Former Vice President Mike Pence has declined an invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a major annual gathering of the most influential figures in American conservative scheduled to open this week in Orlando, Florida.
The news of Pence’s decision comes a day after former President Donald Trump joined the list of speakers for what will be his first major appearance since leaving office.
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a primary organizer of CPAC, confirmed Pence declined an invitation to speak at the conference. Schlapp said he thinks it is a “mistake” for Pence to avoid the event because “his conservative record is well respected, and conservatives want to hear his take on the current threats posed by socialism and this radicalized Democrat party.”
Pence was a frequent and popular speaker at CPAC in recent years. The former vice president will be the highest-profile Republican to recently hold office not in attendance.
The former vice president has been keeping a low profile since he left office. He opened a transition office in Virginia and plans to move to Indiana by the summer.
Earlier this month, he announced he will act as a “distinguished visiting fellow” at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. He plans to be involved in next year’s midterm elections, reportedly preparing to launch a fundraising committee focused on policy issues. And he aims to help Republicans’ effort retake the majority in the House, and to wade into important Senate and gubernatorial races.
Pence has reportedly distanced himself from Trump personally in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riots, where many of the former president’s supporters expected Pence to overturn the results of the Electoral College, a power the vice president does not have. Chants of “hang Mike Pence” rang through the halls of Congress that day as rioters ransacked the building.
Trump’s speech is expected to focus on the future of the Republican Party and conservatism. He is also expected to target President Joe Biden’s immigration platform, which was recently outlined alongside congressional Democrats who plan to introduce legislation to implement the agenda.
– Matthew Brown and David Jackson
Rep. Steve Scalise: Don’t blame Trump for Capitol riots
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise declined to blame former President Donald Trump for the violence that took place during the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
“Surely, there’s a lot of blame to go around,” the Louisiana Republican said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.”
The second highest-ranking member in Republican House leadership, Scalise has been an ardent defender of Trump since the former president left office. Scalise was among the 121 House members who objected to the final count of the Electoral College on Jan. 6.
“But at the end of the day, the people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, it was a disgrace. And they need to be held accountable,” Scalise emphasized, moving past the question of whether Trump bore responsibility for the attack.
A USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll found that 58% of Republican voters believe that antifa, or anti-fascist groups,…