Trump Jr. seeks to elect ‘new blood’ to Republican Party
Donald Trump Jr. is putting his political capital behind an effort to elect the next generation of anti-establishment conservatives, believing President Trump needs “new blood” in the House willing to defend him from Democratic attacks and take on the news media.
The president’s eldest son has been helping House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recruit new GOP candidates. He’s personally endorsed a half dozen himself, ranging from long-shots in Baltimore to candidates running in hotly contested pivot counties in battleground states.
The main criteria, Trump Jr. explained to The Hill in an interview at Trump International Hotel on Tuesday, is that the candidates must be conservative fighters committed to showing up in Washington and sticking to their guns, even if it means defending the president in the face of extreme pressure from Democrats or the news media.
“[We’re getting] this new blood that’s not establishment, people coming into this for the right reasons with good stories who want to fight and are not afraid to actually be a conservative,” Trump Jr. said, sitting at the end of a long wooden table in the ornate townhouse on the first floor of his father’s Washington hotel.
The Trump hotel, which is usually a nerve center for administration and campaign insiders, was moving at a slower pace on Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic and the GOP convention.
Trump Jr. was dressed down in a pink button-down shirt and dark jeans. He wore a black mask as he walked around the first floor of the hotel to mingle with friends and aides, including former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell.
Campaign staffers hung around wearing black Trump-Pence face coverings. Eric Trump, who is suddenly embroiled in a legal battle with the New York attorney general over the Trump Organization, walked through the hotel chatting up guests.
Behind the scenes, Trump Jr. has been fundraising, recording robocalls, cutting radio ads and filming iPhone and Facebook videos for his endorsed candidates. Several of them will be featured at the Republican National Convention this week.
Sean Parnell, the Army Ranger who talked about his 485 days in battle on the Afghan-Pakistan border at the convention on Monday night, is challenging Rep. Conor Lamb (D) in Pennsylvania’s 17th district, a pivot seat that swung from President Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016.
Trump Jr. is also backing Jim Bognet, a Pennsylvania businessman seeking to unseat freshman Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) in a district Trump won by 10 points in 2016 but that swung to Democrats in 2018.
He’s appeared at events for Burgess Owens, a Black Republican and former NFL player in a tight race against Rep. Ben McAdams (D) in Utah’s 4th Congressional District. Owens will address the convention on Wednesday night.
Trump Jr., an avid outdoorsman, is campaigning for two GOP candidates in Montana: Sen. Steve Daines, who is in a tough reelection fight against Gov. Steve Bullock (D), and Republican Matt Rosendale, who is running to represent the state’s at-large congressional district.
There are a couple of long-shots on Trump Jr.’s radar.
He’s backing Kim Klacik, who is running in the deep-blue Maryland district that once belonged to the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). Klacik, a Black woman, addressed the first night of the GOP convention and has gone viral on the right for accusing Democrats of taking Black voters for granted.
Trump Jr. called Alex Skarlatos to encourage him to run for Congress in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, which Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) routinely wins by double digits. Skarlatos is the former National Guardsman who helped stop a gunman on a train bound for Paris in 2015.
“There are plenty of people we’ve seen over the past four years, where it’s like, with friends like these, who needs Republicans? You basically have Democrats,” Trump Jr. said. “But there are so many who have started getting it … I like seeing that because there’s a lot of new personality coming into the party willing to engage and play the way the Democrats have played for decades.”
Trump and his allies have been angered by the Washington Republicans who have been openly critical of Trump, including Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) and most recently Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in the House.
The Hill asked Trump Jr. if he believes Cheney should have a leadership role in the next Congress.
“It’s just very different, where the Republican Party is going,” he responded. “We’re still the party of endless wars and there are still some neo-cons who are really into that and we are not. My father is not … I just think that mentality is really out of place in the Republican Party right now but there are going to be those dinosaurs who do not evolve.”
Trump Jr. addressed the QAnon conspiracy theory, which has become a headache for GOP House leaders who have had to contend with recent primary victories by Republican candidates that have either embraced the theory or made other controversial and bigoted remarks.
Trump Jr. rejected QAnon but he bristled at the question, saying the media is giving it oxygen as part of an effort to paint Republicans as fringe conspiracy theorists.
“I know almost nothing about it,” Trump Jr. said. “I think it’s one of those things — yes, reject it — but … I’m around more Republicans and conservatives around the country than anyone and it barely if ever comes up.”
“I think it’s one of those things the media attaches to,” he added. “I don’t see it being as big an issue as everyone makes it out to be. In my life, in my politics, it’s a nonissue.”
On the presidential front, Trump Jr. expressed confidence his father would win a second term in office.
He said Democrats have a blind spot when it comes to addressing the violent aspects of the racial injustice protests. This week, Kenosha, Wis., became the latest American city to experience civil unrest — including buildings being set on fire — in response to police violence against a Black man.
Trump Jr. said the destructive elements of the protests, and the Democratic lawmakers he said are turning a blind eye to crimes committed by protesters, would turn moderate suburban voters away from Democrats in November.
“When you look at Middle America, suburban people, that’s coming to your backyard soon enough and [Democrats are] showing they’re not willing to confront what at any other point in history … would clearly be crime,” Trump Jr. said.
He pointed to recent polling in Minnesota that has found Trump running even with Democratic nominee Joe Biden, saying the move in Trump’s direction has in part been driven by frustration with the destruction of parts of Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed.
“People are looking around at their major cities and saying this could happen here,” Trump Jr. said.
“The left always overplays their hands so badly I think people will wake up and say, ‘This is ridiculous,’ ” he added.
Trump Jr. said he’s not concerned about polling showing Trump trailing nationally and in most of the battleground states, saying there is a “ghost component” that election analysts aren’t accounting for.
Republicans insist that so-called shy Trump voters who don’t want to reveal they support the president to pollsters or the news media will be a major surprise on Election Day.
“The media has been so biased and if you’re a conservative … I don’t think someone is going to tell people on the phone, some stranger calling who they’re actually voting for,” Trump Jr. said.
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