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CPAC 2021 opens in Florida; Trump, other top Republicans to speak

Then-President Donald Trump embraces an American flag on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 29, 2020, in National Harbor, Md. This year's conference will be held in Orlando, Fla., an will again feature Trump as the prime speaker. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI
Then-President Donald Trump embraces an American flag on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 29, 2020, in National Harbor, Md. This year's conference will be held in Orlando, Fla., an will again feature Trump as the prime speaker. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The four-day Conservative Political Action Conference opens in central Florida on Thursday for the first time in the post-Trump era, but the former president is still slated to be the star of the show.

Donald Trump is scheduled to close out the conference with a keynote speech on Sunday.

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Other key speakers at the annual event include former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Donald Trump Jr.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is scheduled to take the stage on Saturday, but Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell will not attend the event and did not receive an invite.

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Although he voted to acquit Trump at the Senate impeachment trial this month, McConnell has been critical of Trump and gave him blame for the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, where radical Trump supporters broke into the building and attempted to disrupt Congress' certification of President Joe Biden's electoral victory.

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The conference, which is one of the top annual events for conservatives, has featured Trump as its top speaker during each of the four years he was president.

Other notable speakers scheduled to appear at this year's conference are Reps. Devin Nunez, R-Calif.; Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; Mo Brooks, R-Ala., Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem -- all of whom continue to be fervent Trump supporters.

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Several plenary sessions are scheduled at the conference on the issue of the November presidential election, with titles like, "Why Judge and the Media Refused to Look at the Evidence" and "The Left Pulled the Strings, Covered It Up and Even Admitted It."

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who had a falling out with Trump over attempts to overturn the election results, declined an invite to appear.

"Many of these members [that were not invited] are simply more moderate on most issues, which is more indicative on why they were at odds with Trump and the conservative agenda he pushed," CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp told The Hill. "However, we don't censor speeches, nor do we ask for speaking notes.

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"It will be a real live experiment on where the conservative movement is at this time, including a poll available to all attendees."

Trump's speech will be his first public address and appearance since he left the White House on Jan. 20 upon Biden's inauguration. He has continued to push unfounded claims of massive voter fraud that "stole" the election from him.

CPAC said earlier this week it had disinvited a scheduled speaker after learning of "reprehensible views," but did not identify the speaker. The Hill reported that the announcement came immediately after a report that detailed anti-Semitic remarks purportedly made by conservative commentator Young Pharaoh, who was scheduled to attend the conference.

Trump was the subject of a Supreme Court ruling this week that ordered one of his accounting firms to turn over years of tax returns to a grand jury investigation in New York City related to "hush money" payments purportedly made to two women during his 2016 election campaign.

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