"Show of force": Trump to claim total control of GOP with first post-presidency speech

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In his first post-presidential appearance, Donald Trump plans to send the message next weekend that he is Republicans' "presumptive 2024 nominee" with a vise grip on the party's base, top Trump allies tell Axios.

What to watch: A longtime adviser called Trump's speech a "show of force," and said the message will be: "I may not have Twitter or the Oval Office, but I'm still in charge." Payback is his chief obsession.

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Axios has learned that Trump advisers will meet with him at Mar-a-Lago this week to plan his next political moves, and to set up the machinery for kingmaking in the 2022 midterms.

  • Trump is expected to stoke primary challenges for some of those who have crossed him, and shower money and endorsements on the Trumpiest candidates.

  • State-level officials, fresh off censuring Trump critics, stand ready to back him up.

Why it matters: Trump's speech Sunday at CPAC in Orlando is designed to show that he controls the party, whether or not he runs in 2024.

  • His advisers argue that his power within the GOP runs deeper and broader than ever, and that no force can temper him.

  • "Trump effectively is the Republican Party," Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told me. "The only chasm is between Beltway insiders and grassroots Republicans around the country. When you attack President Trump, you're attacking the Republican grassroots."

The big picture: The few Republicans who have spoken ill of Trump since the election — including House members who voted to impeach him, and senators who voted to convict — have found themselves censured, challenged and vilified by the parties in their home states.

What's next: Trump's leadership PAC, Save America, has $75 million on hand, and he has a database of tens of millions of names.

The long game: Many Trump confidants think he'll pretend to run but ultimately pass. He knows the possibility — or threat — gives him leverage and attention.

A Trump source said some Republicans have told him: "If you endorse me, I'll run."

  • But advisers say that's not how it'll work. This week's meeting will aim to tap the brakes.

  • Instead, Trump is going to set up a formal process for vetting potential endorsees, including a requirement that they raise money and put together an organization.

What we're watching: Trump plans to argue in the CPAC speech that many of his predictions about President Biden have already come true.

  • Look for Trump to lay into "the swamp" and Beltway insiders in a big way.

  • The Trump source said: "Much like 2016, we’re taking on Washington again."

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