Former President Donald Trump is set to deliver the keynote address Sunday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), being held in Orlando, Fla., but his former vice president, Mike Pence, has reportedly declined an invitation to appear.
Citing a source familiar with the event planning, Fox News reported on Sunday that Pence turned down an opportunity to speak at the event, noting that members of his team had previously said that Pence harbored some “bitterness” toward Trump after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol — Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, told Fox News on Friday that the two still speak.
CPAC Executive Director Dan Schneider said it was a “mistake” for the former vice president to decline the invitation, when asked by MSNBC host Joshua Johnson if Trump had asked to speak at the event or was invited.
“We sent out invitations to some of our intended speakers very early on, actually when he was still president before the election, as we did the same thing with Vice-President Pence,” Schneider answered. “We are pleased the president will be joining us, and we’re disappointed the vice president’s not coming. We think it’s a mistake for him not to come.”
Schneider was confident that Pence, a regular at the annual conservative gathering, would have been well received.
“He is a real champion for conservatism. He’s spoken at CPAC 13, 14 times over the years, and I know if he were to come to CPAC, he would be treated very warmly with great respect, and frankly, I really hope that he reconsiders, and if he wants to come, we’ll make room for him,” the CPAC director said.
There were reports that Pence was planning to keep a low profile for six months after leaving office in January, before reengaging on the political scene.
“The former vice president announced earlier this month that he will join the Heritage Foundation as a distinguished visiting fellow,” The Hill reported. “He is also set to start a podcast, pen a monthly op-ed, and speak at conferences and colleges in a new role as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Scholar at the conservative Young America’s Foundation.”
Trump’s speech Sunday, February 28, will close out CPAC and will be his first formal post-presidency public appearance.
The former president is expected to focus on the future of the Republican Party in his address, as well as the conservative movement. He will also hit President Joe Biden over the Democrats’ “disastrous amnesty and borders policies,” according to the New York Post.
In a statement marking his recent acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, Trump spoke about having “much to share” in the days ahead.
“Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again (MAGA) has only just begun,” Trump said in the statement. “In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people. There has never been anything like it!”
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