Trump to attend GOP's spring donor retreat

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Former President Trump is scheduled to attend the Republican National Committee’s spring donor retreat in Florida this April, according to a Republican familiar with the situation and an invitation obtained by CBS News.

Mr. Trump’s planned appearance at the gathering with top GOP donors was first reported by Politico. CBS News reported in January that the RNC was planning to invite the former president to the event. 

The retreat offers potential 2024 candidates to make their case to deep-pocketed party donors. According to the invitation, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Florida Senator Rick Scott, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are among those also scheduled to attend. 

The former president’s appearance comes as GOP leaders debate what his role in the future of the party should be. 

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel is scheduled to meet with Mr. Trump this week, a source confirmed to CBS News. She is one of his allies and was unanimously re-elected RNC Chair in January. McDaniel has pledged to stay neutral in the 2024 primary and told The Associated Press in January that she wants to see the former president help Republicans in the 2022 midterms.

The Senate recently voted to acquit Mr. Trump of inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol in his second impeachment trial. State and local Republican parties have censured some of the Senate Republicans who voted to convict Mr. Trump.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he voted to acquit Mr. Trump because he believed it was unconstitutional to convict a former president. After the trial, McConnell gave a searing speech on the Senate floor and said the former president was “morally and practically responsible” for the riot. 

Mr. Trump shot back at McConnell in a statement days later, calling the minority leader, “a dour, sullen, & unsmiling political hack.” He pledged to back primary candidates who support his political agenda “where necessary and appropriate.”

While some factions of the Republican Party are exploring ways to move beyond Mr. Trump, polls conducted after the January 6 attack at the Capitol have shown the former president still has a strong base of support within the Republican Party.

A recent CBS News poll found 73% of Republicans said it was very or somewhat important that Republicans show loyalty to Mr. Trump. A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted after the impeachment trial found 81% of Republicans approve of Mr. Trump. An Economist/YouGov poll published this week found 48% of Republicans wouldn’t vote for a congressional or gubernatorial candidate who is critical of Mr. Trump. 

Mr. Trump is scheduled to make his first public speech since leaving office on Sunday at CPAC, a conservative political conference. A source told CBS News that the former president is expected to discuss the future of the Republican Party and may attack some of President Biden’s policies.

The former president’s hold over the GOP was evident when CBS News received responses from only five out of 50 GOP senators last about whether they agreed with Mr. Trump’s claims that he had won the election, which he is still repeating, and whether they support Senator Mitch McConnell as Republican minority leader.

Several top Republicans have traveled to Florida or spoken with the former president since he left office. The top two House Republicans have visited him at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Florida Senator Rick Scott, who is chair of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, told reporters on Tuesday that he has also spoken with Mr. Trump about his efforts in the midterm elections. 

“I told him I want to win in ’22, and said I’m going to be very specific about where I think he could be helpful, and he gets to make the decision whether he wants to do it or not,” Scott said. 

Weijia Jiang and Alan He contributed to this report.

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