Trump is making his first public appearance since leaving the White House – and ‘has scores to settle’

At a place in downtown Orlando this weekend, Donald Trump still rules America.

The Conservative Political Action Conference – CPAC for short – is being held in Florida to bypass COVID-19 restrictions.

Here, delegates queue up to have their photo taken with a gold statue of the former president wearing flip flops and carrying a wand.

The merchandise stalls are peddling an impressive range of cheap tat. Pic: AP
Image:The merchandise stalls are peddling an impressive range of cheap tat. Pic: AP

Make America Great Again caps are for sale in almost any colour now: yellow, pink, purple, even camouflage. The original red is so 2016.

The merchandise stalls are peddling an impressive range of cheap tat, from earrings to handbags, most of which is emblazoned with Trump 2024 on.

I bumped into one woman off to buy a new suitcase so she could stuff it full of gifts for friends back home in Minnesota.

Disgraced campaigner Roger Stone was spotted outside dancing wildly to heavy rap in front of a monster truck – and Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys, was holding court over the road.

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Political consultant Roger Stone dances with rapper Forgiato Blow outside of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, US
Image:Political consultant Roger Stone dances with rapper Forgiato Blow outside the CPAC venue

Four months ago, Mr Trump lost the presidential election by seven million votes, despite failed and baseless attempts to claim fraud.

The Senate and House of Representatives also turned blue, and he was impeached for a second time – but come to this Republican conference in Florida, and you’d never know it.

Donald Trump made a splash at last year's Conservative Political Action Conference. Pic: AP
Image:Donald Trump made a splash at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference. Pic: AP

Later today, the local boy will close out the gathering. Donald Trump will break his silence and make his first public appearance since leaving the White House.

Still banned from Twitter, he is bound to have much to get off his chest.

“Oh he’ll have scores to settle for sure,” conference organiser Matt Schlapp told Sky News.

But what of the million-dollar question: will he, won’t he?

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Trump supporters gather for his return

A senior official close to the former president has told us that he won’t announce his 2024 candidacy. Mr Trump will more likely want to see the way the wind blows in the 2022 midterms before committing himself.

But be in no doubt, this is still his party. Yes, there are some divisions and some notable absentees from the conference – Mike Pence, Nikki Hayley and Mitt Romney among them – but “they are the 10%, we are the 90%”, one Conservative radio host said.

If Mr Trump wants to run in 2024, there seems to be nothing stopping him, and when it comes to his speeches, he rarely keeps to script.

So hold tight to your MAGA hats… anything could happen.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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