Anti-Trump Republicans discuss organizing a new third party

More than 120 former GOP officials and others mulling forming an anti-Trump third party

A veteran GOP strategist who was on a major call last week with dozens of former Republican officials from past GOP administrations to discuss forming a break-away conservative party tells Fox News that the discussion was just the first step.

The gathering of more than 120 critics of former President Trump, which was first reported by Reuters, included more than 120 former officials who served in the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and  Trump administrations, as well as Republican strategists and GOP appointed ambassadors, multiples sources who attended the meeting confirmed.

TOP TRUMP ADVISER SAYS FORMER PRESIDENT WILL BE 'ACTIVELY INVOLVED' IN THE GOP

"This is just the beginning of the conversation. The purpose is to discuss and explore all of the options, all of the possibilities of how to advance a principled, effective, center-right movement," a participant in the meeting, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, told Fox News.

The attendee said "multiple ideas" were floated. Among them were suggestions to run candidates in some races but endorse center-right candidates in other contests.

"Different people have different perspectives if such a movement can grow up effectively within the Republican Party again or if it’s something that has to happen outside the party," the participant said. "I think that this time we are in a position of having the conversation and trying to figure out what are the next steps, to put together a plan to move forward."

The meeting comes amid a fight for the future of the GOP – whether Republicans will remain a populist party reshaped and ruled over for four years by Trump or if they will return to their conservative roots.

While politically wounded by the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists and other Trump supporters intent on disrupting congressional certification of Biden’s White House victory – after encouragement from the then-president – the latest polling indicates Trump remains very popular among Republicans. That clout is reflected in Congress. The vast majority of House Republicans voted against impeaching Trump and most Senate Republicans voted to declare the impeachment trial of the former president unconstitutional.

Trump has repeatedly vowed to play an influential role in the GOP going forward, which includes supporting primary challenges to Republicans who crossed him and are up for reelection next year. Trump’s also flirting with a 2024 presidential run to try and win back the White House.

Asked if the possibility of a breakaway Republican Party would only benefit Democrats at the ballot box, the participant said "some people are concerned about that and some people see it as a the only path forward. It can’t be about winning elections first. It has to be about winning the argument first. It’s about developing a movement that’s rooted in principle, the belief that when you do that, people will come to it."

RNC CHAIR MCDANIEL PREACHES PARTY UNITY AMID DIVIDES

Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel is preaching party unity.

"I have a firm belief that as a party, we have to unite," McDaniel, who was unanimously reelected in January to another two-year term steering the national party committee, told Fox News Digital last month.

McDaniel warned that "if we continue to attack each other and focus on attacking on fellow Republicans, if we have disagreements within our party, then we are losing sight of 2022. The only way we’re going to win is if we come together and recognize that our policies of cutting taxes, deregulation, energy independence, rule of law judges are policies that the American people want to hear about. They don’t want to hear about infighting within the GOP."

Jason Miller, a top Trump adviser, told Reuters when asked about the meeting that "these losers left the Republican Party when they voted for Joe Biden."