Donald Trump was playing golf on Thursday at his Florida course as he readies for his return to the political fray with an eagerly-awaited speech at CPAC on Sunday.
As he took to the greens, in New York City prosecutors were beginning to comb through millions of pages of Trump’s tax returns.
Danny Frost, spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr, confirmed on Thursday that the tax returns had been received.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s accounting firm hand over the documents, which Vance has hoped for the past year and a half to obtain.
The former president has spent much of his time since leaving Washington on January 20 on the fairways.
Donald Trump on Thursday was seen playing golf at his West Palm Beach course, ahead of CPAC
Trump, who played more than 300 rounds of golf as president, has spent much of his time since leaving DC on the greens
Trump on Thursday played with a friend in a white baseball cap. On Sunday Trump will return to the political fray
Having played 300 rounds during his single term as president – his predecessor Barack Obama played 333 rounds in eight years – Trump has been a frequent sight on the Florida course after stepping down.
On Thursday he was spotted with a Secret Service bodyguard and an unnamed golfing partner.
The flag at his home, Mar-a-Lago, was flying at half staff on Thursday in memory of Rush Limbaugh, a Florida resident who died on February 17.
The former president had a meeting on Thursday afternoon, Politico reported, at which he announced that he wanted Corey Lewandowski to head his yet-unnamed Super PAC.
Trump gathered his top political lieutenants, including Donald Trump Jr., former campaign manager Bill Stepien, former deputy campaign manager Justin Clark, former campaign manager Brad Parscale, former White House social media director Dan Scavino and senior adviser Jason Miller. Alex Cannon, an attorney who has been advising the Trump team on the post-White House plans, was also present, the site reported.
Miller said the former president will announce more details about his political operation ‘in the coming weeks.’
‘MAGA supporters and candidates supporting President Trump’s America First agenda are going to be impressed with the political operation being built out here,’ Miller said. ‘We expect formal announcements of the full team in the coming weeks, which will include some very talented operatives not yet named.’
And down the road in Orlando, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC, was beginning.
The former president will headline the event with a Sunday afternoon keynote address.
The flag at Mar-a-Lago was flying at half-staff on Thursday in memory of local resident Rush Limbaugh, who died February 17
Trump on Thursday was wearing his trademark Make America Great Again baseball cap on the greens
With the theme for this year given as ‘America Uncanceled’, Trump – who was removed from social media after the January 6 riots – will deliver his comeback speech.
He is expected to draw distinctions with President Joe Biden, particularly when it comes to immigration.
Biden has come under sharp criticism in recent days for his decision to reopen shelters for migrant children, with critics pointing out that Trump was excoriated for keeping young migrants in cages at the same centers.
Trump will likely accuse Biden of encouraging a rush to the border with what the White House presents as a more humane immigration policy.
He is also expected to speak about the future of the Republican Party.
Axios reported that he hopes to present himself as the ‘presumptive 2024 nominee.’
The list of speakers announced so far certainly suggests that Trump is winning the war for the heart of the party.
Donald Trump Jr and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, will address the gathering, as will Trump’s allies including Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mike Pompeo and Rick Scott.
Donald Trump Jr, 43,will address CPAC, introduced by his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle
Donald Trump is pictured with his son. The pair are taking center stage at the Orlando gathering
Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republican Party, who accused Trump of a ‘disgraceful dereliction of duty’ after the January 6 insurrection, has not been invited, and nor have Senator Mitt Romney and Representative Liz Cheney – both of whom voted to impeach him.
Cheney said on Wednesday: ‘I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.’
McConnell, however, said on Thursday night he would ‘absolutely’ back Trump in the 2024 presidential race if he was the nominee of the Republican Party .
Trump referred to McConnell earlier this month as an ‘dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack’.
Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier asked McConnell if he believed Trump would win the party’s nomination in three years.
‘There’s no incumbent,’ McConnell said. ‘Should be a wide-open race and fun for you all to cover.’
Mike Pence, who Trump accused of failing him by refusing to overthrow the election, has declined an invitation to speak.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN ambassador, was also invited and declined, citing a scheduling conflict. She spoke out against Trump in a lengthy Politico piece earlier this month, then tried to make amends by visiting to Mar-a-Lago, but Trump refused to see her.
Trump, in addition to defining the list of invited speakers, has also set the tone for debate.
On Friday morning, panelists including Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, who enthusiastically backed Trump’s claims of election fraud, will lead a panel on ‘Protecting Elections: Why Judges & Media Refused to Look at the Evidence.’
On Sunday morning, ahead of Trump’s speech, speakers will discuss what they call the ‘Failed States’ of Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada – states won by Biden, where Trump failed to get the result overturned.
Anticipation of the speech came as Vance’s team in Manhattan began examining Trump’s tax records, ahead of a criminal grand jury investigation into his business dealings.
Vance has been looking into the Trump Organization’s financial affairs and taxes for years
The documents are protected by grand jury secrecy rules and are not expected to be made public.
Vance, a Democrat, is conducting a wide-ranging investigation that includes an examination of whether Trump or his businesses lied about the value of assets to gain favorable loan terms and tax benefits.
The district attorney is also scrutinizing hush-money payments paid to women on Trump’s behalf.
Vance’s office issued a subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, in August 2019 seeking eight years of his tax returns and related documents.
Trump’s lawyers immediately went to court to block its enforcement, first arguing that he was immune from being investigated while president.
When the Supreme Court rejected that argument 7-2 last July, Trump’s lawyers returned to a lower court and argued the subpoena was issued in bad faith, overly broad, might have been politically motivated and amounted to harassment.
An appellate court rejected that argument and the Supreme Court on Monday declined to intervene.
In a three-word statement after the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, Vance said only: ‘The work continues.’
Trump has called Vance’s investigation ‘a fishing expedition’ and ‘a continuation of the witch hunt — the greatest witch hunt in history.’
Vance’s subpoena sought from Mazars USA not only the final versions of Trump’s tax returns, but also draft versions of those returns and ‘any and all statements of financial condition, annual statements, periodic financial reports, and independent auditors’ reports’ held by the company.
Mazars did not object to the subpoena and, in a statement at the time, said it would ‘respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.’
The Mazars subpoena also sought engagement agreements that define the accountants’ role in creating the tax returns and financial statements; source documents providing the accountants with raw financial data; and work papers and communications between the firm and Trump representatives.
Those would include communications showing how the raw data was analyzed and treated in the preparation of the records.
The New York Times separately obtained years of Trump’s tax data and published stories last year detailing some of his finances, including that he paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2017 and no income tax in 11 of 18 years because of major losses.