‘Hacks’: Trump reasserts dominance


Former US president Donald Trump will reassert his dominant position in the Republican Party when he returns to the spotlight with a keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida today.

It is Mr Trump's first formal appearance in public since leaving office on January 20.

The former president is, naturally, the highest profile speaker at CPAC, which has featured appearances from several leading Republican politicians in recent days. The attendees have expressed no doubt whatsoever that Mr Trump still leads the Republican Party.

"I stand before you today to declare that the incredible journey we began four years ago is far from over," Mr Trump will say this afternoon, according to excerpts given to the media.

"We are gathered this afternoon to talk about the future. The future of our movement, the future of our party, and the future of our beloved country."

The former president is expected to say his party is "united", writing off recent remarks from a handful of Republican leaders suggesting it should move on from him.

"The only division is between a handful of Washington D.C. establishment political hacks, and everybody else all over the country."

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Among those who have criticised Mr Trump are Congresswoman Liz Cheney, chair of the Republican conference in the House of Representatives, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Ms Cheney voted to impeach Mr Trump over his role in inciting the Capitol riot, and subsequently faced an unsuccessful push to remove her from her leadership position. Mr Trump's son, Donald Jr, attacked her by name in his own CPAC speech two days ago.

"I'm sure she has a lot of bipartisan support, because if there's one thing that she and Joe Biden definitely want to do, it's bomb the Middle East," Donald Jr said.

"Liz Cheney and her politics are only slightly less popular than her father is at a quail hunt."

Ms Cheney's father, former vice president Dick Cheney, accidentally shot another man in the face while hunting in 2006.

"She is tied to an establishment that has done nothing but fail us time and time again," Donald Jr continued.

"If there's one thing the Republican Party has been really good at over the last few decades, it's snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."

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Mr McConnell, meanwhile, voted to acquit Mr Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, but went on to deliver a speech blaming him directly for the violence on January 6.

"American citizens attacked their own government. They did this because they'd been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth. Because he was angry he'd lost an election," Mr McConnell said at the time.

The Senate had just voted 57-43 in favour of convicting Mr Trump, well short of the 67 votes needed for a guilty verdict.

"Former president Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty," he continued.

"There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.

"The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country, and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things."

He also slammed Mr Trump's inaction for hours after the assault on the Capitol started.

Mr Trump responded with a statement calling Mr McConnell a "dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack".

"If Republican senators are going to stay with him, they will note win again," he said.

"He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our country."

Mr McConnell has since said he will back Mr Trump to be president again, should he win the Republican nomination in 2024.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Trump will repeat his false claims about the election during his CPAC speech.

The conference has featured multiple panel discussions about "election security", and one of today's earlier speakers - Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue, of all people - told the audience Mr Trump was actually still president.

"It's an honour to be here. But my biggest honour today is going to be that - I think we're going to be the same stage as, in my opinion, the real, the legitimate, and the still actual president of the United States, Donald J. Trump," Mr Unanue said.

Originally published as 'Hacks': Trump reasserts dominance

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