He rose to fame painting Trump realism. He is doing just great with him gone.

It’s been 15 months since Donald Trump left office, but the artist who rose to MAGA fame with his realistic portrayals of the 45th president and the movement he leads says he’s thriving.

Jon McNaughton is, perhaps, the most divisive political artist alive. Depending upon your view, he is either a laughing stock of realism or one of the most important truth tellers to pick up paint and brush.

His depictions of Trump have ricocheted across the internet, earning him equal parts mockery and praise. They’ve also earned him fans in the top echelons of political and media power. McNaughton says Trump himself tried to buy one of his paintings (it was already purchased by a “collector” in Texas) and that Sean Hannity has bought between six and 10.

So it stood to reason that with Trump having left the White House, McNaughton would find himself in lean years. He had, after all, lost his muse.But in a wide-ranging recent interview with POLITICO, the artist says he’s never been busier. He said he sells between 10,000 to 20,000 different prints every year and his original pieces start at $12,000 and go up to $300,000.

Asked how fame has changed his life as a painter, he was succinct in his reply: “I just sell a lot more artwork.”

McNaughton’s post-Trump existence is, to a degree, an illustration of how the MAGA movement hasn’t receded with Trump out of office but, rather, morphed into something just as passionate but less centralized.

“There’s plenty of things to paint about, I’ve got my next seven or eight paintings planned and probably will do more in between,” he said. “And not many are Trump at this point, but that could change.”

McNaughton says a concept for a painting can percolate in his mind for up to a year or more and that, even with Trump at his club in Mar-a-Lago, there is a richness of topics from which to choose. He spends his free time scouring the Drudge Report and Twitter accounts of varying political ideologies to stay atop the news. He doesn’t watch Fox News often, he says, worrying that admitting as much may get him in trouble with his fan base. Instead, he tunes in to the BBC and Al Jazeera.

Among the post-presidential paintings that McNaughton has done include a piece called “Solitary Confinement” — that pictures a jailed man, head bowed, cast in ankle chains, a red MAGA hat on his head and the date of the November 2024 presidential election scratched against the wall.

“The idea of that painting came from when I was talking with [conspiracist filmmaker] Dinesh D’Souza,” he explained. “He kind of gave me the idea for the painting so I painted it.”

McNaughton first became famous in 2010 when his painting of “The Forgotten Man” — featuring Barack Obama stepping on the Constitution and all the former presidents standing behind him in front of the White House — went viral. He only did his first painting of Donald Trump after he had been elected. It was called “You Are Not Forgotten,” and it featured, among others, police officers, soldiers and veterans surrounding Trump, wearing his signature red tie.

Just like many Republicans half a decade ago, McNaughton wasn’t initially a Trump fan. He had originally liked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the 2016 primary, and only grew to appreciate Trump, he said, when he felt the then president got a raw deal from the press and his opponents.

“I was very cautious in my opinion about him, but over time a lot of people on the right feel like he was fighting for what we believed,” he said.

One turning point for McNaughton, 54, becoming a Trumpist painter was the Mueller investigation, which led him to paint “Expose the Truth.” The painting showed an angry-looking Trump grabbing former special counsel Robert Mueller by the tie and holding a magnifying glass close to his face. He said that was the moment when he “started to become more of a defender instead of just watching him.”

As a teenager, McNaughton moved with his family to Provo, Utah, where he still lives. He studied art on a scholarship at Brigham Young University. And just like many artists trying to survive, he initially went into a completely different field, selling mutual funds and doing financial planning. It was only in his early thirties that he became a landscape and religious painter full-time.

“I’m probably the most well known artist to come out of BYU, and that would probably make some angry if they heard that,” he said.

While contemporary art often is abstract, McNaughton’s is heavily realistic, with his figures highly rendered and almost looking a bit like stylized, fictional photographs. He said his inspirations were artists like Banksy, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. But his process is more structured than instinctual.

“I spend a lot of time conceptualizing what I want the image to be, I look for ideas that might seem a little bit more outrageous on the surface but yet they have serious undertones,” he explained. “[P]eople who don’t really go along with my way of thinking, they may laugh and they may get angry. So the artwork really creates a lot of different emotions in people so it starts with that. And from there, I’ll pose models, I build it up in stages and paintings can take anywhere from a week to two months to do.”

