2016 and was skewered by his opponents in the GOP primary for skipping.
"I would have come last year but I was worried that I'd be at that time too controversial," Trump told the enthusiastic crowd Friday. "We wanted border security. We wanted very, very strong military. We wanted all of the things that we're going to get, and people considered that controversial, but you didn't consider it controversial."
'The dishonest media' and unnamed sources
Trump also doubled down on his attacks on the media, repeating his recent assertion that the "fake" news is the "enemy of the people," zeroing in on the use of unnamed sources.
"I'm against the people that make up stories and make up sources," Trump said. "They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name. Let their name be put out there."
The president's renewed criticism of the media comes as there are press reports that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus privately asked the FBI to knock down news stories of Trump campaign officials communicating with Russian intelligence agents. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday morning that Priebus only asked FBI officials to go public with information that they had first privately provided to him which cast doubt on the media reports.
The president seemed at times in his address to want to qualify his attack on the press, saying he's not against all media.
"I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news," said Trump. "It's fake, phony, fake."
Referring to a tweet he posted a week ago, which said the "fake news media… is the enemy of the American people," the president said that criticism was itself misrepresented by the press.
"In covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people. The fake news," said Trump. "They dropped off the word 'fake.' And all of a sudden, the story became, the media is the enemy. They take the word 'fake' out."
The president neglected to mention that his tweet named several mainstream media organizations.
Before he was president
Trump's speech marked his fifth time addressing the annual gathering of right-wing organizers and activists.
The conference hosted by the American Conservative Union began in 1974 and has since grown into a four-day-long event with thousands of attendees. Trump's appearance Friday marks the fourth visit by a sitting president.
Trump on Friday reminded the audience of what he called his "first major speech" at CPAC in 2011. That year, Trump floated the possibility of a run for the 2012 Republican nomination, a race ultimately won by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"America today is missing quality leadership and foreign countries have quickly realized this," said Trump in 2011.
"[The] theory of a very successful person running for office is rarely tested because most successful people don't want to be scrutinized or abused," he added. "This is the kind of person that the country needs and we need it now."
Six years later, Trump is the U.S. president and was the conference's main attraction.
Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway; his chief strategist, Steve Bannon; White House chief of staff Reince Priebus; and Vice President Mike Pence were a few of the major figures to speak at the conference on Thursday.