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The ex-president should declare himself leader of the Republican Party

ORLANDO, Florida – Less than 40 days after leaving office – and less than two months after an insurgency mounted by some of his supporters – former President Donald Trump returns to politics on Sunday with a speech intended to demand the continuation of the leadership of the Republican Party.

Trump is not expected to declare a 2024 presidential bid in his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But he is likely to discuss his intention to inject himself into the 2022 parliamentary election, backing Republicans who subscribe to his “Make America Great Again” program.

“I assure you this will strengthen Donald Trump and all your feelings about the MAGA movement as the future of the Republican Party,” Donald Trump Jr. told CPAC delegates on Friday as he watched his father’s speech.

Although he did not step down until January 20, Trump is also expected to disparage his newest successor, President Joe Biden.

Trump’s first post-presidency speech could be long. Trump, who spoke to CPAC often before and after his presidency, spoke for two hours during his appearance in 2019.

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The ex-president can also attack Republicans who have expressed support for his impeachment, or have refused to help him in his efforts to reverse his electoral loss to Biden.

Some of those Republicans are urging the party to overtake Trump, citing his role in the insurgency and calling him a division leader who would drag the party to more defeats.

“I don’t think he should play a role in the future of the party or the country,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., One of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump during the month of January. 6 attack on the United States Capitol.

President Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during the Conservative Political Action Annual Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on February 29, 2020, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Beyond occasional written statements and brief cable TV telephone conversations, Trump has given up since he left, especially during this month’s Senate impeachment trial.

The Senate acquitted Trump of charges of inciting a riot, but only because prosecutors were unable to muster the two-thirds of the votes necessary for the conviction. In fact, 57 of the 100 senators voted for Trump’s conviction, including seven Republicans – other possible targets of Trump’s speech at CPAC.

The ex-president will find a friendly crowd. Speaker after speaker has praised Trump since CPAC opened Thursday night. Many delegates lined up to take photos next to a golden statue of Trump, who is dressed in a coat and tie, beach shorts, flip flops and a magic wand.

Former deputy national security adviser KT McFarland told CPAC delegates on Saturday that she spoke with Trump by phone. She said he was looking forward to his speech and that supporters should not be put off by recent events.

“He said, ‘I’m going to talk about the future,'” she said of Trump. “‘I’m going to talk about how we win (Congress) in 2022, how we take over the White House in 2024.”

The expected attacks on Biden are unique to the modern age. Other ex-presidents have criticized their successors, but none have done so early in the new president’s first term as Trump.

Rather than disappear from the political scene, as many previous former presidents have done, Trump plans to stay in the limelight, for better or for worse when it comes to Republicans.

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Trump and his allies even plan to get involved in the Republican primaries next month. They have vowed to support key opponents of Republicans he sees as disloyal, especially the ten House Republicans who voted for impeachment.

Trump on Friday backed former White House aide Max Miller in his challenge to impeachment advocate Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio.

Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman from Virginia who now opposes Trump, said he expected him to aggressively attack critics on Sunday while building a “cult of personality” at the within a Republican Party on the brink of civil war.

Riggleman said, “You have people loyal to Trump versus people loyal to the Constitution.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: CPAC: Donald Trump Should Claim Republican Party Leadership

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