As a thematic matter, McNaughton says he paints from a posture of someone “not really trusting of authority.” He counts himself as a contrarian both in his paintings and his politics. Among other things, he questions the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines and is not vaccinated, argues that the Civil War was not just about slavery but also states’ rights, believes Trump was the real winner in 2020 but said there’s no evidence to concretely back him up, and is straddling the fence about which party has his sympathies in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“What Putin did in invading a sovereign country is obviously horrible,” he explained. “I definitely feel for the Ukrainian people, but on the other hand the west and Ukraine and NATO have been poking the bear for years now.”

He’s done sketches of both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin. But, in a reflection of the internal conflict he feels about the war, he had bigger artistic aspirations for the latter.

“I had an idea for a Putin painting where I was going to have him gripping a dove with an olive branch in one hand almost squeezing the death out of it, and then holding a human skull in the other hand and he has this kind of look that he has a black eye and he’s wondering what he wants to do,” McNaughton explained.

With creative impulses like these, it’s no surprise McNaughton has been hit with a torrent of criticism over the years. Stephen Colbert pointed out that on McNaughton’s website you could scroll across one famous painting to find figures called the “Liberal News Reporter,” “Satan” and “Mr. Hollywood.” Art critic Jerry Saltz called his pieces “visually dead as a doornail” and “typical propaganda art, drop-dead obvious in message.”

Befitting the era of polarization, however, McNaughton has also become celebrated and revered on the right. While he doesn’t take commissions, he said luminaries in the conservative media world sometimes approach him with ideas, including a producer for Hannity and D’Souza. This January, he said, he had a “somewhat private conversation” with Trump at a fundraiser in Texas.

“He didn’t know I was coming at the time but when I walked into the room and told him who I was, he lit up and he was happy to see me and we had a good conversation,” he recalled. “We talked a lot about [the art].”

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Australian prime minister concedes election defeat
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister conceded defeat after an election Saturday that could deliver a minority government. Scott Morrison…
‘Trump picked this fight’: Why heavyweight Republicans no longer fear Trump
They’re weary of the incessant conflicts. The inability to get past the 2020 election results. An endorsement strategy seemingly driven…
  • 1 день, 14 часов назад 27.05.2022Politics
    Australian prime minister concedes election defeat

    CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister conceded defeat after an election Saturday that could deliver a minority government.

    Scott Morrison acted quickly despite millions of votes yet to be counted because an Australian prime minister must attended a Tokyo summit on Tuesday with U.S., Japanese and Indian leaders.

    “I believe it’s very important that this country has certainty. I think it’s very important this country can move forward,” Morrison said.

    “And particularly over the course of this week with the important meetings that are being held, I think it’s vitally important there’s a very clear understanding about the government of this country,” he added.

    Opposition leader Anthony Albanese will be sworn in as prime minister after his Labor party clenched its first electoral win since 2007.

    Labor has promised more financial assistance and a robust social safety net as Australia grapples with the highest inflation since 2001 and soaring housing prices.

    The party also plans to increase minimal wages, and on the foreign policy front, it proposed to establish a Pacific defense school to train neighboring armies in response to China’s potential military presence on the Solomon Islands on Australia’s doorstep.

    It also wants to tackle climate change with a more ambitious 43 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

    Morrison’s Liberal party-led coalition was seeking a fourth three-year term. It holds the narrowest of majorities — 76 seats in the 151-member House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government.

    In early counting on Saturday, the coalition was on track to win 38 seats, Labor 71, seven were unaligned lawmakers and 23 were too close to call.

    Minor parties and independents appeared to be taking votes from the major parties, which increases the likelihood of a hung parliament and a minority government.

    Australia most recent hung parliaments were from 2010-13, and during World War II.

    A record proportion of postal votes because of the pandemic, which won’t be added to the count until Sunday, adds to the uncertainty in early counting.

    As well as campaigning against Labor, Morrison’s conservative Liberals fought off a new challenge from so-called teal independent candidates to key government lawmakers’ reelection in party strongholds.

    At least four Liberal lawmakers appeared to have lost their seats to teal independents including Liberal Party deputy leader Josh Frydenberg, who had been considered Morrison’s most likely successor.

