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Republican leaders and donors are descending on Palm Beach this weekend for a private donor retreat headlined by former President Trump. Despite Mr. Trump's electoral loss, and his role in inspiring a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol just three months ago, the former president remains a central figure in Republican politics, and the weekend's events are emblematic of his continued hold on the party.
The Republican National Committee's spring donor retreat, hosted at a hotel just a few miles from Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, features a roster of prominent GOP politicians, including several potential 2024 presidential contenders. As Mr. Trump himself mulls another presidential bid, other possible 2024 candidates may be in the awkward position of defending and promoting someone who could be their rival.
On Saturday, Mr. Trump will deliver a keynote speech for the event, which is expected to raise millions. Although the Republican Party has yet to cohere around a set of organizing principles after its loss of the White House and Senate in 2020, Mr. Trump remains a central figure in GOP politics. The former president alsoat the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, where he was hailed as a returning hero. In that speech, Mr. Trump said his "journey" that began during his first presidential run is "far from being over."
Since the election the former president has also been raising money for his own PAC, competing with other Republican groups for donor money. In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump, Save America, rather than to "RINOS" (Republicans in Name Only) "who nothing but hurt the Republican Party and our great voting base."
Party donors will also be hearing from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Senators Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Rick Scott, Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson. Mr. Trump has been rolling out endorsements ahead of the 2022 midterms, including for one for Johnson, who has not yet announced if he is running.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly promoted the false claim that the 2020 election was rigged and marred by extensive voter fraud. There is no evidence for this, and dozens of lawsuits brought by Mr. Trump's campaign failed to prove any evidence of wrongdoing. The former president's claims helped inspire the, during which a horde of Trump supporters laid siege to the Capitol with the goal of overturning the presidential election results.
Nonetheless, few Republicans have pushed back against Mr. Trump's claims, and those who have will not be featured at the weekend's RNC retreat. Notable Republicans who have criticized Mr. Trump in the past, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, will not be making an appearance.
Meanwhile, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Senator Jim DeMint are hosting a two-day event at Mar-a-Lago this weekend for their newly formed super PAC, the Conservative Partnership Institute. The group Women for America First, which helped organize the January 6 rally that preceded the riot at the Capitol, is holding at an event at Mr. Trump's Doral club in Miami. Speakers at this event will figure lawmakers who are controversial in Washington but remain staunch Trump supporters: Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz.
Gaetz is currently, as he has been accused of having a relationship with a 17-year-old and is believed to be under investigation for violations of sex trafficking laws. He has denied all the allegations and has so far not been charged with any crimes.
In a speech at the event on Friday, Gaetz alluded to the scandals surrounding him as "wild conspiracy theories" and as "smears." He called himself "a cancelled man in some corners" and said he "may even be a wanted man by the deep state."
"They lie about me because I tell the truth about them. And I'm not going to stop," he said about the scandals. "They're not really coming for me. They're coming for you. I'm just in the way."