Trump to speak at conservative gathering in re-emergence

Donald Trump will speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Campaign conference in Florida, his first public appearance since leaving the White House, to an audience of mostly loyal followers.

The former president in a Feb. 28 address will discuss the future of the Republican Party and the conservative movement, said a person familiar with Trump's schedule. He's also expected to take on President Joe Biden's immigration policies.

Sponsored by the American Conservative Union, CPAC will feature several members of Trump's administration, GOP lawmakers, and others, according to a posted schedule. Thousands are expected to attend.

The event was moved this year to Orlando in Trump's adopted home state from the Washington, D.C., area, where it had been held for decades. CPAC's recent home, the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland, remains closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Housing Secretary Ben Carson are among those listed, along with Senators Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Trump has been out of the public eye for the past month, a stretch of time that included his acquittal by the U.S. Senate of an impeachment charge.

He emerged for phone-in interviews on conservative networks after last week's death of broadcaster Rush Limbaugh from lung cancer. During those segments Trump, without prompting, repeated claims that the 2020 election had been "stolen" from him.

CPAC will highlight a split in the Republican Party between those loyal to Trump and others who want to move on - and who mostly won't be at the meeting, which starts Thursday.

Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, said Sunday that Trump "will only define our party if we let him define our party" and that he wouldn't support a Trump White House run in 2024.

"I think it's fine for CPAC to invite former President Trump to speak, but how about the other voices - Senator (Bill) Cassidy from Louisiana, those that have different points of view, still arch-conservatives, but a different voice for the future of our party?" he said on CNN.

Former Texas GOP Rep. Will Hurd, who left Congress this year, said on NBC that Trump should have "very little if none at all" influence on the party going forward.

"This is a president that lost the House, the Senate, the White House in four years. I think the last person to do that was Herbert Hoover," he said.