    “What we have achieved here is extraordinary,” teal candidate and former foreign correspondent Zoe Daniels said in her victory speech. “Safe Liberal seat. Two-term incumbent. Independent,” she added.

    The teal independents are marketed as a greener shade than the Liberal Party’s traditional blue color and want stronger government action on reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions than either the government or Labor are proposing.

    The government’s Senate leader Simon Birmingham was concerned by big swings toward several teal candidates.

    “It is a clear problem that we are losing seats that are heartland seats, that have defined the Liberal Party for generations,” Birmingham said.

    “If we lose those seats — it is not certain that we will — but there is clearly a big movement against us and there is clearly a big message in it,” Birmingham added.

    Due to the pandemic, around half of Australia’s 17 million electors have voted early or applied for postal votes, which will likely slow the count.

    Voting is compulsory for adult citizens and 92 percent of registered voters cast ballots at the last election.

    Early polling for reasons of travel or work began two weeks ago and the Australian Electoral Commission will continue collecting postal votes for another two weeks.

    The government changed regulations on Friday to enable people recently infected with Covid-19 to vote over the phone.

    Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said more than 7,000 polling stations opened as planned and on time across Australia despite 15% of polling staff falling sick this week with Covid-19 and flu.

    Albanese said he had thought Morrison would have called the election last weekend because Australia’s prime minister is expected at a Tokyo summit on Tuesday with U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    “If we get a clear outcome today then whoever is prime minister will be on a plane to Tokyo on Monday, which isn’t ideal, I’ve got to say, immediately after a campaign,” Albanese said.

    Analysts have said that Morrison left the election until the latest date available to him to give himself more time to reduce Labor’s lead in opinion polls.

  • 1 день, 14 часов назад 27.05.2022Politics
    News The Buckshee

    One of Donald Trump’s most steadfast aides acknowledges in a new book that the president lost the 2020 election and says he was ill-advised by campaign staff and the election deniers who surrounded him.

    “Despite the mountains of money Trump had raised, his team simply failed to get the job done. A job that was doable and had a clear path, if followed,” Kellyanne Conway writes in her memoir, “Here’s the Deal.” “Rather than accepting responsibility for the loss, they played along and lent full-throated encouragement (privately, not on TV) when Trump kept insisting he won.”

    “The team had failed on November 3, and they failed again afterward. By not confronting the candidate with the grim reality of his situation, that the proof had not surfaced to support the claims, they denied him the evidence he sought and the respect he was due. Instead supplicant after sycophant after showman genuflected in front of the Resolute Desk and promised the president goods they could not deliver.”

    A Trump loyalist since taking over the reins of his 2016 presidential election and serving as his counselor in the White House, Conway’s admission of the ex-president’s electoral defeat is particularly notable, even if it amounts to stating out loud a well-established fact.

    Other top Trump aides have acknowledged the same in their books, including former Attorney General Bill Barr and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. But those were written by disaffected Trumpers who have since warned about the perils of Trump running for office again. Conway is still in Trump’s inner orbit and would be on the shortlist of individuals poised to advise a future presidential campaign, should Trump choose to run again. She also continues to speak regularly with Trump and is commonly spotted at Mar-a-Lago.

    Her acknowledgment of a Trump “loss” appears to be one of, if not the, most upfront admission about the 2020 election that she’s made in public to date. In a December 2020 interview with The 19th, Conway said that even though the Trump campaign had every right to explore different legal avenues to challenge the results, the Electoral College vote tally suggested Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would win.

    In her book, she writes she told Trump the same.

    “Stuck in a parallel universe, many Trump supporters deluded themselves into thinking that somehow the president would remain in office or be reinstated once gone. Trump was more shocked to lose in 2020, I think, than he was to win in 2016,” Conway writes, although she adds that questioning the election results or “partisan activists” doesn’t make you the “QAnon Shaman.”

    “I may have been the first person Donald Trump trusted in his inner circle who told him that he had come up short this time,” Conway writes.

    Though hardly an unbiased narrator, Conway writes a book that is part biography, part dishy political tell-all, part heartfelt reflection on motherhood, and part marriage therapy session. She also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump White House during some of its most tumultuous moments.

