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Trump to target Biden and assert leadership over GOP in CPAC speech

What to watch for at CPAC this weekend
What to watch for as Republicans gather for CPAC this weekend 07:02

Former President Donald Trump plans to reaffirm his leadership of the Republican Party and sharply criticize President Biden for an early focus on immigration policy and "identity politics" in his speech Sunday, the first major speech of his post-White House life.

While the former president is expected to call out some of his most vocal critics, including Congresswoman Liz Cheney, he has no plans to announce a 2024 campaign to win back the presidency, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump tells CBS News.

Mr. Trump's hotly anticipated speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida will serve as the formal launch of an unprecedented moment in modern American history: Not since Grover Cleveland lost his reelection bid in 1889 has a one-term president left office cultivating and encouraging such a large political following.  

"We are in uncharted territory because no other former one-term presidents in modern times have ever had as large a post-election following," said the senior adviser, who requested anonymity to speak frankly.  

American Conservative Union Holds Annual Conference In Florida
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 26: A gold statue of former President Donald Trump is on display at the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.  / Getty Images

Mr. Trump's remarks in Orlando are expected to focus on two main pillars: First, strong attacks on Mr. Biden and concerns that the far left of the Democratic Party is controlling the White House and administration policy. Secondly, Trump will focus on his hopes for the future of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. 

The former president, who used to rely on social media to air his grievances and attack perceived rivals, is expected to use his remarks on Sunday to settle some scores.  

"There's a very strong chance almost certainty that a few of those Beltway elites will be name checked," said the senior adviser. But, "Kevin McCarthy is not one of those." 

The senior adviser strongly disputed a Politico report on Saturday that McCarthy, the House minority leader, is once again in the former president's crosshairs because he continues to stand by Cheney, the Wyoming congresswoman and third-ranking House Republican. Cheney is among just a handful of national GOP leaders who strongly denounced the former president's words and actions on and before the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In the weeks since, she has continued to express her hope that the party moves on from Mr. Trump.  

While the former president and McCarthy are on good terms, the senior adviser said, "There's a 99.99% chance Liz Cheney gets brought up." 

As for Mr. Trump's thoughts on Mr. Biden, "Immigration will be like issue one, two and three —  amnesty, stopping wall constriction and expanding refugee access from dangerous countries," the senior adviser said. 

But the former president is also expected to attack the Biden administration's failure thus far to oversee a national reopening of schools and he will strongly defend the Trump administration's work to help fund the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.  

"He will defend his vaccine work and be about as subtle as a two by four about it," the senior adviser said. 

In recent weeks, Mr. Biden has incorrectly said that there was "no real plan to vaccinate most of the country" from the outgoing Trump administration, a claim he's backed off of in recent public remarks about vaccine development. Mr. Trump on Sunday is likely to tout his administration's "Operation Warp Speed," which provided government funding for the private-sector development of COVID-19 vaccines now being produced and distributed around the world. 

Mr. Trump is also expected to train his ire on the Biden administration's early use of executive authorities to halt multibillion construction of new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; lift historically low limits on the number of refugees that can be admitted annually into the United States; and plans to extend protections to tens of thousands of people under Temporary Protected Status from countries including El Salvador, Haiti and Syria.  

The senior adviser said the former president is also concerned about the Biden administration's early focus on diversity and tackling systemic racism across society.  

"The efforts that they've been pushing, like social engineering nonsense, is what the former president is very concerned about," said the adviser.  

Mr. Biden took early steps to fulfill campaign pledges to promote racial equity, diversity and gay and transgender rights. On his first day in office, he signed an executive order mandating an "ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda" designed to address concerns about systemic racism and a lack of diversity in federal policy-making and hiring. The administration is also taking steps to rewrite federal application forms and documents to offer or mention gender-neutral options. Mr. Biden also reversed a Pentagon ban on transgender military service members.  

The White House also touts the historic diversity of the Biden Cabinet and senior government hires, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the first African American man to lead the Pentagon; Xavier Becerra, poised to be the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services; and Rachel Levine, nominated to serve as Becerra's deputy, who would be the first openly transgender person ever confirmed by the Senate. 

In his remarks, Mr. Trump is expected to dismiss concerns about a potential Republican civil war and express his belief that the party's grassroots are firmly in his corner, with just a handful of party leaders opposed to his continued oversight of the party.  

Mr. Trump is also expected to focus his time on the party's need to win back congressional seats next year. He has already joined the fray, endorsing one of his former aides, Max Miller, who launched a primary challenge against Ohio Republican congressman Anthony Gonzalez on Friday. Gonzalez is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted in January to impeach Trump. 

Part of the reason Mr. Trump isn't planning to announce a rematch with Mr. Biden is that for now he's launching multiple political entities designed to help elect GOP congressional and gubernatorial candidates next year – and keep his own options open. 

 His 2020 campaign committee has been converted and renamed the Make American Great Again PAC and is now linked to the Save America PAC, from which the former president has been sending out statements and political endorsements. They are linked by a joint fundraising committee that will raise funds to bankroll both entities that among other things can donate to GOP candidates and pay for the former president's political travel.  

 Mr. Trump is also preparing to launch a super PAC that will be overseen by longtime on-again, off-again political aide Corey Lewandowski and other associates that would lead a board of directors, including possibly former Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, according to the senior adviser.  

"It's very clear that he's the one best positioned to lead the party forward," the senior adviser said. "He's the one with the vision, he's the one with command of the issues and is able to provide the sharpest contrast with Democrats. The speech will make clear he's best prepared to do that."  

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