Former President Donald Trump is reemerging on the political scene after a months-long hiatus, and Trump World insiders expect him to ramp up his activity even more as the midterm elections get closer.
Trump on Monday called into Fox News and a new podcast hosted by conservative commentator Lisa Boothe for the kind of freewheeling interviews that were commonplace over the past five years.
The ex-president blasted President Biden for the border surge and railed against Republicans who have criticized him. Trump also reiterated his claims about election fraud — a topic that many Republicans are eager to move on from.
The interviews come as Trump’s allies say they’re developing a new social media platform for the former president, although there are few details about it at this point.
Trump flexed within the GOP. He endorsed a challenger on Monday to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), a reminder that he intends to meddle in GOP primaries to retaliate against Republicans he views as insufficiently loyal.
Those close to Trump say he was always planning on returning to the political scene before the midterm elections but that he felt compelled to move his timeline up because Biden and the Democrats have been blaming him for the border crisis and hate crimes against Asian Americans.
“He’s going to ramp up his activity, but some of this is predicated on what the Biden administration has been saying about him,” said one former Trump campaign official. “He’s not just going to let that go.”
Not all Republicans are thrilled about the former president returning to the scene.
Many blame Trump and his false claims that the presidential election was stolen for the GOP’s Senate runoff losses in Georgia, which cost the GOP its majority in the upper chamber.
The claims ripped Republicans apart at a crucial moment and preceded the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.
But none of that has quieted Trump on the issue; the former president reiterated his claim that the election was stolen in an interview with Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner on Monday.
“We won the election as far as I’m concerned,” Trump said.
The former president also attacked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as weak and took swings at other Republicans who have criticized him, including Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Ben Sasse (Neb.), who both voted to convict him in the Senate impeachment trial in February.
Republicans are worried the internecine battles, coupled with Trump’s fixation with the 2020 election, will drag the party down during a midterm cycle in which the GOP hopes to win back the House and the Senate.
“Trump’s message is, ‘I’m a genius, everyone else is stupid, I got cheated, send me money,’ ” said Keith Naughton, a veteran Republican strategist. “That won’t win elections.”
But Trump maintains strong support with about two-thirds of Republicans, and his reemergence comes as the Biden administration is struggling to address the growing surge of child migrants at the border.
The U.S. has more than 15,000 child migrants in custody, with thousands being kept in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities for longer than is legally allowed.
Trump came under intense criticism for his "zero tolerance" policy separating parents from children at the border.
Now Biden’s policy of accepting children that have come to the border alone is being criticized as pictures emerge for the first time of children huddled on concrete floors underneath space blankets at CBP facilities.
The Biden administration has cast blame on Trump, saying he dismantled the immigration system over his four years in office.
Trump is looking to turn the humanitarian crisis into a political one for Biden. Waves of immigrants at the border have vexed leaders in both parties for decades.
“They will destroy our country,” Trump said on Fox News. “They’ll have millions of people before this is over. They’ve got some kind of political theory that it’s a good thing for our country, but it’s not.”
Trump on Monday also touched on several other issues that light up the conservative base, blasting “woke” culture and warning that it would be “catastrophic” for the GOP if Democrats abolish the filibuster in the Senate.
Fox News’s Faulkner asked Trump why he was weighing in on everything, when it is customary for former presidents to stay on the sidelines and to not criticize the current administration.
“You called me, I didn’t call you,” Trump responded. “But the reason I weigh in is very simple — they’re destroying our country. Very simple. You can’t make it simpler than that.”
A former White House aide defended Trump’s growing footprint, noting that most former presidents are not considering running for the White House again.
“There’s a difference. Most former presidents step away from politics after leaving office and aren’t thinking about reelection again,” the ex-aide said. “Donald Trump is clearly pondering running for reelection, so it makes sense for him to engage politically and he’s definitely interested in leaving his footprint on the GOP.”
The source said to expect Trump and his entire family to ramp up their political activity as the 2022 election cycle heats up.
And even if Trump doesn’t run for president again in 2024, he’s likely to play a pivotal role in determining the next GOP leader.
Trump on Monday singled out Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristie Noem and Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — all staunch allies — as potential future GOP leaders.