    Throughout its 506 pages, she is quick to level sharp critiques at some of her former colleagues, like Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (“He misread the Constitution in one crucial respect, thinking that all power not given to the federal government was reserved to him.”), Trump’s 6-foot-9-inch tall campaign manager Brad Parscale (“It is easy to conclude with Brad, height is not depth.”), or former chief of staff Mark Meadows (“trying to be POTUS’s BFF”).

    But she also notes, in passing, that she found allies in unexpected places. For example, Conway says that after the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, she consulted with two “trusted, wired, smart accquaintances,” Democratic commentator Van Jones and former Democratic National Chair Donna Brazile, both Black, about the moment.

    Conway is known for her occasional sharp elbows and unrelenting capacity to spin, and her book is full of trademark sarcasm and barbs, especially when it comes to the press and the never-ending quest at the Trump White House to find internal leakers. But Conway does write with evident pain about her own family dramas that spilled out into the public, like her husband George Conway’s spats with Trump, and her teen daughter Claudia’s rebellion on TikTok.

    She rarely criticizes Trump himself, though does cop to regrets about steps taken, especially around the Covid-19 pandemic. In one passage, she recalls proposing in the Oval Office that Trump deliver a message to the public with former presidents George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

    “Looking at Trump across the Resolute Desk, I could picture all five presidents standing there, lending their support to him as he tackled this ‘once in a century’ pandemic,” writes Conway. “He declined.”

    After Trump left office, all living former presidents, save him, ended up producing a public service announcement pushing the Covid vaccine. Trump’s aides insisted he was not asked to do so.

    Conway also writes that inviting Scott Atlas — the radiologist and political commentator who became one of Trump’s top Covid advisers — into the White House allowed the president to “pick the science he wanted.” She contends that Trump should have followed the example of some of his staffers and his wife, Melania Trump, in wearing a mask, noting that one of the few times he encouraged people to do so on Twitter, it received a massive response.

    “The president could have ignored those who were telling him that wearing a mask ‘is like Dukakis with the helmet in the tank,’” Conway writes, referencing the photo of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis wearing a helmet while visiting a defense contracting facility. The goofy photo-op helped tank his campaign.

    Conway also writes about Trump’s infamous trip to the press briefing room, when he suggested out loud that disinfectants could help cure Covid infections in the body.

    “It was an unfortunate briefing and an unforced error. Legitimate concerns emerged that some Trump followers might try what they thought he was suggesting, at genuine risk to their lives. This was just a month after the president had recorded his highest overall approval rating,” writes Conway. “Now, instead of an incumbent president appearing in command and control of the COVID challenge, the nation was drowning in bleach stories about an unfortunate and unconscionable comment from the President of the United States.”

    In the end though, Conway remains largely the loyalist in her book, rarely blaming Trump directly for the missteps he made in favor of arguing that he was let down by dimwitted or opportunistic aides around him. Reflecting on the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, she recounts calling an anonymous aide to give Trump an urgent message that he “must tell the people at the Capitol to stop.” It was, she said, part of her larger questioning of the Stop the Steal efforts. But, she suggested, the money was just too good.

    “The Trump campaign raised $200 million after November 3 to prove the election had been stolen,” Conway writes. “A smooth transition and a focus on the president’s legacy would have served him and the country better.”

  • 1 день, 14 часов назад 27.05.2022Politics
    News The Buckshee

    Former President Donald Trump confirmed Wednesday that he will still attend the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston this weekend in the wake of a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

    “America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, the social media platform he helped found. “That’s why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas at the NRA Convention and deliver an important address to America. In the meantime, we all continue to pray for the victims, their families, and for our entire nation—we are all in this together!”

    The NRA’s convention is scheduled just days after a shooter opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the deadliest school shooting in the state’s history.

    In addition to Trump, other Republicans set to speak at the meeting include Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

    Two other Texas Republicans, Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, had been slated to speak at the convention but have since backed out — though they didn’t cite the shooting as their reason. According to spokespeople for the lawmakers, Cornyn bowed out due to “an unexpected change in his schedule” and Crenshaw will miss the event because he will still be on a trip to Ukraine. Both spokespeople said they alerted the NRA they would not be attending prior to the shooting in Uvalde.

