A new book casting unflattering light on Donald Trump’s last weeks as president offers an unedifying account of an alleged conversation in which Mr Trump threatened to start his own party in revenge for the Republicans’ failure to keep him in office.
In Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, due for release on 16 November, ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl describes an acrimonious call between the outgoing president and Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Ronna McDaniel in which Mr Trump told her exactly what he thought of the organisation she leads.
In what Mr Karl calls “a very unpleasant conversation”, Mr Trump allegedly told her “I’m done. I’m starting my own party.” Ms McDaniel protested that if he did, the GOP would “lose forever” – a diagnosis Mr Trump shared.
“Exactly. You lose forever without me. I don’t care. This is what Republicans deserve for not sticking up for me.”
According to Mr Karl, Ms McDaniel pointed out Mr Trump that by burning his bridges with the GOP, he would in fact damage his own future. “This isn’t what the people who depended on you deserve, the people who believed in you,” McDaniel reportedly told him. “You’ll ruin your legacy. You’ll be done.”
Mr Trump would go on to rule-out starting his own party, telling the CPAC conference in March this year that reports he was planning to do so were “fake news”.
“Wouldn’t that be brilliant?” he mused to the crowd. “Let’s start a new party so we can divide our vote and never win. We have the Republican Party. It’s going to unite and be stronger than ever before.”
He made these remarks after the party’s senators had overwhelmingly voted against impeaching him for his part in inciting the 6 January attack on the Capitol, and at a point where it was clear almost all mainstream Republicans would at least avoid challenging the idea that Mr Trump was robbed of the presidency via fraudulent means.
Neither of these things was entirely assured at the moment he left the presidency on 20 January, at which point his second impeachment trial was still underway.
Two days before the Senate acquitted him with only seven Republicans voting to convict, Reuters reported that “dozens” of former GOP officials were in talks to form an anti-Trump centre-right party of their own. While there is no sign of that effort coming to fruition, other anti-Trump Republicans are taking steps to explore their options. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, for instance, has launched a pro-democracy campaign group, Country F1rst, which may be a prelude to future campaigns
Ms McDaniel has called Mr Karl’s reporting of the conversation “false”, telling ABC News: “I have never threatened president Trump with anything. He and I have a great relationship.” Mr Trump, who spoke to Mr Karl as part of his research for the book, gave a characteristically vicious denial of his own.
“ABC Non News and 3rd rate reporter Jonathan Karl have been writing fake news about me from the beginning of my political career. Just look at what has now been revealed about the Russia, Russia, Russia hoax. It was a made up and totally fabricated scam and the lamestream media knew it. It just never ends!”
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