Monday, May 17, 2021

Inside the ‘Lord of the Flies’ factionalism now plaguing Trumpland

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Recalling a recent fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago for one incumbent Republican, a Trump aide was incredulous that another had claimed to those in attendance that he was instrumental for arranging such gatherings — and, naturally, should be hired as a fundraising consultant for them.

“I don’t begrudge anyone for wanting to make money … but don’t be so brazen about it,” the aide said.

Several former campaign officials and top White House aides who’ve retained access to Trump — either through regular meetings at Mar-a-Lago or weekly phone calls — have launched their own ventures following the 2020 election. As they’ve tried to ingratiate themselves with new clients and donors, they have settled into different camps, each wary of the other.

Former campaign manager Bill Stepien teamed up with deputy campaign manager Justin Clark and adviser Nick Trainer to form a political consulting firm; former 2016 campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossie have been tasked with creating a new super PAC for the ex-president; former White House policy adviser Stephen Miller is in the midst of launching a new legal group; and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is working for the Conservative Partnership Institute, which has a donor summit planned in Palm Beach next week. Others like Sergio Gor, the former chief of staff for the Trump campaign’s finance committee, and Caroline Wren, another Trump fundraiser, have been working closely with Republican candidates in 2022 races.

“Trump is surrounded by people who are telling him ‘you need us,’ but they really need him,” said the person close to the former president.

Trump spokesperson Jason Miller, who is in regular contact with the former president and the aides working for him currently, disputed claims of friction inside Trump’s orbit. Instead, Miller said he’s never seen such harmony.

“Having been around Trump World for five years now, I would argue that here’s the least amount of ally competition or conflict at this point than I’ve ever seen,” he said. “The people who the president has kept in his orbit are all true believers who understand that he makes his own decisions, and we have very specific roles supporting him.”

Another former aide who is still in frequent contact with Trump’s advisers agreed that the skeleton political operation is “getting along.”

But the whisper campaigns and mudslinging have been noticed well beyond Trump’s immediate team of aides. Some of the former president’s most trusted external allies have personally urged him to dump his current squad, claiming that those he’s surrounded himself with are singularly focused on enriching themselves or too clumsy to be running a successful post-presidential operation.

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