    Trump on Friday will headline the gun lobby’s largest event of the year, which will span over three days in Houston — less than 300 miles away from the site of the mass shooting in Uvalde. Although its influence has waned in recent years amid corruption scandals that have sapped its finances, the NRA has long been the nation’s highest profile group backing gun rights and opposing legislation that would restrict access to firearms. Trump, for his part, addressed the NRA convention as president during his tenure in office and often touted the group’s endorsement of his presidential campaign.

    The event comes as Tuesday’s shooting has reignited a political debate about gun reform and sparked outrage across the country over elected leaders’ failure to enact stricter gun laws. While Democrats have pleaded with their Republican colleagues to negotiate with them on passing new restrictions, many conservatives immediately pushed back on gun reform being the answer to curbing mass shootings.

  • 1 день, 14 часов назад 27.05.2022Politics
    News The Buckshee

    Nothing laid bare the disjointed state of gun politics in America as starkly as the call and response in Texas this week. On Tuesday, it was a school shooting. Days later, Donald Trump and other prominent Republicans will appear at a gathering of the NRA.

    The Memorial Day weekend event is being billed by the National Rifle Association as a showcase of more than 14 acres of “the latest guns and gear,” with a “powerhouse lineup of political speakers.” On his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump confirmed on Wednesday he will appear.

    That should never have been in doubt. Despite being weakened by financial difficulties and infighting, the National Rifle Association’s membership is a critical constituency to conservative politicians, and the event in Houston — less than 300 miles from the site of the mass shooting in Uvalde — a measure of its longstanding ties to the GOP.

    The timing was inconsequential.

    “Fuck them,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. “Fuck all of them. Our kids are dying in record numbers, and it is because of them.”

    Just more than a year ago, after back-to-back shootings in Georgia and in Boulder, Colo., temporarily reignited the gun control debate, proponents of stricter gun laws sensed an uncommon opening. The NRA was in turmoil, Democrats had gained control of the White House and both houses of Congress, and public polling — including widespread support for background checks — was on their side.

    But if the first 16 months of Joe Biden’s presidency demonstrated anything, it was the limitations of Democrats’ razor-thin majority. Gun legislation has stalled, and Republicans heading into the midterms have every incentive to court the NRA.

    “The gun issue is a perennial issue that’s not going away, whether there’s a mass shooting or not,” said John Thomas, a Republican strategist working on House campaigns across the country. “And the folks that feel strongly on the right about the Second Amendment, while their heart clearly aches, they also are deeply concerned about their safety, their family’s safety, and the rhetoric of the left immediately jumping to their worst fear, which is seizing guns and gun control.

    “It’s an issue,” he added, “that the base needs to be reassured and spoken to [about] — that they’re not going to get their guns taken away.”

    After the shooting in Uvalde, gun control activists were preparing to once again stage demonstrations in Washington. At the Capitol, Democrats and some Republicans were once again engaging in gun safety negotiations. And though the idea of congressional action still appeared to be a long shot, the issue was already erupting in the midterm campaigns.

    In Texas, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat seeking to unseat Gov. Greg Abbott, confronted Abbott at a press conference where Abbott cast mental health — not gun proliferation — as the cause of the tragedy.

    “Governor Abbott, I have to say something,” O’Rourke said, before being escorted out by security. “The time to stop the next shooting is right now and you are doing nothing.”

    It’s unclear whether Abbott, who had been scheduled to attend the NRA conference, still will. An adviser said Wednesday that “everyone is focused on Uvalde today.”

    But Trump is going. A spokesperson for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem first confirmed to POLITICO that she still intends to speak at the NRA event. And two Republicans who have pulled out of the event did not point to the school shooting as their reason.

    Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) will not attend the conference because he is still on a trip to Ukraine. Justin Discigil, a spokesperson for the Texas Republican, told POLITICO that Crenshaw alerted NRA organizers before the shooting tragedy that his flight back from Ukraine wouldn’t get him stateside until after the event.

    A spokesperson for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), another slated NRA convention speaker, said the lawmaker had already notified the gun group he would not be attending.

    “Prior to the tragedy today in Uvalde we had already informed the NRA he would not be able to speak due to [an] unexpected change in his schedule,” Cornyn spokesperson Drew Brandewie said. “He now has to be in D.C. for personal reasons on Friday.”

