Look like starting his own political party was a little too pricey for the billionaire former president. Go figure.
Former President Donald Trump is an incredible scientific specimen worthy of research and — when the time comes — neurological preservation. After all, how else will we unlock the hidden medical secrets that have enabled the man to survive more than 70 years and counting, fueled almost entirely by ego and greed? It’s as if some bizarre form of photosynthesis grants this man the energy he needs to make it through the day, simply by loving his fortune only slightly less than he loves himself. Surely this is worthy of investigation!
Take, for instance, a newly public anecdote from ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl’s forthcoming book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show. The excerpt describes one of the former president’s last attempted acts in office — and how it all collapsed shortly thereafter. All the classic Trumpian elements are there: galaxy-sized ego, gleeful threats of collateral damage against the hands that feed him, and above all else, an absolutely shameless unwillingness to follow through on any of his bravado once faced with the actual work it would entail.
The date: Jan. 20.
The scene: Air Force One
The players: Donald Trump, on his last ride as president. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, offering a perfunctory farewell message.
“Donald Trump was in no mood for small talk or nostalgic goodbyes,” Karl claims in the book, citing two sources with knowledge of the conversation. “He got right to the point. He told her he was leaving the Republican Party and would be creating his own political party. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., was also on the phone. The younger Trump had been relentlessly denigrating the RNC for being insufficiently loyal to Trump. In fact, at the Jan. 6 rally before the Capitol riot, the younger Trump all but declared that the old Republican Party didn’t exist anymore.”
Warned by McDaniel that defection would leave the GOP essentially gutted, Trump allegedly told his onetime political enabler: “You lose forever without me. I don’t care.”
According to Karl and his sources, this wasn’t simply an idle threat. This was Trump laying down his marker and notifying the chief of the Republican Party infrastructure of his impending departure.
At this point, it’s worth pointing out that more than just about anyone else in the country (Andrew Yang, I’m lookin’ at you here), Trump was — and remains — in the essentially exclusive position to actually launch a third party with real electoral potential. At least, he could, if it weren’t so darn expensive and labor-intensive. Because, as Karl reports:
“McDaniel and her leadership team made it clear that if Trump left, the party would immediately stop paying legal bills incurred during post-election challenges. But, more significant, the RNC threatened to render Trump’s most valuable political asset worthless.” That would be the “list of the email addresses of 40 million Trump supporters,” which Trump would rent to other Republican candidates at a “steep cost.” The list was estimated to be worth as much as $100 million by party insiders — but if Trump left the GOP to start his own party, the cash flow from renting out the list would stop.
Put another way: If Trump really wanted to launch his own political party — which, again, he very well could have done! — he’d have to actually do the work, and also pay for the dang thing himself. According to Karl, the former president took just five whole days to entirely back off on his threat to the RNC.
In part, Trump’s decision not to go it alone makes a degree of sense. Why bother reinventing the MAGA wheel when his takeover of the Republican Party from the inside out is already virtually absolute? It’s not like his decision to stick with the GOP has hurt his political prospects in any way — if anything, he’s only tightened his grip on the party since leaving office, serving as a combination kingmaker-cum-spoiler while he dangles the prospect of a second run for the White House in front of everyone from the GOP’s MAGA-addled base to its big-dollar donors.
Both Trump and McDaniel have denied Karl’s claim, with McDaniel insisting to ABC News that “I have never threatened President Trump with anything.”
“He and I have a great relationship,” she added, which, c’mon. I know the GOP is predicated on believing the general public isn’t very smart, but we’re not that dumb, y’know?
Regardless, Karl’s reporting rings particularly true given everything we know about Trump and his ego-fueled mania. And who knows — should Trump feel insufficiently supported by the GOP as the 2024 presidential race draws near, there’s always time for him to re-up his threat to splinter off and go it alone. He’s just gonna have to reconcile himself to the fact that, if he does this, for the first time in his life, he’ll have to actually create something out of nothing, instead of coasting in someone else’s wake.