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Minute by minute at Donald Trump’s wild, rambling CPAC speech

He patted his bald spot. He said his opponents “committed a lot of atrocities.” At one point, he pantomimed a stabbing. The U.S. president’s Friday speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference was an old-fashioned campaign-style ramble.

US President Donald Trump speaks during the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, February 23, 2018.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

US President Donald Trump speaks during the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, February 23, 2018.

OXON HILL, MD.—Early in U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech Friday to the Conservative Political Action Conference, he paused to ask the audience a question.

His prepared text, he said, was “a little boring.” Would they mind if he went “off script a little bit”?

In truth, he had not been very on-script even before that. What followed the crowd’s endorsement, though, was the kind of rambling, inflammatory, oft-inaccurate, and captivating discursion he performed at his 2016 campaign rallies.

He even brought back some of his campaign’s greatest hits: mockery of Hillary Clinton, graphic descriptions of crimes committed by Latino gang members, and a dramatic reading of the lyrics to “The Snake,” a song he uses as an allegory for how dangerous immigrants are.

It is impossible to do the speech justice by summarizing a few key points. Here is a minute-by-minute account of what happened:

10:17 a.m. — Trump notes that he once faced skepticism about his conservative credentials. “I think now we’ve proved that I’m a conservative, right?”

The audience applauds heartily.

10:18 — Trump notices his image on a big screen to the left of the stage. He gives himself a compliment.

“By the way, what a nice picture that is. Look at that. I’d love to watch that guy speak.”

People laugh. Then he turns around and pats his hair. Then he does some rare self-deprecation.

“That’s a — I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks. I work hard at it. It doesn’t look bad. Hey, we’re hanging in.”

Trump jokes about his bald spot.


Trump jokes about his bald spot.

10:21 — There is a protester. He is escorted out. Trump calls him “very obnoxious” and then “very nice.”

10:24 — Trump reiterates his theory of midterm elections: happy supporters of the president are less motivated to vote, “so you end up not doing that well because the other side is going — they’re crazed.” He adds that his opponents are “crazed anyway, these people.” He tells his supporters, “Don’t be complacent.”

10:28 — Trump says “somebody got on television recently” and said Trump “may be the only person that actually fulfilled more promises than he made.”

10:29 — Trump says, “We have a very crooked media. We had a crooked candidate, too, by the way.” He is, of course, referring to Clinton, whom he beat 15 months prior.

A group of students starts a “lock her up” chant.

Trump continues: “Boy, have they committed a lot of atrocities when you look.”

He does not say who “they” are.

10:30 — Trump mocks Sen. John McCain, who is home dealing with brain cancer, for his vote against the repeal of Obamacare.

“Except for one senator, who came into a room at 3 o’clock in the morning and went like that” — he mimicked McCain’s thumbs-down gesture — “we would have had health-care, too.”

The crowd boos the party icon. Trump continues the mockery.

“I don’t want to be controversial, so I won’t use his name,” he says. “OK?”

10:34 — Trump provides his usual wildly inaccurate description of the Paris climate accord.

10:37 — Trump says he’s going to go off script.

10:44 — Trump talks about his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He gets a roar of applause.

10:45 — Trump touts his record spending on the military. He adds that without a strong military, “You might not be allowed into this room someday. OK? You may not have your houses, your homes.”

10:47 — Trump promises he will build the wall he has promised on the Mexican border. The crowd breaks into a chant of “build that wall.”

10:50 — Trump takes his standard swipe at NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racism and police misconduct, saying, “We all proudly stand for the national anthem.”

The audience roars again, then chants “U-S-A.”

10:58 — Trump promotes his idea to arm the 10 per cent or 20 per cent of teachers he claims are good with guns. Then he says, confusingly, “I’m not talking about teachers.”

Then, continuing to talk about teachers, he says it is better to have armed teachers at schools than armed police officers, like the officer who did not enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High to confront the mass shooter, because “teachers love their students.”

“I’d rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students.”

11:01 — Trump says that, under his plan, alleged Florida killer Nikolas Cruz would not have stood a chance: “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.”

11:10 — Trump rails against the MS-13 street gang: “These are animals. They cut people.”

He pantomimes a stabbing.

“They cut ‘em. They cut ‘em up in little pieces.”

11:13 — Trump repeats his lie that Democrats are no longer interested in saving the young immigrants who used to be protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program Barack Obama created and Trump killed.

If conservatives want to preserve DACA, Trump says, “You better elect more Republicans, folks.”

11:15 — Trump lies about the green card lottery process for at least the 11th time in office, as usual falsely claiming foreign leaders are forcing dangerous citizens into the lottery to rid their own countries of problems. (Individuals apply themselves.)

“I mean, use your heads,” he urges the crowd. “They’re giving us — it’s a lottery!”

11:17 — Of the man accused of perpetrating the terrorist attack at Manhattan’s West Side Highway in October, Trump says, “They say 22 people came in with him.”

No official other than Trump has said this. Immigration experts say it is almost certainly a lie.

11:18 — Trump says he is going to read “The Snake,” the song in which a too-trusting woman tries to help a “poor, half-frozen snake” and then predictably gets bitten. He tells the crowd to think of immigration while he does so.

“You may love it, or you may say ‘isn’t that terrible.’ OK? And if you say ‘isn’t that terrible,’ who cares?”

He does a dramatic reading.

11:22 — He gets a standing ovation for the dramatic reading.

Young supporters cheer as U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 23, 2018 in National Harbor, MD.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Young supporters cheer as U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 23, 2018 in National Harbor, MD.

11:24 — Trump makes a rapid-fire series of false claims about the economy, wrongly saying Black and Hispanic unemployment rates are at record lows and that wages, which have been rising since 2014, “are rising for the first time in many, many years.” Shortly after, he wildly exaggerates the trade deficits with China and Mexico.

11:26 — Trump says the World Trade Organization, created in 1995, “created China.”

11:29 — Trump, referring to news reporters, says “all those horrible people back there” are going to support him when the election comes around, “because if somebody else won, their ratings would go down.”

11:30 — Trump belatedly remembers the policy announcement his advisers promised he would make in this speech — new sanctions on North Korea. “We have imposed the heaviest sanctions ever imposed,” he says, providing no details.

11:31 — Trump concludes: “I will let you know in the absolute strongest of terms, we’re going to make America great again, and I will never, ever, ever let you down.” He gets another standing ovation.

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