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Mike Pence declined CPAC’s invitation to speak at this year’s conference

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Former Vice President Mike Pence declined an invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this week, CPAC Communications Director Ian Walters confirmed to this reporter Monday.

“We invited him and he did not take us up on the invitation,” Walters said, adding that this is the first time in 18 years that Pence will not speak at CPAC.

“I do know that he has been speaking at CPAC for a long time. My recollection is the first time was in 2003 when he was a House member,” Walters said.

“There’s a great deal of affection for him among grassroots conservative activists,” Walters added.

In an interview with USA Today, CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp expressed his regrets that Pence will not be in attendance.

“His conservative record is well respected, and conservatives want to hear his take on the current threats posed by socialism and this radicalized Democrat party,” Schlapp told USA Today, adding that it’s a “mistake” for Pence to not speak at the conference.

Pence has regularly spoken at the conference in previous years, however, a source told CNN that the former vice president is looking to stay under the radar for six months.

A Pence aide told Fox News Sunday that the former vice president has been intentionally keeping a low profile, focusing on family and his new charity partnerships.

The conference begins Thursday in Orlando, Fl, and it has has been labeled one of the year’s most important conservative political gatherings.

The conference will end Sunday, with former President Trump scheduled to give the closing remarks in his first public appearance since leaving the White House.

Sources familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill that the former president will speak about the future of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. He is also expected to condemn President Biden’s immigration platform.

Fox News reported that Pence is still harboring “bitterness” toward Trump after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol building, according to members of Pence’s team.

However, Walters did not comment on if Pence’s decision to not attend the conference had anything to do with Trump’s attendance.

“That’s really more of a question for Pence’s side to answer. I’m not sure what their thinking is. I’m not directly in touch with anybody in his office so anything I would say would be speculative,” Walters said.

Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy

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Biden frees Venezuelan President Maduro’s drug dealing relatives in prisoner swap

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President Biden freed two of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s relatives Saturday in exchange for seven jailed Americans. The two nephews of Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, had been convicted in the United States for drug dealing and sentenced to 18 years in prison, according to the BBC.

According to the report, the swap was in exchange for five American oil executives. Those Americans were “exchanged for two of Mr Maduro’s wife’s nephews, who were serving 18-year sentences in the US on drug charges,” the officials told the BBC. Maduro’s nephews were convicted under the Trump administration and the Venezuelan government claims that they were “unjustly” jailed in the United States.

In a statement from the White House Saturday, Biden said the American’s were  “wrongfully detained.”  He said the American’s  would soon be reunited with their relatives, according to reports.

“Today, we celebrate that seven families will be whole once more. To all the families who are still suffering and separated from their loved ones who are wrongfully detained – know that we remain dedicated to securing their release,” the Biden statement added.

Meanwhile, 13 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, requesting more information on “the intelligence report” that alleges Maduro is emptying his prisons and allowing them to head to the United States in the caravans that crossing the porous border.

The letter states that the report warns Border Patrol agents to be on the look-out for “violent criminals from Venezuela among the migrant caravans heading towards the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“It has been widely reported that the Venezuelan regime, under the control of Nicolás Maduro Moros, is deliberately releasing violent prisoners early, including inmates convicted of ‘murder, rape, and extortion,’ and pushing them to join caravans heading to the United States,” the letter states.

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC.

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