CPAC 2021 live: Latest as Trump Jr speaks, Hawley attacks Big Tech and Ted Cruz mocks AOC

CPAC 2021 live: Latest as Trump Jr speaks, Hawley attacks Big Tech and Ted Cruz mocks AOC


CPAC 2021 live: Latest as Trump Jr speaks, Hawley attacks Big Tech and Ted Cruz mocks AOC

CPAC 2021 live: Latest as Trump Jr speaks, Hawley attacks Big Tech and Ted Cruz mocks AOC

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is underway in Orlando, Florida, opening with a 2020 election conspiracy supercut, a video heralding cancel culture “victim” Gina Carano and a gold statue of ousted president Donald Trump raising eyebrows in the Hyatt Regency lobby ahead of his headline speech on Sunday.

Mr Trump is widely expected to announce a 2024 presidential run during his address to the four-day gathering – described as “Woodstock for election liars” by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper – a prospect dismissed by his White House successor Joe Biden, who has said he will not be paying attention.

Friday’s session has already been hit by controversy after members of the crowd booed when asked to wear their Covid face masks by organisers. Florida’s govenor Ron DeSantis kicked off proceedings by declaring his state was “open for business”.

Texas senator Ted Cruz mocked Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in his remarks that have been widely derided online and described as “embarrassing”. Not to be outdone, Rep Matt Gaetz declared himself a “Florida man” and made a stream of sexist and transphobic jokes, calling on people to join him in the “America First” movement.

Donald Trump Jr took to the stage with much bombast, introduced by his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, and took potshots at a number of popular targets of the day, from the media to Democrats, to traditional Republicans, before previewing his father’s much-anticipated speech on Sunday.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of this year’s CPAC gathering in Orlando, Florida, headlined by ex-president Donald Trump as the Republican Party weighs its future following November’s election defeat.

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 11:51

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Trump expecting rapturous welcome as CPAC opens

The Conservative Political Action Conference is opening today in Orlando, Florida, with ousted president Donald Trump its headline speaker, appearing on Sunday in his first public engagement since leaving the White House for Mar-a-Lago a month ago.

This year’s gathering, entitled “America Uncancelled”, is likely to be unusually fraught given that the Republican Party is currently mired in internal conflict following Trump’s election defeat and last month’s US Capitol riot, with pro-Trump loyalists and establishment moderates locked in a feud that could determine its future.

Tim Miller, ex-political director Republican Voters Against Trump, thinks the former president can expect a warm reception: “He’s gonna speak right after the 2024 straw poll, which presumably will show him with a landslide victory, and so I think it’s set up for him speak in a way that will signal that he sees himself as the leader of the party, as the frontrunner for 2024. He will attack those who have questioned him in that regard.

“I’m sure he’ll be received overwhelmingly positively by the crowd in those appeals. The Republicans are doing this to themselves. They had an opportunity to put a stake in his heart; they didn’t take it and he’s in charge of the party right now. He has the support of a plurality, if not a majority of the voters within the party. There is no real organised wing for challenging him.”

Here’s my overview of this year’s event – what will Trump say, who else is appearing and who has already been cancelled, making a nonsense of the event’s stated theme?

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 12:00

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McCarthy and Cheney deny Republican ‘civil war’

A letter circulated by GOP senator Rick Scott this week argued that the “Republican civil war is cancelled” following the close of the “political theatre” of Trump’s second impeachment, a sentiment House leaders Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney assented with, she somewhat reluctantly, after declaring the ex-president should not “be playing a role in the future of the party or the country”.

Here’s Graig Graziosi on an awkward interview.

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 12:20

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Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ about 2020 election fraud lives on

The annual conservative confab is primed to be a four-day reprisal of the ex-president’s baseless, unproven and shameless “mass voter fraud” nonsense and defeat-denialism.

Here’s our US political correspondent Griffin Connolly.

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 12:50

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How Trump’s CPAC return could fire the starting pistol on the 2024 White House race

Yikes. What an unbearable prospect to have to reconsider so soon, after all the world has been through over the last four months.

Andrew Naughtie holds his nose and dives in.

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 13:30

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What can we learn from America’s most hotly-anticipated conservative event?

For Indy Premium, Holly Baxter says the conference has much to tell us about the Republican Party’s future, now more than ever.

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 14:10

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Could Donald Trump start his own political party?

The president’s CPAC showing appears to confirm he plans to stick with the GOP and with a career in politics, having previously toyed with starting his own cable TV channel or social media platform.

But how feasible would it be to break away and split the Republican ranks in two?

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 14:50

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Full CPAC speaking schedule

The opening day of this year’s conference in Orlando is… a little quiet, I think it’s fair to say.

The programme consists of…

  • 5.45pm Jewish Prayer Service
  • 6.30pm International Reception (invite only)
  • 7.00pm Welcome Reception (sponsored by Fox Nation)

Things really heat up from tomorrow, with many ex-Trump administration officials and friendly members of the House and Senate taking a turn at the lectern before the big man himself brings the curtain down on Sunday.

Here’s the line-up in full.

Ron DeSantis, Mike Lee, Scott Walker, James Lankford, Pam Bondi, Ted Cruz, Mo Brooks, Madison Cawthorn, Tom Cotton, Marsha Blackburn, Matt Gaetz, Rick Scott, Josh Hawley, Donald Trump Jr

Ken Paxton, Ric Grenell, Mike Pompeo, Bill Hagerty, Robert Lighthizer, Devin Nunes, Cynthia Lummis, Burgess Owens, Darrell Issa, Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Kevin McCarthy, Kirsti Noem

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mike Huckabee, Larry Kudlow, Donald Trump

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 15:20

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White nationalists ‘planning to make a scene’ at CPAC

Nick Fuentes, a far-right provocateur and host of the America First podcast who helped up rile up the MAGA crowd before the US Capitol riot, is reportedly planning to protest CPAC with his followers, know as Groypers, as part of their wider discontent with mainstream American conservativism, which they believe simply does not go far enough.

Last year, he held his own gathering, the “America First Political Action Conference”, but it can’t have been much of a success as there appears to have been insufficient interest to secure a second instalment.

His hatred of CPAC is certainly not letting up though.

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 15:50

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Rush Limbaugh to be ‘honoured’ at CPAC

The late talk radio host and recepient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom under Trump is, unsurprisingly, being memorialised at the event, inducted into the “Conservative Hall of Fame” alongside the NRA (yuck) and toasted at Saturday’s Ronald Reagan Dinner.

Good luck with that guys.

Over to you, Rick Wilson.

Joe Sommerlad25 February 2021 16:20


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