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Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump called the Justice Department's Russia investigation "a phony witch hunt" at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, suggesting the probes are "trying to take me out with bullshit."

The big picture: Trump's comments come as Democrats ramp up their probes and the Mueller investigation is reportedly winding down. The investigation has already resulted in 199 criminal charges, 37 indictments or guilty pleas and 4 prison sentences.

Driving the news: Trump dedicated a sizable chunk of his CPAC speech to ongoing tariff negotiations with China, disparaging trade between the 2 countries after announcing this week that the U.S. will not increase tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, as was previously suggested. In the latter stretch of his speech, he announced plans to sign an executive order that will require colleges and universities to "support free speech if they want federal research dollars."

Catch up quick: Trump also gave a mini history lesson about the Great Tariff Debate of 1888, ridiculed the House Intelligence committee's planned investigations into his finances, and scorned claims of his administration's collusion with Russia. He asked for his old friends to call him "Don," and sarcastically endorsed the Green New Deal (again).

"The Green New Deal, I encourage it, I think it's really something they should promote. ... No planes, no energy. When the wind stops blowing, that's the end of your electric. Darling, is the wind blowing today, I'd like to watch television."

More from his speech:

  • On California Gov. Gavin Newsom: "He called me up the other day, let's say four weeks ago. He said 'I just wanna tell you you're a great president, and you're one of the smartest people I've ever met.' That's what he said. Will he ever admit it? No, I doubt it."
  • On spending the holidays in the White House: "I figured it would look good. I was in the White House for a long time, months. If you've gotta have cabin fever, that's the place to do it."
  • On Syria: "And by the way, as of probably today or tomorrow, we will actually have 100% of the caliphate in Syria."
  • On Medicare for All bill: "Democrat lawmakers are now embracing socialism. Just this week, more than 100 Dems in Congress signed up for a socialist takeover of American healthcare." He said it "would lead to colossal tax increases, take away private coverage for over 180 million Americans."
  • More on the Green New Deal: "I think the auto industry isn't gonna do too well with this plan. ... I think maybe you're gonna see some bad stock prices. It would end air travel."
  • On the national emergency: "A lot of people talk about precedent. If we do this, the Democrats will use national emergency powers for something that we don't want. They're gonna do that anyway, folks."
  • On Ron DeSantis, the new governor of Florida: "Ron's been great to me on the witch hunt. He's been a defender of me against these phony charges of Russia."
  • On Otto Warmbier: “And I’m in such a horrible position, because in one way I have to negotiate. In the other way, I love Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier, and I love Otto."
  • On dealing with North Korea: "North Korea has an incredible, brilliant economic future if they make a deal. But they don't have any economic future if they have nuclear weapons."

Go deeper

7 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.