- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2017

President Trump’s top advisers assured conservatives Thursday that he will keep pressing on “all of those promises” that got him elected, rejected reports of chaos within the White House and accused a hostile press of trying to undermine the new administration.

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior counselor Stephen K. Bannon, making a rare joint public appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said that in picking a Cabinet, nominating a Supreme Court justice, rolling back regulations and pursuing stiffer immigration policy, the president made good on the conservative promises he has made dating back to 2011, his first appearance at CPAC.

“There’s a new political order that’s being formed out of this,” Mr. Bannon said, adding that Mr. Trump has found a way to unite a movement based on economic nationalism and the belief that the U.S. has “a culture and a reason for being.”

Mr. Trump will address CPAC on Friday, facing activists who were at first wary but over the past year have warmed to him — though not without some reservations.

Vice President Mike Pence spoke Thursday, as did Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and Mr. Bannon and Mr. Priebus.

“Men and women of the conservative movement — this is our time,” Mr. Pence said.

The joint appearance of Mr. Priebus and Mr. Bannon seemed designed to combat reports of discord within the White House — a characterization Mr. Priebus called “ridiculous” and Mr. Bannon called “dead wrong.”

Mr. Bannon said the press has consistently underestimated Mr. Trump, called reporters the “opposition party” and predicted “it’s going to get worse every day.”

“As economic conditions get better, as more jobs get better, they’re going to continue to fight. If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken,” said Mr. Bannon, who is the former head of Breitbart News. “Every day, it is going to be a fight.”

The president’s chief strategist also said Mr. Trump is committed to his conservative campaign promises and that there will be no retreat.

“All the opportunities he had to waver off this; all the people who have come to him and said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to moderate.’ Every day in the Oval Office, he tells Reince and I, ‘I committed this to the American people, I promised this when I ran, and I’m going to deliver on this,’ ” the president’s counselor said.

Conservatives acknowledge that Mr. Trump might not have always been one of them across the board. Mr. Trump compares his evolution on the issue of abortion, for example, to that of former President Ronald Reagan, a conservative hero.

For many, that’s part of the appeal.

Grace Germany, 80, a retiree from Austin, Texas, started out working to get Mr. Cruz nominated but said she went to a Trump rally in Nevada just to see what the excitement was about and her “heart kind of went that way.”

“I still worked for Cruz after that, but my heart started going towards Trump,” she said.

“To me, Donald Trump is not a Republican. And he’s not a Democrat. He’s a businessman,” Ms. Germany said. “And a businessman is what capitalism is all about, and I’m a big capitalist.”

Andy Barr, 27, who works in data science in Seattle, said he was excited about Mr. Trump’s first month in office and that he appreciated the administration’s promoting “economic nationalism” — a theme Mr. Bannon touched on Thursday.

“I wish all the next months are like this,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s brash style was also clearly a plus.

“We have a president who can be described as a great troll,” Mr. Barr said. “I love trolling.”

A year ago, Mr. Trump skipped CPAC in the midst of the Republican presidential primary contest. He ended up finishing a distant third in CPAC’s presidential straw poll, behind Mr. Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio.

But it was clear Thursday that the conservative movement and Mr. Trump are now wedded to each other for the foreseeable future.

“The truth of the matter is, Donald Trump — President Trump — brought together the party and the conservative movement,” Mr. Priebus said. “If the party and the conservative movement are together — similar to Steve and I — it can’t be stopped.”

As conservatives warmed to Mr. Trump, Mrs. Conway, another top White House counselor, tried to make it clear that the feeling was mutual.

“He went right to the grass roots and brought you along,” she told the crowd. “He made people feel from the beginning they were part of this movement.

“We really owe it all to you,” she said. “I think it’s a combination of Donald Trump and Mike Pence as the best messengers, quality candidates, and really the grass roots I just wanted to come and personally thank you.”

Mr. Cruz, who was Mr. Trump’s top rival in the primary race, has offered consistent praise for Judge Neil Gorsuch, the president’s pick to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, and on Thursday vowed that the judge will be confirmed.

Mr. Walker, another contender last year, addressed the protests that have broken out at congressional Republicans’ town halls by relaying his own experiences in Wisconsin as he battled public-sector unions and revealed that he personally phoned Mrs. DeVos after she had her own run-in recently trying to get to an event at a school in the District of Columbia.

In addition to the main stage speeches, the thousands of CPAC attendees could also attend side workshops and visit booths hosted by groups such as the National Rifle Association and one working to “draft” Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, into running for the U.S. Senate. That booth featured a contest to win a giant bobblehead of him.

Sheriff Clarke also spoke Thursday at CPAC.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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