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Trump trades courtroom for RNC retreat in Florida

Trump trades courtroom for RNC retreat in Florida


Palm Beach, Florida CNN —

Former President Donald Trump swapped a New York courtroom for Florida banquet halls this weekend, where he mingled with his vice-presidential contenders and wealthy donors at the Republican National Committee spring retreat.

The former president was the main attraction at a fundraising luncheon Saturday at his Mar-a-Lago club, where Trump wooed his deep-pocketed supporters as he tried to make up for the ever-expanding war chest. growing of the Biden campaign.

Top GOP donors and high-profile party leaders gathered for the first time at the Four Seasons Friday for a welcome reception with Trump's daughter-in-law and RNC co-chair Lara Trump, House Speaker Mike Johnson and House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, according to sources familiar with the weekend itinerary.

While the annual weekend retreat typically serves as a meeting place for the Republican elite, this year the special guests included a series of Republicans on Trump's vice presidential shortlist. Some of them received praise from the former president at Saturday's lunch, a source close to the event told CNN. Trump called to the stage Stefanik, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Florida Representative Byron Donalds, Ohio Senator JD Vance, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, among others .

Trump praised Stefanik as an incredible talent and said Rubio was doing a great job.

Other notable guests included Florida Senator Rick Scott, Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, Indiana Representative Jim Banks, Texas Representative Wesley Hunt, Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dave McCormick and Senate candidate from Ohio Bernie Moreno.

Also in attendance was South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has spent the past week attempting damage control over a recently released excerpt from her upcoming book, in which she details how she shot and killed her dog, Cricket.

Trump is not expected to announce his running mate anytime soon, his senior advisers told CNN, with the vice presidential shortlist remaining long and changing, although his team has already begun the selection process. He plans to make his official decision public closer to the Republican National Convention in July.

We'll make that decision, I think, closer to Wisconsin time, Trump told a Fox affiliate in Wisconsin on Wednesday. It's very early right now.

On Sunday, Trump plans to attend the Miami Grand Prix.

Campaign trail and courtroom

Trump campaign advisers told donors at the retreat Saturday that the campaign and its aligned groups raised $76.2 million in April, two attendees told CNN.

In a presentation to donors, Trump campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, along with Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio, reviewed fundraising numbers and made a case for Trump's campaign trail. Trump who suggested Trump could run in Virginia and Minnesota, two states that have leaned Democratic in recent elections.

The Biden campaign has dismissed the idea. Trump does not have a campaign operation in a single battleground state, Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said in a statement to CNN.

In their presentation, Trump campaign advisers also outlined two upcoming trips on Trump's calendar for fundraising events in Ohio and Kentucky on May 15 and Texas on May 22, both of which will take place on a Wednesday, the former president on a weekday when he is not. is scheduled to appear in a New York courtroom for his secret criminal trial.

On Friday, top Trump allies, including Johnson, Stefanik, RNC Chairman Michael Whatley and Lara Trump, as well as a number of senators, including Rubio, Tim Scott and Blackburn, among others, made presentations to more than 200 people gathered at the meeting. Four Seasons, according to event attendees.

Presentations included discussions on how to message abortion, what they recognized as a key vulnerability ahead of November, their latest internal polling, and the Trump campaign strategy to expand the electorate among black voters and Hispanics.

One of the presenters also privately admitted that the secret trial was losing money, according to a participant with direct knowledge of the remarks, referring to the millions of dollars diverted from the Trump campaign to cover the Trump's legal fees. former president.

Johnson's presence at the retreat is an opportunity for him to showcase his relationship with Trump ahead of a critical vote to strip him of his speaker's gavel.

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene announced Wednesday that she plans to force a vote on Johnson's ouster when members return to the Capitol next week, a move that comes after Democrats said they would vote to kill the effort and ensure Johnson doesn't lose his job.

Trump, who has yet to weigh in publicly on the infighting within the party, has been annoyed by the saga, telling his advisers and others in his inner circle that he views it as a distraction that harms the The party's image at a time when it wants the full focus and strength of the GOP behind it, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the comments.

Some of his quiet displeasure was on display this week, when Trump asked Whatley, the newly elected RNC chairman, to go to Capitol Hill to make clear to the House Republican conference that he had no interest in a divided party, sources familiar with Whatley's comments said.

Whatley, acting as Trump's emissary, also met separately with Greene and privately signaled her to end the drama, one of the sources said.

Johnson has previously used his relationship with Trump to try to show solidarity in the face of threats to his job. Last month, he visited Mar-a-Lago for a news conference hosted by his team, alongside the former president, during which Trump praised Johnson and acknowledged the difficulties he faced in Congress.

We get along very well with the speaker, and I get along very well with Marjorie. We have a speaker who was elected, and it was a complicated process. And I think that's not an easy situation for any speaker, Trump told reporters at the time.

This story has been updated with new reports.

CNN's Aaron Pellish, Kristen Holmes and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.




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