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Combative Trump promises bigger army, sweeping crackdown on immigrants

Trump takes nationalistic tone in defending 'Muslim ban,' deportations of undocumented immigrants
Trump promises one of greatest military build-ups in American history (Reuters)

President Donald Trump promised a massive military build-up and put a staunchly nationalistic stamp on Republican politics in a fiery address to supporters on Friday.

"The era of empty talk is over. It's over. Now is the time for action," Trump told battalions of conservatives gathered for an annual meeting just outside the US capital.

In wide-ranging remarks Trump painted immigrants as criminals, attacked the media as the "enemy of the people" and promised one of the "greatest military buildups in American history".

On Friday, the White House excluded several major US news organizations, including some it has openly criticised, from an off-camera briefing held by the White House press secretary.

Reporters for CNN, The New York Times, Politico, The Los Angeles Times and BuzzFeed were not allowed into the session in the office of press secretary Sean Spicer.

'There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag ... This is the United States of America that I'm representing'

-President Trump

"Nobody's going to mess with us, folks. Nobody." the president said at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

"Offensive. Defensive. Everything. Bigger and better and stronger than ever before. And hopefully we'll never have to use it," he added.

The hawkish message was met with euphoric chants of "USA!, USA!" by conservatives packed into the Oxon Hill venue.

The US military is already by far the world's most powerful and most expensive. It has bases spanning the globe, an annual budget of more than $600bn and about 1.3 million active duty troops.

Austin Wellman, 21, hailed Trump's drive to "bring back" patriotic fervor after his election victory last November over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It "makes us feel like we don't have to hide the pride that comes with being an American," Wellman said.

Trump's month-long tenure in the White House has been marked by a political tug-of-war between Republican orthodoxy and those advocating a more radical upheaval of American politics and the global order.

In his speech to CPAC, Trump pulled the rope decisively to the nationalistic far-right.

"There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag," he said, echoing his promise to put "America First".

"This is the United States of America that I'm representing."

Americans bleed the "same red blood of great, great patriots," he added.

This was also a victory lap of sorts. Just a year ago Trump dropped out of the same conference amid controversy over his appearance.

With his administration now mired in multiple missteps and strong disapproval ratings, Trump went on the offensive.

He painted Sweden, Germany and France as blighted by militant violence, as he sought to defend his own controversial crackdown on immigrants.

"We fully understand that national security begins with border security," he said.

"Let me state this as clearly as I can: we are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country," he said, promising to revisit a failed attempt to bar entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

"We will not be deterred from this course, and in a matter of days we will be taking brand new action to protect our people and keep America safe."

Trump also defended orders issued by his administration for a sweeping crackdown on the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the country.

Though it targets as a priority people convicted or accused of crimes, the move sent shivers through US immigrant communities, most of them from Mexico and Central America, who are seriously threatened with deportation for the first time in decades.

Several cases of immigration enforcement have drawn national attention since Trump took office, including that of an undocumented woman with a brain tumor who was reportedly dragged out of a Texas hospital to a detention center.

Trump asked supporters to remember the rationale behind his orders.

"These are bad dudes. We're getting the bad ones out, OK?"

"If you watch these people, it's like gee, that's so sad. We're getting bad people out of this country, people that shouldn't be, whether it's drugs or murder or other things."

"Basically all I've done is keep my promise."