June 15, 2021

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Donald Trump to speak in North Carolina, returning to political stage as he continues to split Republicans – USA TODAY

4 min read

WASHINGTON – After more than three months behind closed doors, Donald Trump re-takes the political stage Saturday amid Republican turmoil, an extended social media ban, and criminal investigations into his past conduct.

In a speech to the North Carolina Republican Party state convention, the ex-president returns after months of striking political developments around him, including: The decision by congressional allies to remove Trump critic Liz Cheney from her House GOP leadership position; stepped-up investigations by prosecutors in Georgia and New York state; and the decisions by Facebook and other websites to keep him from communicating on social media.

How much Trump discusses the political and legal troubles surrounding him and his party remain to be seen; he is not known for following the script.

In a written statement repeating false charges of a “fraudulent” election in 2020, Trump said Friday it is “a great honor to be speaking at the North Carolina GOP convention” on Saturday night.

“I understand the place will be packed, all records broken!” Trump said.

Facebook has suspended former President Donald Trump for two years. His accounts were frozen after he praised supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Trump is expected to be well received at a Republican convention in a state he carried the last two presidential elections.

The question is how well his continuing complaints about 2020 and his grievance-laden rhetoric will be seen by independents and Republicans who want to see the party move past the fractious ex-president.

“In the room, it will play very well,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and North Carolina native who has worked many political races in the state. “Outside the room, that’s where the Republican Party will struggle.”

Investigations, in-fighting, and social media bans

This will be Trump’s first televised speech since his Feb. 28 appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. He used the occasion to threaten Republicans who criticized him over the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in which fervent Trump supporters tried to stop the counting of electoral votes showing President Joe Biden won.

More:At CPAC, Donald Trump targets the Republican Party of Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell

More:Facebook suspends Donald Trump for two years, citing ‘severe violation’ after Capitol riots

In the more than three months since CPAC, while Trump stayed out of the public eye, politician tensions have heightened around him.

Prosecutors in New York and Georgia are continuing their investigations of the former president. Trump claims the investigations are politically motivated.

The New York investigation involves past financial dealings by the Trump Organization. Prosecutors in Georgia are looking at Trump’s complaints to state officials, urging them to look for fraud in the state’s presidential election.

Last weekend, supporters at a pro-Trump conference in Dallas talked openly of a “coup” against the current government.

Attorney Sidney Powell, who represented Trump during parts of his election protest late last year, told a cheering crowd that Trump could soon be “reinstated” as president. That is legally impossible, though Trump, according to a New York Times tweet, “has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August.”

Trump has not commented publicly on this kind of talk, but allies said he is not fomenting a coup and does not anticipate regaining office.

“As far as I know, there are no plans for Donald Trump to be in the White House in August,” said Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, speaking on Fox News this week. “Maybe there’s something I don’t know.”

In the three months since his last public appearance, Trump’s hold on the Republican party leadership has in many ways strengthened.

Last month, his allies forced the removal of Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, from her House GOP congressional leadership position over her repeated criticisms of Trump.

Cheney, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection, said Trump’s continuing false claims about a “stolen” election could trigger more violence.

More:At CPAC, Donald Trump targets the Republican Party of Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell

More:What we know about investigations looming over Donald Trump and Trump Organization

As he prepares to speak in North Carolina, Trump remains banned from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media over his incendiary comments. He began a blog last month, but has already shut it down after weeks of low traffic.

Since the bans were imposed after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Trump has increasingly relied on written statements issued through his political action committee called “Save America.”

Speeches behind closed doors

Trump has given speeches in private these past three months, including highly publicized remarks at an April conference of major Republican donors who gathered in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump has also given television interviews.

Audio and video have leaked out from a few of Trump’s private appearances, including optimistic claims about continuing election protests in states that Biden won narrowly.

In written statements and interviews, Trump has commented frequently about an ongoing “audit” of results in Arizona, a Republican-driven project that involves hand recounting nearly 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County. It is not expected to alter Biden’s victory in the state.

Trump has also made public comments about pending election complaints in pivotal states like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and New Hampshire.

Initially, the North Carolina Republican Party said Trump’s convention speech would be closed to the press. Last week, at Trump’s behest, the Tar Heel GOP decided to open up the Trump event.

Expect to see more of Trump in the coming weeks.

Trump has told television interviewers that he is planning to resume mass political rallies soon in big political states like Florida and Ohio. He is also expected to address another meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference to be held in July in Dallas, Texas.

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