Writing three books in four years on Donald Trump has been an immersion in his obsessions and fixations. That’s why I know the obvious: Donald Trump will be running for president again.
This spring, in another of his compulsive solicitations for attention – regardless of whether it was good or bad – he hosted me at Mar-a-Lago, even after I wrote two unflattering books about him ( which he tried to stop publishing), for an interview and a dinner. After dinner, I asked about his plans for a presidential library, the traditional retirement project, and the past presidents fundraising program. There was a flash of confusion on his uniquely readable face, then anger, sparked, I thought, by the implication of what I seemed to be saying – that his tenure was over.
“No way, no way,” he growled, “no way.”
It’s an existential situation: he can’t be Donald Trump without claiming the presidency. He can’t get the attention and dedication of the Republican Party if he’s not both a future king – and why would he give it up? Indeed, it seemed I was strategically seated in the lobby of Mar-a-Lago when I arrived precisely so that I could hear the efforts of a Republican delegation to court and crawl past Mr. Trump and observe his dominance. contemptuous of them. .
More than part of his subsequent conversation with me was about his contempt for any Republican who might be less than absolute in his devotion to him – after all, he had the power to make or break the people who have had him since. disappointed (like Senator Mitch McConnell and Judge Brett Kavanaugh). He didn’t seem so paranoid about the challenges he faced but a warrior, savoring his future rewards.
He repeatedly returns to his grudge against his once obsequious vice-president with relish; Mike Pence has become more public about his own political ambitions. In his account, it was Mr. Pence whose actions confirmed “the theft” by refusing to overturn the electoral count, which he chaired in January in the Senate. I believe he will run again just to prevent the men who he thinks helped him take over his presidency from trying to get it for themselves. Reports reaching him from the West Wing and members of his administration refusing to buy into the idea of ”stealing” only fuel his fury and determination to punish all skeptics – “very weak people who have worked for me but won’t “do it in the future” as he told me.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has become another frequent subject at Mr. Trump’s Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, where the former president spends the summer away from the Florida heat. Many TrumpWorld members believe Mr. DeSantis, who came second behind Mr. Trump in a CPAC poll this month, could, incredibly, run for the 2024 nomination even if Mr. Trump does run. The idea that Mr. DeSantis, whom Mr. Trump believes he “made” by his endorsement, might not accept his dependence and obligation on Mr. Trump would be a personal affront to be faced. Mr Trump pointedly rejected the governor’s request to postpone a Florida rally following the Surfside building collapse. Clear message: the governor is not his boss. (Mr. DeSantis denied making this request.)
The pursuit of the career of Mr McConnell, who Mr Trump has not spoken to since he vilified him with a bunch of obscenities after Mr McConnell admitted Joe Biden’s victory, is a big deal unfinished. (Trump aides believe the two will likely never speak to each other again.)
Mr Trump believes Mr McConnell retained his Senate seat in 2020 solely because of his support. The war on Mr. McConnell is a war over who controls the Republican Party – if it’s Mr. Trump’s party, it can’t be Mr. McConnell’s. If the candidates win because of his backing, thus making Mr. Trump himself the ultimate winner and the inevitable favorite, then surely it is his party. Mr. Trump, whose political strength helped oust some Republican enemies from office in 2018, will be confident that Mr. McConnell will be ousted once he returns to power. (I doubt he pays attention to the fact that Mr. McConnell has been re-elected to a six-year term and has a reasonable chance of once again becoming the majority leader in the Senate.)
Many Democrats believe that the legal prosecution of the former president’s family business in New York and other matters, including the investigation into his attempt to overturn election results in Georgia, could seriously hamper his future. Politics. But in Mr. Trump’s logic, it will go the other way around: running for president is the best way to directly challenge prosecutors.
Mr. Trump also believes he has a silver bullet. In his account, Republicans nearly took over the House in 2020 because of his “teleallies,” conference calls to congressional districts that in some cases drew tens of thousands of callers. Who has this draw? he asked, almost smacking his lips. In 2022, with its draw, the Republicans, it is certain, will take over the House with its slate of elected candidates. And indeed, it could be true.
But perhaps most importantly, there’s its classic sales pitch and synoptic USP – a unique selling proposition. In 2016, it was “the wall”. For 2022 and 2024, he will have another proposal available: “theft”, a rallying cry of rage and simplicity.
For Democrats, who see him exiled to Mar-a-Lago, stripped of his main social media platforms and confronted with determined prosecutors, his future looks laughable, if not pathetic. But it is Donald Trump, always ready to retaliate harder than he has been struck, to blame anyone but himself, to silence any doubt of the sound of his own voice, to take what he believes he is his and, above all, to seize all the attention available. Sound the alarm.