    A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his plans. But Cruz has hardly shrunk from the tragedy, accusing Democrats and the media of politicizing it.

    “Inevitably, when there’s a murderer of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it, you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” Cruz told reporters. “That doesn’t work, that doesn’t prevent crime.”

    The NRA said in a statement that “as we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure.”

    For years, Republicans have viewed the politics around gun control as favorable to them for two reasons: Gun safety rarely rose to the top of voters’ minds as an issue and, when it did, they had single-issue Second Amendment voters on their side. But that may be changing. In 2018, gun control advocates spent heavily in the midterm elections, claiming several victories in congressional swing districts. Public polling reflects widespread support for background checks and other gun measures.

    “The public has been moving away from the NRA position and towards sensible gun safety legislation for 20 years now,” said Frank Luntz, the veteran Republican consultant and pollster. “This tragedy will push people further and faster.”

    For Democrats, the shift in public attention to gun violence came as a rare opening in an otherwise bleak midterm election landscape. In battleground states, they are already hammering on Republicans’ record on guns.

    “There are senators who the gun lobby has a stranglehold on, and we have to release that finger by finger,” said Shannon Watts, founder of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action.

    Calling the effort to enact stricter gun laws “a marathon, not a sprint,” she said she is still hopeful for congressional action, but that, “If that doesn’t happen, we go harder, and we remind every single voter where these lawmakers stand in November.”

    In addition to the frequency of mass shootings in America — the Texas school shooting followed the supermarket shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., by just more than a week — the Supreme Court this summer may force the gun debate further into the mix of midterm campaigns. This summer, the court is expected to rule on a closely watched case on gun restrictions in New York.

    “Gun issues are not going away, and given what may happen in the Supreme Court the next few weeks, the situation is not going to get better,” said Mathew Littman, a Democratic strategist and executive director of the gun reform group 97 Percent. “I do believe gun issues are going to be paramount for a lot of voters.”

    Still, Littman, a former Biden speechwriter, cast the lack of movement on gun restrictions as “incredibly frustrating.”

    “The culture of death in this country,” he said. “A million people die from Covid … Kids getting shot in schools. …

    “What can we be doing differently,” he said, “so that we do not accept all of this death. It’s a very unique thing, and it doesn’t have to be.”

    Kelly Hooper contributed to this report.

  • 1 день, 14 часов назад 27.05.2022Politics
    ‘Trump picked this fight’: Why heavyweight Republicans no longer fear Trump

    They’re weary of the incessant conflicts. The inability to get past the 2020 election results. An endorsement strategy seemingly driven by a bruised and restless ego, rather than the party’s best interests.

    Channeling growing fatigue among rank-and-file Republicans, some of the GOP’s best-known heavyweights are increasingly defying former President Donald Trump in the wake of internecine conflicts from Georgia to Pennsylvania.

    Bold-face Republican names have never been so comfortable crossing Trump as in recent weeks. Former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Mike Pence, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were among those lending aid and comfort to one of Trump’s top enemies, Gov. Brian Kemp, in Georgia’s Tuesday primary.

    Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) bucked the former president by stumping this week for Rep. Mo Brooks in his bid for Alabama’s GOP Senate nomination — the same congressman that Trump unceremoniously ditched after initially endorsing. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu openly mocked him in front of a Washington dinner audience, joking about Trump’s sanity.

    Few in the party doubt that Trump still maintains an iron grip on his base. They acknowledge the former president’s endorsement in primary contests remains influential. But to many, Trump’s habit of rolling grenades into Republican primaries is getting old, and fears that he might damage the party’s promising prospects for gains this fall appear to be opening a new chapter in the GOP’s relationship with him.

    “We have to be the party of tomorrow, not the party of yesterday,” Christie, who campaigned for Kemp in Georgia, told POLITICO. “But more important than that, what we have to decide is: do we want to be the party of me or the party of us? What Donald Trump has advocated is for us to be the ‘party of me,’ that everything has to be about him and about his grievances.’”

    Christie added: “Trump picked this fight.”

    Never was it more obvious than in Georgia, where Trump was the proximate cause of the loss of Republican-held Senate seats in 2021 and then ignited a civil war within the party, all because top state officials refused to overturn the 2020 election results there.

