“This F–ks Mike Pompeo. This F–ks Mike Pence”: Still Deep in 2020 Election Denial, Trump Is Already Freezing the 2024 GOP Field
In private Donald Trump has told Republicans he’ll never acknowledge Joe Biden as a legitimate president. “I’m never going to concede,” he said recently, according to a person briefed on the conversation. But next week the machinery of American democracy will keep turning no matter what Trump does or does not do. On December 14, members of the Electoral College are slated to cast votes for president based on their states’ certified election results. By all accounts, this historically procedural step should doom whatever remains of Trump’s bogus legal crusade to overturn the election. “It’s over,” a prominent Republican close to the White House told me.
As next week’s Electoral College deadline approaches, Trumpworld has cleaved into opposing camps: one that clings to the president’s magical thinking that the election isn’t over—“#OVERTURN,” he tweeted Wednesday—and another that is simply moving on. “There was never any hope. They didn’t have the manpower to actually challenge the results. They just threw shit around and expected it to stick,” the prominent Republican told me, echoing the view shared by realists.
Chief among the denialists is Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani’s hospitalization with COVID-19 just days after he crisscrossed the country shaking hands and hugging people—often without a mask—has become something of a coda to Trump’s reckless attacks on democracy. According to a person close to Giuliani, the 76-year-old former New York mayor resisted going to the hospital because he knew how terrible the optics of contracting COVID would look. “He was trying to pretend it was just the flu,” the source said. (Yesterday Giuliani confirmed to WABC radio that while he tried to convince others he didn’t need to be admitted, he was unable to do so.) According to two Republicans close to the White House, Giuliani’s symptoms were serious enough to necessitate treatment. A third source, close to Giuliani, said he required supplemental oxygen and received the experimental Regeneron drug. “It was pretty grave,” a campaign adviser told me. “His lungs were bothering him a lot.” Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment.
With Trump’s other leading election lawyer, Jenna Ellis, also sidelined with COVID, Trumpworld realists are planning their next acts. On Monday, Page Six reported that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are in the process of purchasing a $30 million plot of land on Miami’s Indian Creek Island. The ultra-exclusive neighborhood is also known as the “Billionaire’s Bunker” because of its extreme security measures (it has its own 13-member police force for 29 homes). The soon-to-be former first couple’s potential neighbors include hedge fund billionaire Eddie Lampert and financier Carl Icahn.
Republicans close to the Trumps told me the Florida land purchase signals that Ivanka has serious political ambitions. Florida is ground zero for the MAGA base, and members of Trumpworld I spoke with speculated that Ivanka intends to run for president herself, perhaps using a Florida governorship as a springboard. (Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, would be up for reelection in 2022 and is also a rumored 2024 presidential candidate.) “She wants to run, but she can’t run until she holds elected office, because she’s not her father,” the Trump campaign adviser told me. “At the end of the day, Ivanka was only an employee at the Trump Organization.”
Trump’s two sons are mulling their options as well. It’s widely believed Eric Trump will remain in New York to work on real estate projects (his wife, Lara Trump, is still said to be eyeing a North Carolina Senate run in 2022). According to a source close to the family, Donald Trump Jr. has talked about purchasing a home in Montana to use as his political base. Business Insider reported last week that Don Jr., an avid hunter and gun owner, has expressed interest in replacing Wayne LaPierre as head of the scandal-plagued National Rifle Association. (Don Jr. tweeted he wasn’t pursuing LaPierre’s job.)
Even Trump is acting like the end is near. The biggest sign that he knows he lost the election is his interest in a 2024 run. According to a Republican operative, members of the Trump campaign have told GOP operatives that Trump is “100% all in” on a 2024 run. “This fucks Mike Pompeo. This fucks Mike Pence. How do you raise money if Trump is running?” the operative told me. “It’s also causing chaos with all the operatives. If you’re a part of Trumpworld, do you still work for him? We all know he could drop out at any moment and he’d be fine. No one knows what to do.”
Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller dismissed talk of a 2024 run. He said Trump remains committed to preventing Biden from being sworn in. “We’re still fighting the 2020 recount,” he said. “Trump is very focused on getting it right.”
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