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Politics Chat: Former President Trump To Speak At CPAC

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

* And there he was...

(CROSSTALK)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...This time in the form of a golden statue rolling through the Hyatt Hotel last week in Orlando, Fla., as the Conservative Political Action Conference kicked off. The gleaming figure of former President Donald Trump looks like a cousin of Shoney's big boy, except with a red tie, stars-and-stripes swim trunks, flip flops and the Constitution in one very shiny hand and a wand - maybe a wand - in the other. The real Donald Trump speaks today as CPAC wraps up. Meanwhile, the man who beat him in November, President Joe Biden, is himself courting Republicans in an effort to ensure the success of his political agenda. Joining me now to talk about all this is NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.

Good morning.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The speech by the former president is unusual for former presidents - not so unusual for this former president, who has made it clear he plans to try and remain relevant.

RASCOE: Yeah, Trump never adhered to norms as president, and he's still not doing it. But we should say it is really unprecedented. Presidents who lose reelection and even those that don't generally try to stay out of the spotlight after leaving the White House. The reason why it's worth paying attention to Trump at this moment is because he has so much influence on people who are still in power and those running for office.

There are some high-profile Republicans, like Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who have said that it's time for the GOP to move on from Trump, but it doesn't seem like Republicans are ready to quit him just yet. And people like Senator Lindsey Graham have basically said, yes, Trump's a handful, but there's no way Republicans win without him. Most Republicans seem to agree with Senator Graham. So this is the first time that Trump is making this sort of speech since he left office. And it's a big deal because he's able to really dictate the direction of the Republican Party.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what are we expecting to hear from him?

RASCOE: We are expecting him to declare himself the leader of the Republican Party. Beyond that, he will almost certainly lay into his perceived enemies. I mentioned Liz Cheney, who voted for his impeachment. He's already come out against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. So expect to hear him on the attack. He will almost certainly want to relitigate the 2020 election, especially considering he never stopped talking about the 2016 election, and he won that one. So everyone will be waiting to hear whether he teases a 2024 run.

With Trump in the picture, he's really freezing the Republican field right now. And I should remind everyone that it was at CPAC a few years ago that Trump talked for almost two hours and hugged the flag and did all of that. So it would not be surprising to see Trump do something like that again. With no social media megaphone, he probably has a lot to get off of his chest. But what his advisers and probably a number of Republicans will want Trump to do in this speech is to go after President Biden, especially on the issue of immigration, which is sort of - which is the sort of issue that can really rally the base. We will see whether that happens.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So not exactly healing the divides within his own party. Let's turn to the actual president, Biden. He's set to meet virtually with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Border policy is on the agenda.

RASCOE: Yes, this meeting comes as Biden has been facing pressure from the left because of the surge in unaccompanied minors at the border. The White House has defended its handling of the situation, but some progressives have raised concerns about the conditions of the facilities where these children are being held. So this is an issue that's going to be on the agenda when he talks to Lopez Obrador in Biden's second virtual meeting with a foreign leader.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.

Thank you so much.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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