    The result was a thrashing at the polls for several Trump-endorsed candidates. Kemp won by a landslide and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another target of Trump’s ire, also emerged victorious.

    “I think the former president has been poorly advised because he’s made a lot of endorsements in an effort to showcase his formidability,” a Pence adviser said, “and that has the counter-effect that actually shows the endorsement doesn’t carry the same weight it once did.”

    Gregg Keller, a Missouri-based Republican strategist, said it’s essential for an “ideologically and culturally diverse” party to have “politically countervailing forces” against some of Trump’s ill-advised endorsement picks.

    “It shows that while people realize Donald Trump is virtually, in every way, still the leader of the Republican Party, people are willing to stick their necks out and support good candidates opposite of Trump when they see them,” Keller said.

    In some of the most contentious Senate primaries this year, top Republicans have found themselves supporting a different candidate than Trump because he waited months to get involved — after allegiances had already been pledged.

    In Ohio, for example, Trump endorsed J.D. Vance two weeks before the May 3 primary. In Pennsylvania, he threw his support behind Mehmet Oz just over a month before the election.

    In both cases, national Republicans had already offered their support to other candidates months earlier: Cruz, for instance, had endorsed Josh Mandel in Ohio and David McCormick in Pennsylvania. In the months leading up to Trump’s endorsement of Oz, McCormick had assembled a team of former Trump advisers and officials like Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks, Mike Pompeo, Larry Kudlow, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

    “I can’t imagine that somebody’s been running for office for a year, a whole bunch of people take positions on the race, then Trump decides to endorse somebody, and that means you can’t be for them anymore? Fuck that,” said a national Republican strategist involved in Senate races, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.

    GOP strategists say this post-primary moment following Trump’s bitter defeat in Georgia isn’t a low-water mark of Trump’s influence, but rather an acknowledgment that he is not the alpha and omega of every political calculation that will unfold from now until 2024.

    “I’m not sure he has a clipboard and says, ‘Well, Tom Cotton didn’t follow my endorsement here and here — he’s banished,’” the national strategist added. “Mike Pompeo didn’t do it here, so he’s against me, and Ted Cruz didn’t do it here.’ You have a decision to make, whether you want to lean in or lean back. In politics, there’s no reward for leaning back — most are making the decision to lean in and try and win.”

    Now, GOP strategists are turning their attention to Missouri, where the next front in the battle between Republican heavyweights and Trump may unfold.

    With an Aug. 2 primary, Missouri’s safe GOP Senate seat could become more competitive if former Gov. Eric Greitens becomes their nominee, party leaders have warned. Greitens resigned from office mid-term in 2018 amid a criminal case and allegations of sexual assault. Greitens, though, has long remained at or near the front of the pack. Republican and Democratic polling has shown an uncomfortably close general election race if Greitens were on the ballot.

    Trump has yet to endorse in the primary, but some state and national Republicans fear he might weigh in for Greitens.

    “Is President Trump going to endorse Eric Greitens?” Keller asked. “I think that observers believe that that would be a very bad decision for the Republican Party in this situation, and I think it’s important to have people like Sen. Cruz who are willing to come in and say, ‘I don’t know what the president is going to do, but there are some other good conservatives running in this race.’”

    Cruz earlier this year endorsed Eric Schmitt, the state’s attorney general who is using the same campaign consulting firm as Cruz, Axiom Strategies.

    Prominent interest groups in the Republican universe also appear to be increasingly comfortable stiff-arming Trump. The Club for Growth, the anti-tax organization headed by David McIntosh, whose super PAC has been one of the top outside spending groups on Senate races this cycle, doubled down on its support for Mandel after Trump endorsed Vance. The Club went so far as to increase its ad buy featuring old clips of Vance disparaging Trump, a decision that reportedly angered the former president and put Trump and McIntosh squarely at odds.

    Weeks later in Pennsylvania, the Club defied the former president once again. Its endorsement of Kathy Barnette the week before the primary election — including spending more than $2 million on ads supporting her — could be interpreted as a clear sign of rebuke to Trump’s endorsement of Oz. Barnette’s last-minute momentum likely ate into Oz’s lead, leaving him and McCormick in a tight recount more than a week after the election.

