Trump Opens Score-Settling Tour With Rally Against GOP Impeacher
(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump resumes his signature rallies this weekend, part of a summer revenge tour against Republicans who crossed him and an opportunity to raise money for his various political and legal activities.
The rally near Cleveland, Ohio, on Saturday night is billed as an effort to support former White House aide Max Miller, who is challenging GOP Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
It’s also part of a public re-emergence on a bigger platform for Trump, who has been limited to giving speeches, issuing statements and doing interviews with friendly media outlets while he remains banned by Twitter, Facebook and other social-media platforms.
Top Ohio Republicans are skipping the event, citing personal scheduling conficts. That includes Governor Mike DeWine, who drew Trump’s ire for accepting President Joe Biden’s victory and for criticizing Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack; Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, who was booed for advocating protective masks at a Trump rally in Ohio last September; and retiring Senator Rob Portman.
While admission is free, Trump, the Republican National Committee and the Senate Republican campaign arm are all offering a chance to win “VIP” tickets and meet Trump backstage in exchange for a donation. And the organizers are collecting phone numbers and email addresses for future fund-raising lists.
Miller is also raising money off the event, saying he wants to tell Trump “how much we raised in honor of his rally.”
Trump’s leadership political action committee, Save America, had $85 million cash on hand at the end of March. It can donate no more than $5,000 per election to each candidate he’s supporting, but it faces few other restrictions in how it can spend money. Trump can use its funds to pay for rallies, ads promoting his policies or for legal fees in the various proceedings involving him or his businesses.
The Ohio rally is Trump’s first since he left office on Jan. 20, and other rallies are planned in the coming months, including his appearance at a full-day Florida Republican Party event on July 3. He’s also visiting the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday with Texas Governor Greg Abbott to criticize Biden’s immigration policies.
Trump says he’s supporting loyal candidates to help Republicans regain control of Congress next year as he holds out the prospect of running again in 2024. But his fixation on his 2020 defeat worries some GOP leaders that looking backward and championing untested candidates could hurt the party.
“I never admitted defeat,” Trump said in an interview that aired Monday on Real America’s Voice about the 2020 election. “The word is concede. I have not conceded.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released on May 26 found that Trump had a 37% favorability rating among all adults. But among Republicans, his approval rating was 84%, with 85% saying they want to see candidates that mostly agree with Donald Trump. Yet only 30% of adults and 66% of Republicans in the survey said they wanted to see Trump run again in 2024.
Trump also is encouraging speculation that he’ll somehow be reinstated as president after election audits in Arizona and possibly other states. He said on Real America’s Voice, “We’ll have to see what happens” when asked about it and said in a statement Tuesday about the prospects he’ll return to office “2024 or before!”
Trump has vowed to punish Republicans who voted to impeach him over his role in instigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and has tried to recruit candidates to run against them.
He sent a handwritten note, scrawled in black marker over a printed online news story, to two Conservative Party officials in New York encouraging them to “find a great candidate” to challenge Republican Representative John Katko, who voted to impeach Trump. Trump called Katko “bad news,” according to a copy of the note obtained by Bloomberg News.
Gonzalez, who was a popular receiver for the Ohio State Buckeyes and Indianapolis Colts, was easily elected in 2018 and 2020. But the Ohio Republican Party voted to censure Gonzalez in May for his impeachment vote and has called on him to resign.
A spokesman for Gonzalez declined to comment on Trump’s rally. Gonzalez has defended his decision to impeach on grounds that Trump helped organize and incite the mob that attacked the Capitol.
“As a party, frankly, we need to be on the side of truth, we need to be on the side of substance, and that’s how we’re going to win back majorities both in the House and the Senate and hopefully the White House in 2024,” Gonzalez said at a City Club of Cleveland forum in May.
Bryan Williams, the GOP chairman in Summit County, a part of which is in Gonzalez’s district, said the impeachment vote will be the decisive issue in the 2022 primary.
“Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party nationally and in Ohio, whether people like it or not,” he said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.