CPAC highlights include Trump, Pence – The Hill

Thousands of people will attend the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) right outside of the nation’s capital this week, with appearances by President Trump and White House officials.

Then-candidate Trump bailed on CPAC in 2016, but this year’s conference will give him another chance Friday to address conservatives gathered in National Harbor, Md. But CPAC isn’t always a friendly audience for Trump, with conventiongoers last year choosing him third in that year’s presidential straw poll.

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The high-profile conservative gathering hit a speed bump last weekend when video emerged of alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos appearing to defend pedophilia, leading CPAC to rescind his speaking slot.

CPAC will be looking to move beyond those headlines and see if conservatives have warmed up to Trump now that he’s the president and the party’s leader.

Here are the main speakers and events to watch on Thursday, Friday and Saturday:

Thursday

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will kick off Thursday’s session at 9:10 a.m. Trump’s former campaign manager will be interviewed by the Washington Times’s Mercedes Schlapp.

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Conway’s appearance comes amid a CNN report that the White House has barred her from doing TV appearances after making statements that contradict the administration’s actual positions.

She has drawn headlines for publicly hawking Ivanka Trump’s clothing line on TV and caught flak for repeatedly justifying administration positions on immigration by citing “the Bowling Green Massacre,” a nonexistent terrorist attack in Kentucky.

Several GOP governors will also be speaking Thursday, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the 2016 presidential race and called on Republicans to coalesce around a contender to oppose Trump.

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzCNN to host town hall featuring John McCain, Lindsey Graham WATCH LIVE: Conway, Pence, Bannon, Priebus speak at CPAC CPAC highlights include Trump, Pence MORE (R-Texas) will speak about the Constitution at 11:10 a.m. with conservative radio host Mark Levin. Cruz, also a Trump critic and rival during the presidential campaign, won the 2016 CPAC straw poll.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will speak at 12:50 p.m. She will be interviewed by Trump surrogate and CNN commentator Kayleigh McEnany. DeVos faced a contentious, close confirmation process that forced Vice President Pence to cast an historic tie-breaking vote to get her confirmed.

DeVos reportedly clashed with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsCPAC highlights include Trump, Pence Immigration hard-liners hold fire on ‘dreamers’ program Trump administration withdraws protections for transgender students MORE over rolling back federal protections for transgender students. According to The New York Times, DeVos initially said she was uncomfortable with a draft order that would reverse former President Obama’s directive that requires public schools to allow students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus could look to quash rumors of division between them in a sit-down interview with Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, the organizer of CPAC.

Reports have emerged that the two White House counterparts have clashed, but Bannon and Priebus insisted that they’re working closely together in a recent interview with The Hill.

Pence, who has spoken at CPAC in the past, will cap off the day’s events with a speech at 7:30 p.m.

Friday

The main event will be Trump’s speech on Friday at 10:20 a.m.

The president has had a rocky history with the conservative conference and has earned mixed reviews for past speeches.

In 2011, Trump floated a 2012 presidential run against Obama, saying that he would not raise taxes and that if he ran and won, “this country will be respected again.”

Trump’s 2015 speech drew some negative reaction after he said that he would use ground troops to take on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, according to NPR.

And in 2016, Trump made waves by not showing up at all, saying that the event conflicted with his campaign schedule.

British politician Nigel Farage will talk at 11:55 a.m. about the impact Britain’s decision to leave the European Union will have on the world. Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party, led the Brexit movement that roiled the world after the stunning vote in June.

Farage, who was a vocal backer of Trump during the campaign, attended his inauguration last month.

Other notable speakers include former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, Maine Gov. Paul LePage and National Rifle Association (NRA) head Wayne LaPierre.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin BradyCPAC highlights include Trump, Pence The House GOP tax plan needs some tweaking A guide to the committees: House MORE (R-Texas) will also be at CPAC discussing tax reform.

The keynote address at the Ronald Reagan Dinner on Friday night will be conservative commentator Michael Reagan, former President Reagan’s son.

Saturday

CPAC is known for the presidential straw poll that it conducts throughout the conference, with the results revealed on the last day.

Since the conference falls during a non-election year in Trump’s first year, it’s unclear what will be in this year’s poll. In the past, CPAC hasn’t polled on potential presidential contenders during a Republican president’s first term.

Other speakers include newly minted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt at 1:50 p.m. and David Bossie, the president of Citizens United, a conservative nonprofit known for the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling that reshaped campaign finance laws. 

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