    The Club also stood firm in its Senate endorsement of Brooks in Alabama after Trump rescinded his support in March, continuing to buy television ads on Brooks’ behalf and releasing a statement in which McIntosh called Brooks “the only principled, pro-growth conservative in the race.”

    After Trump’s decision to yank his endorsement of Brooks — a move the former president made as Brooks was floundering in the polls, but blamed on the congressman going “woke” for wanting to move on from the 2020 election — other prominent Republicans stepped in to lend their support.

    Paul, who, like Cruz, backed Brooks in the Alabama Senate primary, also reiterated his support.

    Earlier this month, the National Rifle Association endorsed Brooks — support the congressman promptly announced in a television ad that ran across the deep-red state, where Second Amendment rights remain a top priority for voters.

    On Monday, both Cruz and Paul stumped for Brooks, Cruz coming to Huntsville and Paul holding an election eve tele-town hall with 13,000 Republican voters.

    “If you get into the runoff, I’m looking at my calendar — I think I might want to come down to Alabama and help if you make it into the runoff,” Paul said to Brooks at the end of the call Monday.

    After the Brooks event in Alabama on Monday, Cruz said he was pleased when Trump had initially put his support behind Brooks, but that he was ultimately endorsing the congressman because he believed Brooks was the most conservative candidate in the race — and one who could win, regardless of Trump’s endorsement.

    “Listen, Donald Trump has made a lot of endorsements across the country,” Cruz told reporters. “A lot of them have won, not all of them. And on the vast majority, President Trump and I have agreed and we’ve endorsed the same candidates. Sometimes we haven’t. Everyone’s got to make their own choices.”

    Brooks’ campaign, it turns out, wasn’t finished when Trump pulled the plug. A late surge took him to second place in Tuesday’s primary and he will compete against Katie Britt in a June 21 runoff.

    Christie didn’t tiptoe around some of Trump’s endorsement missteps.

    “When he’s wrong,” Christie said, “he’s wrong.”

  • 1 день, 14 часов назад 27.05.2022Politics
    Trump hits back at Kellyanne Conway for admitting that he lost in 2020

    Former President Donald Trump is denying a key anecdote in a former aide’s new book, saying he would have banished Kellyanne Conway from his inner circle if she had ever told him he lost the 2020 presidential election.

    In a Thursday morning post on his social media network, Truth Social, Trump refuted Conway’s assertion that she “may have been the first person Donald Trump trusted in his inner circle who told him that he had come up short this time.”

    “Kellyanne Conway never told me that she thought we lost the election. If she had, I wouldn’t have dealt with her any longer — she would have been wrong — could go back to her crazy husband,” Trump wrote. “Writing books can make people say some very strange things. I wonder why?”

    Conway served as Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and was a counselor to the president in the White House. She has remained close to him since she left the administration at the end of summer 2020.

    For all their years working together, Trump has seldom criticized Conway even as he’s attacked her husband, attorney George Conway, who helped start the anti-Trump organization the Lincoln Project and has been an outspoken critic of the ex-president. In her book, “Here’s the Deal,” Conway writes about the challenges that came with her husband publicly feuding with her boss.

    “I had already said publicly what I’d said privately to George: that his daily deluge of insults-by-tweet against my boss — or, as he put it sometimes, “the people in the White House” — violated our marriage vows to “love, honor, and cherish” each other,” Conway writes.

    But it was Conway’s admission that Trump lost the election that stood out most in the book’s 506 pages. In stating the obvious, Kellyanne Conway became one of the few, currently close Trump allies to implicitly reject his false claims of a stolen election. Trump has continued to deny he lost in 2020 and has propagated that false notion among his millions of supporters.

    Claims from Trump and his allies about widespread, coordinated fraud, of which there has been no conclusive evidence, motivated a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to overturn the election results.

    In her book, Conway mainly points her finger at the Trump campaign for the loss in 2020, and says Trump and his over $1 billion in campaign funds were mismanaged in the final months of the election. But she also writes that voters have every right to question the election process.

    “What happened in 2020 can never fully be understood,” Conway writes. “There has been no silver bullet that proves Donald Trump was the rightful winner as many have claimed.”

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