The US Republican divisions over Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial became clearer on Sunday, as the former president spent his first weekend taking revenge on those he said betrayed him.
Reacting to Joe Biden’s electoral defeat, four days after leaving the White House, Trump has continued to drop hints of the creation of a new party, a threat some see as a gamble to keep hesitant senators in the process. file before the opening of his trial on February 8th.
Congressional Democrats can’t wait to get started on the agenda of the new president—but their attempt to clean up the mess the last one left behind is threatening to delay that work before it even begins.
Democrats will send the only article of impeachment to the Senate for a reading on Monday night. He alleges incitement to insurgency, in connection with the January 6th riot at the United States Capitol which left five dead, including a police officer.
Trump has told some people close to him that if Republican lawmakers moved to bar him from holding office ever again—a potential outcome of the impeachment trial—he could make their lives miserable by helping to establish a new right-wing party that could siphon off Republican voters in elections, according to two individuals with knowledge of his private remarks in recent days. Trump has also this month discussed the prospects of supporting primary challengers and campaigning against elected Republicans who he feels were insufficiently loyal to him during his failed crusade to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“They better not do this to me,” Trump uttered during some of the final moments of his presidency, according to one of the sources who heard him say it. The source added that the now-former president was also complaining about how dumb and shortsighted Republicans would have to be to betray and get rid of their most popular and—to Trump—most successful political figure.
It’s a scenario that some prominent Republicans actively fear could split the party and benefit their progressive adversaries.
“Well, I think a third-party movement would destroy conservatism,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close Trump ally who is still advising the ex-president, told reporters on Thursday. “I think if there was an effort to break away and form a new party, that would be a dream scenario for liberal Democrats, because if we do that, that’s the end of effectively having conservative voices. I think Trump is going to be a major voice in the Republican Party; the best thing for him and us is to field a good team in 2022 and mount a comeback.”
But for now, the president is intently monitoring the situation from his new home base in the Sunshine State, taking the temperature on who has his back, and on which players in the GOP—for which he remains the standard bearer—are trying to expel him.
By the time Trump had settled into his private Florida club Mar-a-Lago on the first half-day of the Biden presidency, the former Republican president was already working the phones, asking confidants and longtime advisers how they thought his new legal team should take shape, and which Republicans on Capitol Hill could be quietly working to forestall his political comeback, according to two people familiar with the phone calls.
By Wednesday evening, Trump had landed on at least one name—but it wasn’t one of his go-to bomb-throwers like Rudy Giuliani. It was Butch Bowers, a South Carolina-based lawyer who had advised other GOP figures such as Mark Sanford, including when the former governor dealt with his own impeachment drive at the hands of South Carolina’s House way back in the early Obama era. Bowers is also a veteran of George W. Bush’s Department of Justice. Graham helped arrange Trump and Bowers.
Bowers did not respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon, but some of his former conservative clients—even some who are disgusted by Trump—speak highly of him.