Donald Trump addresses the NRA as if the last 100 days had never happened

On the eve of his administration's first big milestone, Mr Trump wants to talk about past victories

Emily Shugerman
New York
Saturday 29 April 2017 16:55
Trump says NRA has a 'true friend in the White House'

Today, Donald Trump has been in the White House for 100 days – a milestone for all US presidents and a marker at which it has become normal to reflect on the leader's promises, failures, achievements and perceived U-turns.

Last night, Mr Trump addressed the powerful National Rifle Association, the country's leading gun lobby group which endorsed his candidacy and donated millions to his campaign. He was the first sitting president to address the NRA since fellow Republican Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Mr Trump used the speech yesterday to revisit some of his election campaign themes, including his vow to build a border wall with Mexico, dismissing a Democratic senator as Pocahontas, and perhaps unsurprisingly, resurrecting his unexpected election victory in November over Hillary Clinton.

Addressing the crowd in Atlanta, Mr Trump reiterated his support for the second amendment.

“We have news that you’ve been waiting for for a long time,” he told the 80,000 crowd. “The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”

Democratic politicians responded swiftly. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was injured in a in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, said that country “needs a president who is serious about preserving the rights of gun owners while also finding solutions to gun violence.”

Senator Chris Murphy, whose home state paid witness to one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, began tweeting out photos of children killed by gun violence.

“Turn off cable. Don't watch [Mr Trump]'s NRA speech. Instead, think about who we are fighting for,” the senator tweeted.

But Mr Trump appeared to have little time for partisan disputes on Friday. Glossing over the failures of his first 100 days in office – including a failed attempt to repeal Obamacare, and federal stays on several of his executive orders – Mr Trump returned to the sweeping promises characteristic of his campaign.

Topping the list was the US-Mexico border wall, which Mr Trump insisted would still be built.

“We need a wall. We’ll build the wall,” Mr Trump said. “Don’t even think about it. Don’t even think about it.”

The “it” to which Mr Trump referred is likely the conspicuous lack of funding for the border wall in this year’s spending bill. The White House recently caved to Democrats’ demands that border wall funding be omitted from the 2017 government funding deal.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the White House would continue to push for funding in the 2018 deal, insisting that the president's priorities had not changed. Mr Trump assured reporters there was “plenty of time,” to have the wall built.

Democrats disagreed.

“The wall is broadly unpopular in the public. People would rather spend money on other priorities. And there’s unified Democratic opposition," Mr Murphy told reporters. “None of that changes in September.”

Moving on from the border wall, Mr Trump returned to a favourite talking point from the election: Islamic terrorism. On the campaign trail, Mr Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown on all Muslims entering the United States,” claiming it would increase national security.

The resulting policy – an executive order blocking the entry of citizens of seven Muslim majority countries – was blocked by a federal judge days after it was signed. The order sparked protests and chaos at airports across the country. A second attempt at the ban was also shot down.

Trump's most controversial tweets

But Mr Trump continued to rail against policies that “allow radical Islamic terrorists to enter right through our front door” in his speech to the NRA.

“That’s not going to happen anymore,” Mr Trump promised.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Mr Trump’s speeches on the campaign trail and his speech on Friday was the acknowledgment that he had, in fact, won the election.

Almost 200 days since his victory, Mr Trump couldn’t resist opening with a play-by-play that night, ticking off various states he’d won: Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania.

“All the way up; we ran up the East Coast!” Mr Trump recalled. “...What fun that was, November 8. Wasn’t that a great evening?”

Demonstrating the remarkable shift that occurred since that fateful night, Mr Trump listed off the numerous Republicans gathered around him on Friday: Florida Governor Rick Scott, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Senator David Perdue, and even his former rival, Senator Ted Cruz (“Like, dislike, like,” Mr Trump said of his changing opinion of the Texas senator).

It is not the only time that Mr Trump has harked back to his former glories in recent days, having paused midway through an interview with Reuters to hand out copies of the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

“Here, you can take that, that's the final map of the numbers,” the president told his interviewers, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It's pretty good, right?”

In that same interview, he appeared to wistfully reflect on his previous life as a businessman.

Mr Trump said he “loved” his previous life and “had so many things going”. He said his new role is “more work than in my previous life," adding, "I thought it would be easier”.

The president also lamented his loss of privacy, describing life in the White House as being in “your own little cocoon”.

Despite the fond memories of his life as a private citizen, Mr Trump seemed right at home onstage at the NRA conference. Addressing the organisation that donated millions of dollars to his first campaign, Mr Trump even appeared to be laying the groundwork for his second.

“I have a feeling that in the next election you’re going to be swamped with candidates, but you’re not going to waste your time,” Mr Trump told the NRA members. “...You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”

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