PALM BEACH, Fla. – As Floridians hit the beaches on a bright and hot day, Donald Trump and wealthy Republicans huddled behind closed doors Saturday to discuss GOP unity – a challenging topic in the wake of Trump’s loss in last year’s presidential election.
Trump echoed his plans to endorse allies – and target enemies – in GOP primaries next year, threatening party divisions ahead of the 2022 congressional elections, a top agenda item at this weekend’s Republican National Committee spring retreat.
In a retreat dinner speech to be given at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump plans to trumpet his presidential record, and to tell party donors that continuing it is the key to future elections.
“Our American First platform will lead the Republican Party back to power,” Trump plans to say, according to an advance text.
In addition to private discussions all over the Four Seasons beach resort, Republican lawmakers and donors held panel discussions Saturday on campaign plans, prior to departing for Mar-a-Lago and the Trump-hosted dinner.
All the RNC activities are closed to the press.
The Saturday schedule at the retreat included an event called a “Party Unity Panel,” one of the challenges facing Republicans this election cycle.
In another departure from previous ex-president, Trump is endorsing allies running in party primaries, often to retaliate against Republicans who favored impeachment after the Jan. 6 insurrection by pro-Trump protesters at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump has also attacked Republicans who criticized his efforts to overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden. That group includes Senate Republican leader and party kingmaker Mitch McConnell.
Other Republicans – including Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a member of House GOP leadership who voted for impeachment – have urged the party to move past Trump.
Active involvement in primaries – unusual for any high-profile politician, especially an ex-president – threatens to split the party, making it harder to win closely contested congressional districts and states.
Trump does not plan to attack any Republicans during his speech, according to the advance text, but instead train fire on the Biden administration. He plans to attack the new president over immigration and border policy, dealings with China, new talks on the Iran nuclear deal, and for holding off on a televised speech to Congress.
Another Trump target is “woke corporations,” including Major League Baseball for its decision to pull the All Star Game from Atlanta because of new voting laws in Georgia.
Predicting Republican victories in the 2022 congressional races and in the 2024 presidential race – if they follow his agenda – Trump is expected to repeat a 2020 campaign mantra, according to the text: “For our party, our movement, and our country, the best is yet to come.”
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. – who has often called for party unity, and took a special trip to Palm Beach two months ago to speak with Trump about the 2022 elections – hosted a dinner Friday night at the RNC retreat in Palm Beach.
In his remarks, attendees said, McCarthy talked about another key element in next year’s elections: The drawing of new congressional districts in each state. McCarthy also said Republicans should run against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and that “Retiring Nancy” should be a major campaign theme.
Saturday’s unity panel featured party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and the leaders of the Republican congressional campaign arms: Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who heads up the National Republican Senate Committee.
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