Donald Trump directed one of his former political aides on a mission to reassure GOP senators that he doesn’t have any plans to form a third party that could siphon off Republican voters.
Brian Jack, who served as Trump’s political director during his time in the White House, portrayed his message to Republican lawmakers as they prepare for an impeachment trial against the former president next month.
‘The president wanted me to know, as well as a handful of others, that the president is a Republican, he is not starting a third party and that anything he would do politically in the future would be as a Republican,’ North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer told Politico of Trump. ‘The Republican Party is still overwhelmingly supportive of this president.’
The report indicated that Jack did not specifically mention impeachment during his calls, but wanted to make sure it was known that Trump is still a Republican.
The reassurance comes as reports revealed earlier this month that Trump planned to start and lead a third party – the Patriot Party – which would potentially launch several primary bids against anti-Trump Republicans.
Several Republicans have already signaled they intend to take the impeachment trial for alleged ‘incitement of insurrection’ seriously – many not saying which way they will vote when it comes time to decide whether to convict the former president.
Donald Trump is sending a message to Senate Republicans that he does not intend to start his own political party that could launch legitimate primary bids against them in 2022
The former president had Brian Jack (left), who served as his political director in the White House, reach out to Republican senators over the weekend to assure them Trump has no plans to move forward with branching off from the party and creating his own
The reassurance comes as the Senate prepares to start its trial. Pictured last night the House impeachment managers walked across the Capitol to deliver the article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate
Public breaks with the former president came after Republican Leader Mitch McConnell condemned Trump for riling up a crowd of supporters before they stormed the Capitol as Congress moved to certify the election for Joe Biden on January 6.
McConnell has still not said which way he plans to vote, indicating earlier this month that he is genuinely undecided.
Trump is supposedly not moving forward with his plans to create a new political party because he doesn’t believe that he will be impeached now that the vote has been delayed.
Reports reveal, however, that he could still put pressure on Republicans who oppose him with a shortlist of his own candidates for primaries.
Trump previously told people that the third-party threat gives him leverage to prevent Republican senators from voting to convict him during the Senate trial next month.
Some of the former president’s closest allies are still bashing the trial as unconstitutional, since Trump has already left office.
Senator Josh Hawley, a Trump ally who helped lead objections to the certification of President Joe Biden’s win in the Senate said: ‘This impeachment effort is, I think, blatantly unconstitutional. It’s a really, really, really dangerous precedent.’
Possibly the only three Republican senators who won’t be affected by threats of primary challengers in 2022 are Ohio’s Rob Portman, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr – all of whom are retiring.
Notably, Toomey has conceded that Trump committed impeachable offenses.
Democrats will need 17 Republicans to vote on their side to reach the two-thirds vote needed in the Senate to impeach and convict a president.
This would strip Trump of his post-presidency benefits – like Secret Service protection and a pension – and will ban him from seeking public office in the future.
In the 2022 midterm elections, 17 Republicans senators will face reelection – and three additional seats currently held by Republicans will open as Portman, Toomey and Burr retire.
Most of the seats are solidly Republicans – and the one most at risk is Burr’s seat in North Carolina, which Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump has floated running to fill in her home state.
The New York Times revealed in a Sunday evening tweet from one of their correspondents that ‘[i]n the last 24 hours, after floating through a few folks that he was considering creating a third-party as a way to keep Senate Rs in line ahead of impeachment, Trump has been talked out of that and is making clear to people he isn’t pursuing it, per ppl familiar w his thinking.’
According to the Times reporter Maggie Haberman, the sources also said Trump believes there are ‘fewer votes to convict than there would have been if the vote had been held almost immediately after Jan. 6’.
‘There’s also the fact that threatening a third party while simultaneously threatening primaries makes no sense, which some folks gently pointed out to him,’ Haberman added.
New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman revealed in a tweet Sunday evening that Trump as been talked out of his plan to create the ‘Patriot Party’ as reports revealed the former president doesn’t think he will be impeached since the vote has been delayed
Since President Joe Biden took office, Trump has been ensconced at Mar-a-Lago, remaining publicly cryptic about his plans except to tell a reporter on Friday: ‘We’ll do something, but not just yet.’
But behind closed doors, Trump is already drafting an enemies list of Republicans who opposed his baseless claims of election fraud, instructing aids to prepare primary challenges against them, sources told the Washington Post.
