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Large MAGA rally finds life complicated after Trump

Trump’s senior adviser Jason Miller said Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago home is less than 2.5 hours from the Orlando hotel where this year’s conference will be held on the 25th and 28th. February, is not currently scheduled to make an appearance. Meanwhile, a senior Conservative Union American official did not respond if Vice President Mike Pence, who has angered MAGA world for certifying Joe Biden’s election, had been asked to take the lead. speaking at this year’s conference. A spokesperson for the former vice president did not respond to a request in time for the publication.

ACU President Matt Schlapp said he was confident this year’s conference would be no different from previous years. “CPAC is doing very well,” he told POLITICO on Tuesday, before saying his quote should be attributed without his name. Schlapp did not respond to questions about why some sponsors were not continuing their CPAC sponsorship. But after those questions were asked and additional questions were sent to CPAC sponsors – including whether the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill had an impact on their thinking about sponsorship again this year – the attorney general of ACU David Safavian accused POLITICO of “tortious interference in business relations” and attempting to “cancel” both CPAC and the Conservative Union of America itself. The group then tweeted a copy of a letter from Safavian which included a threat of litigation.

“We fully intend to explore our legal rights to hold Politico fully accountable for what we consider to be criminal conduct,” the letter said.

How well CPAC This year will provide one of the first public indications on the health of the MAGA movement with Trump removed from office and with the Republican Party divided on how loyal he should be to the former president.

A year ago, CPAC was in a much different place. The 2020 gathering was, for a brief moment, a crowning glory for conference organizer Schlapp. Delivering a breathtaking 90-minute victory speech, Trump came forward to exaggerate his survival after his first arraignment. Pence also came. Indeed, more than 30 Trump aides and officials spoke at the conference, ranging from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to senior White House advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. .

But within days, the appearances were eclipsed by news that a participant who had been in direct contact with Schlapp had tested positive for Covid-19. Organizers were forced to warn nearly 100 conference attendees of potential exposure and the president’s chief of staff quarantined himself, although only one real case was traced to the event.

The pandemic is even more complicated this year, forcing Schlapp to move the event to Florida precisely because there are fewer restrictions on such gatherings in that state. Having guest speakers follow him there will largely determine the success of the conference.

A full agenda and list of speakers will be posted two to three weeks before the conference starts, according to the CPAC website, but several former speakers contacted by POLITICO said they still decide to attend given the extra distance and the possibility that Congress may be negotiating another coronavirus relief package in late February. An aide to Donald Trump Jr. said he would “probably” attend the conference, as he has done in recent years, but it was not currently on his schedule.

CPAC organizers have announced three speakers for the next conference after POLITICO began to inquire about the lineup. In separate tweets Tuesday from the @ CPAC2021 Twitter account, it was revealed that former US Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, former White House Deputy National Security Advisor KT McFarland and Dakota Governor of the South Kristi Noem, hoping for 2024, would all comment. at the conference next month. No additional speakers have been publicly announced at the time of this article’s publication.

For those planning this year’s CPAC, the main questions are not just whether Trump will be there, but to what extent his presidency and his future should dominate the debates. Members of the planning committee began meeting virtually in November, after the 2020 election, and were expected to meet at least five times before the conference began.

“Are we taking the Nancy Pelosi option away and trying to kick Trump out of public life or are we trying to build on the movement he created and make it tenable?” It’s complicated, ”said one person involved in CPAC’s planning process.

So far, this person said, this year’s theme should focus on the fundamentals of conservatism, as opposed to any individual politician – borrowing a page from the Obama years when the Conservatives lacked an ally in the White House . Topics will likely include the rule of law, protection from legislative obstruction and the current structure of the Supreme Court, and defense of the Electoral College, among others.

As for this year’s sponsors, some of whom have spent up to $ 250,000 in recent years on exclusive perks and branding opportunities, several said they are still evaluating the benefits or have decided not to sponsor the all due to poor returns on investment or changes to the structure of the conference. Michael Hawkins, director of operations for Gryphon Editions, said his company had no plans to sponsor the conference this year after being informed that the CPAC bookstore, which has been set up for attendees in recent years, would not be no longer available due to Covid-19 precautions.

“They don’t want everyone to snuggle up,” Hawkins said.

Laura Merriott, president of the anti-abortion association Save Unborn Life, said her group “didn’t get many responses. [from] last time donors ”after paying between $ 1,000 and $ 3,000 for a sponsorship and creating a pop-up exhibit.

“It doesn’t pay off on its own when you settle in and don’t get” enough new donors to make it worth it, she said.

Other former sponsors – including the Washington Examiner, the Republican National Committee, Turning Point USA, the Heartland Institute and Save our States – said they had not yet made a decision last week on the sponsorship again. Gerrit Lansing, president of fundraising platform GOP WinRed, said his company would forgo sponsorship this year, unlike last year, because they “don’t need” to be a sponsor.

“I didn’t even know they had a CPAC this year,” he added in a text message.

Three previous sponsors who responded to POLITICO’s inquiries – the Heritage Foundation, Fox Nation and Let Them Live – plan to return as sponsors this year. “This is a great opportunity for us to reach potential donors and supporters,” said Nathan Berning, executive director of Let Them Live. Twenty-five other sponsors who sponsored Last year, CPAC did not respond to requests for comment on whether it will sponsor again this year, while two other sponsors could not be contacted.

Besides the cancellation of its bookstore, where speakers and rising conservative figures at previous conferences could sell their latest books to fans, it’s unclear whether CPAC organizers plan to implement other restrictions to protect attendees. at this year’s conference to contract Covid-19.

The Orlando Hyatt Regency, where the conference will be held, requires guests to wear face masks inside the resort, but neither the hotel nor the conference organizers have clarified whether social distancing practices will be enforced. implemented or if a participation limit would be imposed. According to its website, the Florida Department of Health is currently encouraging residents of the state to “avoid congregating in groups of more than 10 people.”

Meridith McGraw and Tina Nguyen contributed reporting.

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