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Trump says 2018 endorsement of Kemp 'hurt' Republicans

Former President Trump has expressed regret over his 2018 endorsement of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), saying that backing the conservative southern governor in a hotly contested primary runoff ultimately "hurt" Republicans. 

In an interview with the conservative news outlet Newsmax on Sunday, Trump took credit for pushing Kemp across the finish line in 2018 with his unexpected endorsement just days before Kemp was slated to face off against former Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in a primary runoff.

"In the case of Gov. Kemp, he was in last place or just about in last place. I endorsed him, he ended up winning the election and he certainly was not very effective for the Republican Party, to put it nicely," Trump said. 

"So I think that was an endorsement that hurt us, but sometimes that will happen," he added. "You can't pick 100 percent of the winners."

Trump's remarks marked the latest in a long series of swipes at Kemp, a longtime ally of the former president who found himself on Trump's bad side late last year after he refused to use nonexistent emergency powers to overturn President Biden's electoral victory in Georgia.

The former president sought for weeks to pressure Kemp to call a special session of the legislature to overrule the state's election results. Now, more than a month after leaving the White House, Trump has continued to insist that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

Biden won the election in Georgia by nearly 12,000 votes, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992. 

Nearly two months after the presidential election, Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won two hotly contested elections to give the Democrats control of the upper chamber.

Trump's efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia have landed him under criminal investigation. Fulton County prosecutors opened up a probe last month to examine the president's actions, including a Jan. 2 phone call in which Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to "find" enough votes to reverse Biden's win in the state.

Kemp is up for reelection next year. Trump has pledged, however, to support primary challengers to Republicans whom he views as insufficiently loyal. And while no major candidate has emerged yet to take on Kemp, Trump's rhetoric suggests that he's prepared to wade into the 2022 gubernatorial race.

"What he did for the Republican Party and to the Republican Party and to the state of Georgia, which is a great state, was sad," Trump told Newsmax on Sunday.

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