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OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — President Donald Trump said Saturday that his “journey” in the nation's highest office would have been a failure had he not be able to rid the government of people he says are “bad.”
Trump came into office railing against what he and his allies call the “deep state” — career government employees and political appointees held over from prior administrations — claiming it was out to undermine him.
He said he has been replacing them with “people who love our country.”
“We have such bad people and they're not people who love our country,” Trump told several thousand cheering and chanting supporters at the the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “We're getting people who really love our country and it's so important,” he said.
“And if I wasn't able to fulfill that, no matter what other things we've done, I would not consider this journey to be a success," he said. "So just remember that.”
Trump didn't call anyone out by name in his remarks, but he has spoken negatively about the previous FBI leaders during other public appearances. Since being acquitted on two articles of impeachment and being allowed to stay in office, he has reassigned individuals who testified against him during the proceedings or whom he perceives as disloyal to him.
He also has brought back to the White House trusted aides who had departed earlier in the administration.
The Republican president, who is seeking reelection, sought to fire up his audience during the wide-ranging, nearly 90-minute speech with talk against state and local policies that shield undocumented immigrants, the number of conservative federal judges who've been confirmed by the Senate, his increased spending on the U.S. military and creation of a new branch of the military known as the Space Force.
Trump also touched on an agreement signed Saturday between the U.S. and the Taliban aimed at ending war in Afghanistan, and he pledged to protect the health and safety of Americans “with vigor” amid an outbreak of coronavirus, which overnight had claimed its first victim in the U.S.
Trump flew to a Maryland hotel to address the annual gathering of conservatives after he called a news conference at the White House to announce a ban on travel to Iran in response to the virus outbreak. He also announced elevated U.S. travel warnings to affected regions of Italy and South Korea.
The president closed with a promise to his fawning supporters to “be here next year, OK?”
In a reprise of his appearance at last year's conservative conference, Trump then hugged and kissed an American flag before he left the stage.
Bev Banks contributed to this report.