Former President Donald Trump is expected to speak at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, but some Republicans are already pushing back on his efforts to steer the party forward.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said it would hurt the GOP if its members “let him define us.”
“He has a loud megaphone, but we have to have many different voices and, in my view, we can’t let him define us for the future because that would just further divide our country,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And it would hurt our Republican Party.”
Hutchinson, who spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention, said he wouldn’t back a potential 2024 Trump presidential bid.
Trump “will only define our party if we let him define our party,” he said.
The Orlando event marks Trump’s first public appearance since leaving office. Since then, and with no social media platform, he has mostly maintained a low profile, though he conducted a series of interviews with conservative media outlets following radio host Rush Limbaugh’s death.
The address would also come just weeks after the Senate acquitted Trump in his second impeachment trial. Seven Republicans joined the entirety of the Democratic caucus to convict him, but the vote did not reach the needed two-thirds majority to secure a conviction.
Accused of inciting the mob that rioted at the Capitol last month, Trump took aim at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after the trial for condemning his conduct — though McConnell voted to acquit the former president.
“Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First,” Trump said in that statement criticizing McConnell. “We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership.”
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said he thinks Trump’s influence on the party moving forward will be “very little if none at all.”
“You know this is a president who lost the House, the Senate, the White House in four years,” Hurd said. “I think the last person to do that was Herbert Hoover. And that was in the Great Depression.”
Hurd said Republicans “have an opportunity” to win over new voters “but we can’t do that if we’re talking about the lies of an election that went wrong or succumbing to conspiracy theories,” he said.
But Trump largely remains a popular figure with the Republican base and many of the GOP’s most prominent members of Congress.
House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., on Sunday downplayed Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riot during an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” Scalise, who recently met with the former president at Mar-a-Lago, told “This Week” that “there’s a lot of blame to go around” for the attack.