Trump's GOP critics to gather in Washington with an eye on 2024 presidential race
A group of Republican critics of former President Donald Trump will gather in Washington, D.C., this week to cheer on the two GOP members of the House select committee investigating the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Their two-day conference, called "Principles First: The Summit," will also champion state GOP officials who refused to support Trump's efforts to block President Joe Biden from taking office after the 2020 election.
CBS News obtained a four-page draft of the schedule for the grassroots gathering, which will be held February 26-27 at the National Press Club.
Republican attorney Heath Mayo, founder of Principles First for America, the advocacy organization hosting the summit, confirmed the schedule.
The timing of the event is notable, coming as Trump and his allies speak that same weekend at the high-profile Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. Last year, CPAC was a bastion of Trump support, with attendees posing next to a golden fiberglass replica of the former president and giving him a roaring welcome to the stage.
Mayo said in an interview that his event would "certainly be counterprogramming of CPAC" and an opportunity for Republicans wary of Trump and his grip over the GOP to network and have early discussions about whether their wing of the party could coalesce behind a likeminded contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
"We want to come together in a visual show of support for people who have taken stands for ideas when it hasn't been comfortable," Mayo said. "You don't see those folks, yet, in rooms that are energized. But I think the energy is there. We'll see how many folks show up."
Mayo added, "I believe there is a lane here for 2024. The party is completely stuck in a rut talking about if the last election is legitimate and if Liz Cheney, [Maryland Governor Larry] Hogan, or someone else is compelling and wants to run, I think a lot of people would listen."
Hogan, a Trump critic who recently passed on running for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, has said he would consider a possible 2024 presidential candidacy.
Mayo said a prominent member of the Republican National Committee, Bill Palatucci of New Jersey, was a recent addition to Saturday's conference schedule. Palatucci's decision to appear follows tensions inside the RNC about its fervent political and financial support for Trump, who is facing several legal challenges and investigations.
Palatucci, a longtime confidant of Chris Christie, the former GOP governor of New Jersey, opposed the RNC earlier this month for passing a resolution at its winter meeting in Salt Lake City that censured Cheney and Kinzinger for their roles on the House select committee.
"They invited me to speak after what happened at the RNC and I'm happy to do it," Palatucci said in an interview. "It's important to have these conversations out in the open."
Cheney will speak to the summit remotely on February 26, and Kinzinger will deliver a closing keynote speech on February 27, according to the schedule. Former Virginia Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman, who is a senior staffer on the select committee, is also scheduled to speak.
Last Thursday, just weeks after the RNC's resolution against Cheney and Kinzinger, House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed Cheney's primary challenger in Wyoming, trial attorney Harriet Hageman.
McCarthy's backing of Hageman followed months of public disputes involving Cheney and the Republican Party, stemming from her vote to impeach Trump after the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Cheney had previously served on McCarthy's leadership team as the House GOP's conference chair before she was voted out in May 2021.
Georgia's Republican lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, is also scheduled to speak in person at "Principles First: The Summit" on February 27. Duncan has been attacked by Trump for standing by Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who certified Mr. Biden's victory in the state amid pressure from Trump and other Republicans. Raffensperger is scheduled to address the conference remotely, Mayo said.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a central figure in the first impeachment proceedings against Trump, is also on the conference's list of speakers, as is Capitol Police Office Harry Dunn.
Dunn, a Black police officer, testified before the select committee last year and said he faced intense racism and violence while he was on duty during the assault on the Capitol.
Aaron Navarro and Adam Brewster contributed reporting.
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