March 2 (UPI) -- In a roughly two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, President Donald Trump praised the work he says he's accomplished since taking office and had tough words for Democrats, the news media and special counsel Robert Mueller.
The address struck a number of chords that have long been part of Trump's repertoire when speaking to crowds of his supporters. He called for greater security on the U.S.-Mexico border, promoted gun rights that he said are "under siege," and said his administration is creating jobs. It began with the president coming on stage to the song "God Bless the USA."
Trump announced at least one new policy initiative on the closing day of CPAC, held in National Harbor, Md. He told the crowd that he would sign an executive order in the near future "requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research" funding.
Despite his continued pursuit for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump suggested that he has softened his stance on immigration since the 2016 campaign. He said the country's economy is why his views have changed.
"Companies are roaring back into our country and now we want people to come in, we need workers to come in," Trump said. "But they've got to come in legally and they've got to come in through merit, merit, merit."
After blowing a kiss to the audience early in his speech, Trump told the crowd he was veering off his planned script.
"This is how I got elected, by being off-script," Trump said, "and if we don't go off-script, our country is in big trouble because we have to get it back."
He then criticized the so-called Green New Deal, a sweeping initiative proposed by some Democrats, perhaps most notably Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, to address climate change. Trump referred to it as the "New Green Deal or whatever the hell they call it."
Calling special counsel Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election "phony," Trump said his political opponents are shifting their attention from the investigation toward his lifetime of business dealings.
He criticized Mueller as someone who "never received a vote," and lamented that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Mueller probe.
"These people are sick," Trump said of Democrats. "They're sick."
Trump spoke at the event last year, when he praised the Republican-led reforms to the nation's tax code and his initiatives to scale back business regulations.
"The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment that America ceases to be America," Pence said. "We know where socialism leads. If you want socialism, just look at Venezuela."