The list is said to include Rep Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who broke party ranks and voted to impeach Trump over his role in the January 6 Capitol riot, Rep Tom Rice, a South Carolina Republican, is on the list for the same reason.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is also reportedly on the list after provoking Trump’s fury for refusing to back his challenge to the state’s election results, which were certified for Biden.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who has signaled that she is open to voting to convict Trump, is also said to be a Patriot Party primary target. Kemp and Murkowski are both up for re-election in 2022.
Trump advisers had previously said that they planned to recruit opposing primary candidates and commission polling as soon as next week in districts of targeted lawmakers.
Trump advisers had previously said that they planned to recruit opposing primary candidates and commission polling as soon as next week in districts of targeted lawmakers
To fund his splinter party, Trump has more than $70million in campaign cash on hand, the sources said.
Though the Trump campaign was essentially tapped out on Election Day, the campaign and several allied groups raised $207million between November 3 and November 23, fundraising on his push to challenged the election results.
The number is certainly higher by now, but hard numbers won’t be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission until January 31.
Much of Trump’s fate in the Senate trial will rest in the hands of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been cagey about his plans but publicly rebuked Trump after the Capitol riot, saying Trump had ‘provoked’ the mob.
McConnell will have to weigh the exodus of corporate donations away from the GOP in the wake of the riot, against the risk of infuriating and alienating Trump’s base by voting to convict.
A vote to convict could split the party, but some see it as the only way to unify Republicans, by banishing Trump to the sidelines and removing the source of the tensest divisions.
A conviction would also allow the Senate to bar Trump from holding federal office again, insuring Republicans would be able to put forward a slate of non-Trump candidates in their 2024 presidential party.
Reps Liz Cheney (left) and Tom Rice (right) are said to be on Trump’s enemies list of Republicans to target for primary challenges. Both voted to impeach him
Senator Lisa Murkowski (left) and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (right) are also on the list
Because conviction requires a two-third vote in the Senate, at least 16 Republicans would have to join the 50 Democrats to secure a conviction. Opening arguments in the trial will begin the week of February 8.
Meanwhile, the widening split in the Republican Party was on evidence on Saturday in Arizona, where state GOP officials voted to censure John McCain’s widow Cindy McCain and two other prominent Republicans who bashed Trump’s election fraud claims.
The censures of McCain, former Senator Jeff Flake and Governor Doug Ducey are merely symbolic.
But they show strong elements of the party are focused on enforcing loyalty to Trump, even in the wake of an election that saw Arizona inch away from its staunchly Republican roots.
Party activists also reelected controversial Chairwoman Kelli Ward, who has been one of Trump’s most unflinching supporters and among the most prolific promoters of his baseless allegations of election fraud.
The Arizona GOP’s combative focus has delighted Trump’s staunchest supporters and worried Republican insiders who have watched the party lose ground in the suburbs as the influence of its traditional conservative establishment has faded in favor of Trump.
Much of Trump’s fate in the Senate trial will rest in the hands of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been cagey about his plans
GOP activists in Arizona on Saturday reelected controversial state party Chairwoman Kelli Ward, who has been one of Trump’s most unflinching supporters
A growing electorate of young Latinos and newcomers bringing their more liberal politics from back home have further hurt the GOP.
‘This is a time for choosing for Republicans. Are we going to be the conservative party?’ said Kirk Adams, a former state House speaker and chief of staff to Ducey. ‘Or is this a party … that’s loyal to a single person?’
It’s a question of Republican identity that party officials and activists are facing across the country following Trump’s 2020 loss, and particularly after a mob of his supporters laid siege on the Capitol earlier this month.
Cindy McCain endorsed Biden and became a powerful surrogate for the Democrat following years of attacks by Trump on her husband.
After the censure vote, she wrote on Twitter that ‘it is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well.’
‘I’ll wear this as a badge of honor,’ she wrote.
Also after the vote, Flake tweeted a photo of him with McCain and Ducey at Biden’s inauguration and wrote: ‘Good company.’
Flake was one of the few congressional Republicans who was openly critical of Trump for failing to adhere to conservative values. He declined to run for reelection in 2018 and endorsed Biden in last year’s election.
‘If condoning the President’s behavior is required to stay in the Party’s good graces, I’m just fine being on the outs,’ Flake wrote on Twitter before and after the vote.
Ducey is being targeted for his restrictions on individuals and businesses to contain the spread of COVID-19. While it’s not mentioned in the proposed censure, he had a high-profile break with the president when he signed the certification of Biden´s victory.
‘These resolutions are of no consequence whatsoever and the people behind them have lost whatever little moral authority they may have once had,’ said Sara Mueller, Ducey’s political director.