Trump allies form shadow government, aware of 2016 chaos


A group of former aides to Donald Trump are preparing a turnkey administration for his return to the White House, as the embattled former president hints he is preparing to make a third run for the nation’s highest office.

America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit run by Linda McMahon, a former Trump cabinet member and head of World Wrestling Entertainment, has essentially put together a shadow government for Trump — or, potentially, any other Republican who takes the White House to the fore. Democrats in 2024.

The organization, based just steps from the White House, is also developing policy proposals for a Republican-controlled house expected in November. The administration-in-waiting includes potential cabinet members, senior White House officials and even politicians appointed to federal agencies.

Trump is due to headline an America First summit in Washington on July 26, his first return to the capital since leaving for Florida the morning of President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The former president has repeatedly suggested he is planning another run for the White House, even as polls show Republican voters increasingly agitated for a new flag bearer.

He could announce another run for the White House at any time, according to people familiar with discussions within his team. There are two conflicting thought patterns among those within its orbit.

Some favor an immediate announcement, to put a marker against potential rivals, including Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. The announcement of his candidacy could also draw attention to damaging revelations from the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, uprising that Trump unleashed on the United States Capitol.

But others want to delay a formal announcement, allowing Trump to continue fundraising largely unhindered by federal regulations, hold rallies and postpone staffing decisions necessitated by a full campaign.

Names in the first mix for possible roles if Trump succeeds in another run for the White House, according to people familiar with the discussions, include: former acting director of national intelligence Ric Grenell or former security adviser National Robert O’Brien for Secretary of State; Kellyanne Conway or Brooke Rollins for chief of staff; John Ratcliffe for Attorney General or Secretary of Defense; Chad Wolf for Secretary of Homeland Security; and former National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow for Secretary of the Treasury.

“It seems the only people who want President Trump more than the American people are the media who find any excuse to publish stories based on rumors and gossip. President Trump loves America and remains committed to advancing his America First agenda through 2022 and beyond,” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said in response to a request for comment on this story.

A possible third White House bid is taking shape as the Capitol insurrection hearings deliver new revelations about Trump’s conduct and again urge Republicans to seek an alternative to him.

And in recent weeks, Trump and billionaire Elon Musk, who has suggested he might vote Republican in the future and become more politically active, have engaged in a war of words.

The world’s richest man recently said he would favor DeSantis in a 2024 presidential race. Musk also said Trump was too old to be president again, there was ‘too much drama’ during his administration and called on Democrats to clamp down on political attacks on the former president so that he does not run again.

While America First’s work organizing a shadow government seems premature, as Republicans won’t even start voting in the presidential primaries for a year and a half, it’s meant to help Trump or another GOP candidate avoid missteps. of his first presidential transition, when the candidate and his team were caught off guard by his victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

A chaotic two-month struggle ensued to muster a White House staff and fill roles in government agencies. Significant vacancies remained in the administration for much of Trump’s tenure as president.

“Our side has always been woefully ill-prepared when it comes to governing and leading,” Rollins, the group’s chairman and CEO and former director of Trump’s White House Domestic Policy Council, said in an interview. .

“One of the main goals of America First Policy Institute was that this never happen again,” she said. “So whether the next president’s name is Donald J. Trump or the next president has a different name, we’ll be there ready to help and we’ve already begun preparations for that time.”

Last month, the organization announced that it had hired Michael Rigas, the former acting director of Trump’s Office of Personnel Management, in a role similar to leading human resources for the federal government. His portfolio at America First includes crafting a blueprint for the next Republican president to use to determine day one executive actions and agency staffing.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sits on the group’s board of directors. Gingrich, known for the Republican “Contract with America” ​​plan that is credited with helping the party gain control of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections, will have an onstage discussion with the minority leader in the House Kevin McCarthy just before Trump speaks on July 26.

The policies and issues the organization works on include inflation and energy, finishing Trump’s wall on the southern border as well as critical race theory.

America First’s staff is made up of nine former Trump cabinet officials, 17 former senior White House officials, 35 former senior administration officials and three former governors, including Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal.

The group is organized as a non-profit research institute and is not required to disclose its donors. Created last year with the help of unidentified donors, it started with 15 people and now has more than 150 people on its payroll with a current operating budget of $25 million, according to Rollins.

The group has 28,000 individual donors so far, Rollins said, and aims to have an operating budget of $30 million next year.

Save America, Trump’s leadership political action committee, gave America First $1 million in June 2021, among the PAC’s largest donations. He hosted a fundraiser for the group in November at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Rollins said Trump was “all inclusive” in the group, “has been extremely supportive from day one” and that there is an open line of communication between the nonprofit’s leadership and the team at Trump.

“But again, it’s so much more than this relationship,” Rollins said. “It’s really about the next round of governors, congressmen and senators and the new state legislatures on January 23. And the new school board members who are being elected across the country.

Still, with Republicans heavily favored to take the House in November, the party’s chances of securing a majority in the U.S. Senate are less certain, largely due to Trump’s elevation of candidates who may struggle. to win over voters in statewide races.

And while Biden’s declining popularity is a drag on Democratic candidates, a July 12 New York Times/Siena College poll showed he would lead Trump 44% to 41% in a potential rematch in 2024.

This week, Biden expressed confidence that he would win if they were to face each other again. He has said he plans to run for office, a wording that leaves open the possibility that he may not.

The Times/Siena College poll found that 64% of Democrats would prefer Biden, who is 79, not to run for a second term.

“I’m not predicting,” Biden said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 television after being asked if he expected another run against the former president. “But I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

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