Trumpworld smells a rat. Has someone in his inner circle flipped?

Trumpworld is ‘abuzz’ with rumours that a close aide to the former president has ‘flipped’, according to reports. Richard Hall looks at the possible candidates.

Thursday 11 August 2022 18:35 BST
Trump is facing multiple investigations by federal and state authorities
Trump is facing multiple investigations by federal and state authorities (AP)
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With each passing day, it becomes harder for a casual observer to distinguish between the post-presidential life of Donald Trump and that of late-season Tony Soprano.

In the past week alone, Mr Trump’s home has been searched by the FBI as part of an investigation into his handling of classified documents, he pled the Fifth Amendment in a separate case into his business dealings in New York, and now, according to several reports, he is trying to flush out a rat in his inner circle.

“Trumpworld is abuzz with speculation about which close aide or aides has ‘flipped’ and provided additional sensitive information to the FBI about what former President Trump was keeping at Mar-a-Lago,” Axios reported this morning, citing several sources.

A story in The Wall Street Journal reported that “someone familiar with the stored papers” tipped off investigators that there may be more classified documents at the resort.

Newsweek, meanwhile, cites two senior government sources claiming that the FBI’s warrant to search Mar-a-Lago was based on information from a confidential human source “who was able to identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding.”

Mr Trump’s opponents are making the most of the rumours. The professional Trump-tormentors at the Lincoln Project cut an ad goading the former president about the possible collaborators in his midst.

“Who was it Donald? Who gave you up to the feds?” it begins, before running through a list of possible family members and associates who may have turned coat.

“Donald Trump is paranoid for a reason; they really are out to get him,” Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson told The Independent.

“His own staff has learned the lessons that Trump is a stranger to loyalty or honour. They’re damned if they cooperate, and damned if they don’t, but since going to prison rarely appeals to his followers, at least some of them are singing like birds,” he added.

The rumours have stirred the passions of Mr Trump’s hotheaded “capo”, his very own Paulie Walnuts, Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“We now know that there was an FBI informant at Mar-a-Lago, who is that and how many other FBI informants are around President Trump on a daily basis, working at his clubs, working at Mar-a-Lago, or maybe Bedminster, or on his staff?” Ms Greene asked.

“These are the things I want to know, because they’re traitors, they are traitors and they’re helping the deep state,” she said. “These are the enemies within, these are the real enemies, and they are there to purposely create something against President Trump that is not there.”

Weeding out the enemies within has long been a pastime of Mr Trump’s. Even before he became president he was fond of promoting a conspiracy theory that the deep state was out to get him. While in office, the turnover in his top advisers was 92 per cent heading into his last year, many of which were firings or resignations under pressure.

“Leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” then-President Trump wrote on Twitter in 2018.

When it comes to omertà, Mr Trump has practised what he preached. He pled the Fifth more than 440 times during a deposition in New York by investigators with state attorney general Letitia James.

This time around, the stakes are even higher. Availed of the protections of his office, Mr Trump is currently facing multiple investigations in multiple states for multiple alleged offences. The list of potential flippers and leakers has grown exponentially, as have the consequences.

The House committee investigating the 6 January attack has presented a parade of former Trump White House officials who have testified to his role in encouraging the events of that day – from former attorney general William Barr to former aide Cassidy Hutchinson.

In all those cases, though, Mr Trump has been able to fight back publicly. He called Mr Barr "weak and frightened" following his testimony, and Ms Hutchinson “bad news!”

This time, crucially, it’s not a leaker that is bothering Mr Trump, but an informant — someone who could not just embarrass the former president, but put him in genuine legal peril.

So, who are the potential candidates?

Mark Meadows, Mr Trump’s former chief of staff, is frequently suggested among the names of possible collaborators.

CNN recently reported that Mr Trump had been advised to break off contact with Mr Meadows, and that the former president ignored that advice. Mr Meadows is thought to be high up on the list of Trump advisers who may face legal peril relating to the events of the 6 January uprising.

“The reason [Meadows] is valuable is also the reason he is in jeopardy: He was basically at Trump’s right hand throughout all these exercises and participated in key meetings and phone calls," the former White House attorney Ty Cobb told CNN.

Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner has also singled out Mr Meadows as a potential flipper.

“Do you really think Mark Meadows is just going to sit quietly by and take the fall for Donald Trump? Maybe just volunteer to dive under the bus? No,” Mr Kirschner said in a video posted to YouTube last month.

“He’s going to cut his losses. He’s going to cooperate. He’s going to flip. He’s going to turn state’s evidence. He’s going to rat Trump out. He’s going to snitch,” he added.

Mr Wilson, of the Lincoln Project, believes it might be someone much closer to Mr Trump, however.

“My money is on Jared Kushner [Trump’s son-in law and former adviser]. He’s looking for the exits,” he said.

There is another, less Shakespearean, scenario. Some of the most damning testimony from the 6 January hearings came not from high-profile White House advisers, but from relatively junior staffers and aides who happened to be in the room when key events took place.

It was Ms Hutchinson, a former aide to Mr Meadows, who revealed the most shocking details about her boss and Mr Trump’s movements on the day. And Sarah Matthews, former White House deputy press secretary, who testified that Mr Trump was “pouring gasoline on the fire by encouraging the mob to march on the Capitol”.

If someone in Mr Trump’s orbit is providing information to authorities, it may well be someone whose name he doesn’t even know.

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