Trump discusses 2024 plans at secret dinners with donors
Informal, off-the-record dinners aren’t designed to focus on the 2024 race and usually focus on other issues — during one, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham got into a controversial back-and-forth with country music star John Rich over coronavirus vaccines, and the Las Vegas band talked about the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The meals are hosted by Save America, Trump’s executive PAC, in a bid to educate on the former president’s midterm endorsement record and his plans for the fall election. Trump has often pointed to political adviser Brian Jack to run through his primary successes.
But the conversation inevitably gravitates towards the next presidential race. During a June dinner at the JW Marriott in Nashville, Graham told Trump he would wholeheartedly support another campaign, but if he wanted to run again he would have to clarify his intentions soon.
Trump aides drew up guest lists of about 12 to 16 people per dinner, which included Republican candidates, elected officials and major contributors. Friday’s event at the Trump International Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip included Nevada gubernatorial hopeful Joe Lombardo and real estate investors Robert Zarnegin and Roger Norman.
Many attendees have a long history of big checks to Trump — Ruffin, Zarnegin and Norman each gave in the six- or seven-figure range in 2020 — but organizers have made the decision not to ask them for money at this time. . Trump advisers say the goal was to put Trump in front of a kitchen cabinet of supporters who, in a casual environment, will feel comfortable giving the ex-president their unvarnished opinions.
The dinners are not designed to convince Trump whether or not to show up, advisers say, but rather to provide him with feedback. This feedback has not always been entirely positive.
As Trump continues to push his baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen, attendees gently encouraged him to focus more on politics or what he would do if re-elected.
The deliberations come as some GOP members have begun to question Trump’s political strength, questioning whether or how much the House investigation into his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot will harm him. . On Tuesday, the New York Times published a survey showing that more than half of Republican voters express a desire for someone else to lead the party’s ticket in 2024. (Trump responded by lashing out, saying the newspaper was leading fake polls).
Other potential hopefuls convene their own donor summits. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently hosted top contributors and other high-ranking Republicans in Fort Lauderdale. Senator from Arkansas Tom Cottonmeanwhile, held a rally in June at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington where he briefed donors on his planning for a possible 2024 campaign and told them that an offer from Trump would not deter him from standing to present.
With the exclusive personalities, Trump reaches out to contributors and key party figures who are sure to be heavily courted by other potential candidates. The Texas event, for example, was attended by billionaire Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who hosted it at his luxurious 39-story Post Oak Hotel in the city’s upscale neighborhood. The Las Vegas event included Nevada Senate candidate Adam Laxalt, who is close to DeSantis.
During the rallies, which typically last several hours, Trump refrained from telling her about his plans. While those close to him are confident he will run, they say it is unclear whether he will announce before or after the midterm elections. And they warn that predicting what the famously unpredictable Trump will do is a wild ride.
Trump advisers say they are preparing additional dinners and fitting them into Trump’s rally schedule. They take place on trips where Trump spends the night after a public appearance, rather than when he returns home immediately afterwards, as he often does. Trump stayed in Las Vegas last Friday after the meal, before flying the next day to Alaska, where he campaigned against Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowskiwho voted to impeach him after the Capitol siege.
The unscripted, laid-back nature of the sit-downs made for lively business. During the Nashville dinner, Trump and others in attendance, including Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, watched as Graham and Rich engaged in a tense and prolonged back-and-forth over the coronavirus vaccine. Graham praised vaccines and argued that Trump should speak about their development while in office at every opportunity. Rich, meanwhile, was highly critical of the injections.
Two people present recalled Rich jokingly suggesting he buy a condo in South Carolina and issuing a main challenge to Graham, although another person disputed that account. One attendee said Trump seemed to enjoy seeing the two go head-to-head.
At the Las Vegas dinner, topics of discussion ranged from the midterm elections to the Ultimate Fighting Championship to Trump’s speech the next day in Alaska. Trump asked Lombardo and Laxalt about the progress of their competitive races, and there was mention of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated earlier in the day.
But when talk turned to 2024, Trump, as it did, kept his cards close. After Ruffin told the former president to kick off his campaign, a person present said, Trump offered little response.
“We’ll see,” he said.