- GOP lawmakers and supporters flocked to the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend.
- CPAC this year was marked by an allegiance to Trump and an expectation that he will remain influential.
- Here are the most striking — and the weirdest — moments of the four-day event.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
GOP lawmakers and supporters convened for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, where they praised former President Donald Trump, mocked masks, and promoted illegitimate claims of voter fraud.
Some, like Donald Trump Jr., used his stage power to rally the crowd against Big Tech and the mainstream media. Among his targets was Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House who voted to impeach Trump last month.
The conference, running from February 25 to 28, teemed with top GOP leaders from all over the United States, most of whom largely stood by the twice-impeached former president.
CPAC marks Trump's first public appearance since leaving office, as he was the headlining guest of the conference.
Here are some of the most striking moments of this year's CPAC:
Standing at more than 6 feet tall, the statue was unveiled late Thursday. It's a golden structure resembling Trump, with a suit jacket, red tie American-flag shorts, and flip-flops.
Attendees posed with and took pictures of the statue.
The artist behind it, Tommy Zegan, said he spent six months making the statue in Mexico.
"He's wearing a business suit because he's a businessman. The red tie represents the Republican party, the red white and blue shorts represent the fact that he's a patriot," Zegan told the New York Post.
Zegan said he hopes to sell it for more than $1 million or submit it to a Trump presidential library in the future.And Trump merch for sale everywhere.
Trump, despite leaving office more than a month ago with the inauguration of President Joe Biden, was a focal point of the GOP conference.
Attendees came dressed in Trump gear, and speakers alluded to or explicitly referred to his hold on the Republican party.
"Let me tell you right now, Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday to a crowd.
Trump, for his part, has embraced the idea that he maintains a strong influence in the party. He's floated several possibilities to remain relevant in politics, such as a potential 2024 presidential run and the formation of a political action committee. His support from top GOP lawmakers indicates that Trump, while out of office, still maintains deep influence in GOP politics.Gov. Kristi Noem defended coronavirus handling in South Dakota.
Noem has frequently flouted coronavirus guidelines that have since become regular and expected in dozens of states across the country.
On Saturday, she slammed Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading coronavirus expert, while defending her own policies that go against guidelines from health officials.
"I don't know if you agree with me, but Dr. Fauci is wrong a lot," Noem said, receiving applause from the CPAC crowd.
For months, Noem has refused to issue a statewide mask mandate in South Dakota, even as the state earned a reputation as one of the 10 most dangerous when its COVID test positivity rate neared 60% in November.
Convicted felon Stone danced outside the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida.
Forgiato Blow was at the time rapping about Trump winning the election, which did not happen.
The two were standing by and dancing near a truck featuring a giant image of Trump in the style of "Rambo" with an assault weapon.And he signed autographs.
Stone also posed for pics with onlookers and Trump supporters.
Conference organizers did not let him to the event since he didn't have a ticket.
Trump in December pardoned Stone, who was found guilty of seven felonies last year in relation to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.Mask-less attendees made up the crowd.
Though many attendees wore masks, many others did not.
And when a CPAC organizer urged the audience to wear a mask, she was met with resistance.
"We are in a private facility and we want to be respectful of the ordinances that they have as their private property, so please, everyone when you're in the ballroom, when you're seated, you should still be wearing a mask," said CPAC organizer Carly Conley.
Attendees shouted "freedom" and booed at the directive.
It's been almost a year since the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Since then, more than 28 million people in the United States have contracted the virus, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Of that, more than 500,000 Americans have died.
Many of the speakers who got on stage, which included a wide array of top GOP politicians, did not wear masks.
Mask-wearing for months has been one of the guidelines that various health agencies have touted as most effective for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in public spaces.Ted Cruz mocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Cruz appeared to make fun of Ocasio-Cortez for her response to the January 6 Capitol riot.
"I thought I was going to die," Ocasio-Cortez said after the insurrection.
"We're gathered at a time where the hard left, where the socialists control the levers of government, where they control the White House, where they control every executive branch, where they control both houses of Congress. Bernie is wearing mittens, and AOC is telling us she was murdered," Cruz said.
His remarks about her come just days after she raised millions for Texans who were suffering after a storm knocked out power.
During that storm, Cruz fled to Cancún.A woman advertises a book of Trump's tweets.
A woman walked around dressed as a giant book titled, "Just the Tweets," an advertisement for a book containing the former president's tweets from his first year in office.
Trump was banned from Twitter in January because of his potential to incite further violence following the deadly siege on the US Capitol, during which five people died.
The former president was infuriated when he learned he was ban. A senior administration official told Politico that Trump went "ballistic." Shortly after Twitter removed his @realDonaldTrump account, the president tweeted from the official @POTUS and @TeamTrump handles. But Twitter immediately deleted those posts as well.Trump hints at a second and third run for president.
Former President Trump began his closing remarks by asking a cheering crowd, "Do you miss me yet? Do you miss me?"
Trump, who was expected to speak on the unity of the GOP, said "For the next four years, the brave Republicans in this room will be at the heart of the effort to oppose the radical Democrats, the fake news media and their toxic cancel culture -- something new to our ears ... and I want you to know that I'm going to continue to fight right by your side."
"We're not starting new parties. You know, they kept saying, 'he's going to start a brand new party. We have the Republican. It's going to unite and be stronger than ever before. I am not starting a new party. That was fake news."
"Wouldn't that be brilliant? Let's start a new party. Let's divide our vote so that you can never win. No, we're not interested in that."
He spent most of his remarks railing against the Biden administration's immigration policies, executive orders, and COVID-19 response, particularly around vaccines and school reopenings.
"This alone should be reason enough for Democrats to suffer withering losses in the midterms and to lose the White House decisively four years from now," Trump said, setting off a chant of "USA, USA, USA."
"Actually, as you know, they just lost the white house," he added, likely referring to a possible 2024 run. "But who knows ... I might even decide to beat them for a third time."