CPAC 2021
February 28, 2021

Just a few weeks after leaving office, former President Donald Trump was back in the spotlight on Sunday.

At the beginning of his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, he asked the enthusiastic crowd if they missed him already before telling them that he'll "continue to fight right by your side."

He then dismissed reports that he was thinking about breaking off from the Republican Party and striking out on his own. "I am not starting a new party," he said, claiming the idea was "fake news." Instead, Trump predicted the GOP will "unite and be stronger than ever before." Tim O'Donnell

February 27, 2021

When former President Donald Trump makes his first major return to the public stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, expect his rhetoric to be more reminiscent of his 2016 presidential campaign than his 2020 one, The New York Times' Maggie Haberman reports.

Rather than boast about his own accomplishments during his lone term in the White House, an adviser told the Times, Trump will instead deliver a fierce critique of President Biden's first few weeks in office. Reporting by CBS News' Ed O'Keefe appears to confirm the strategy, suggesting Trump will focus on Biden's immigration policy, school reopening plan, and "identity politics."

That said, Trump will reportedly find time to highlight and defend Operation Warp Speed and the COVID-19 vaccine development that took place under his administration, and he's also expected to bring up the future of the GOP. "There's a 99.99 percent chance" Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has steadfastly expressed her opposition to Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, will get a not-so-friendly mention from Trump, a source told O'Keefe.

Of course, Trump is known for going off script, so all bets are off. Read more about Trump's return at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

February 26, 2021

A number of Republican lawmakers have reportedly claimed to be unable to attend votes due to the COVID-19 pandemic — even though they're able to appear in person at CPAC.

Several allies of former President Donald Trump in the House of Representatives have "skipped Friday's votes and enlisted their colleagues to vote on their behalf," signing letters declaring they can't themselves attend due to "ongoing public health emergency," yet at the same time, they're expected to speak at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, CNN reported on Friday.

Among these lawmakers is reportedly Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who already spoke to CPAC attendees on Friday. But he's not alone, as CBS News' Rebecca Kaplan reports that a total of 13 House Republicans appearing at CPAC have made proxy voting requests, citing the pandemic as the reason.

Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) was another one of these lawmakers, and his spokesperson told CBS that he "was forced to proxy vote for the first time" after the "Democrats rearranged the House schedule with extremely late notice," adding that "mentioning the pandemic in the letter is the standard language that both parties are required to use to proxy vote." The spokesperson also said that Budd "remains philosophically opposed to proxy voting" despite plans to do so himself.

Notably, Kaplan points out, "among the votes they will miss tonight: one on the COVID relief bill." Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads