A longtime adviser to Donald Trump says the former president will be "actively involved" in Republican Party politics going forward. And that includes supporting primary challenges against those that have crossed Trump.
"The president continues to have enormous support and approval among Republican primary voters. He continues to have hundreds of millions of dollars in his campaign account, which he can utilize. And he will continue to be actively involved in recruiting candidates and holding elected officials accountable for their votes," Corey Lewandowski told Fox News on Thursday.
Lewandowski, who managed Trump’s 2016 presidential primary campaign and served as a top adviser on the 2020 reelection effort, also shot down suggestions that the former president would form a splinter party, saying "I don’t think the president has any interest in being part of a third party."
Lewandowski spoke with Fox News hours before Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a top Trump supporter and ally, was scheduled to hold a rally at the state capitol in Wyoming to take aim at Rep. Liz Cheney in her home state. Cheney, the House Republican Conference chair, is facing calls by a majority of House Republicans to be stripped of her number three leadership position. The move comes after she was the most high profile of the 10 Republicans who two weeks ago joined all 222 Democrats in the chamber in voting to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.
Wednesday night, on the eve of Gaetz’s trip to Wyoming, the former president’s leadership political action committee, Save America, released a poll that suggested that Cheney was politically wounded among Republicans by her vote to impeach Trump.
Gaetz told Fox News and other news organizations on Monday, "I have not spoken with the president since his departure from Washington but it is my understanding that he is very encouraging of my efforts." He added that "I speak regularly with many members of the Trump family. I’ve shared with them that I’m going to Wyoming and received nothing but encouragement."
Asked if there were any coordination, Lewandowski said "our plan has been in place for a fair amount of time."
Pointing to the poll, he emphasized, "I think that Liz Cheney is realizing that in a state that has about a plus-64 Republican rating – some argue the most Republican or conservative state in the country – there are real repercussions for voting to impeach someone based on words."
And he predicted that stripping Cheney of her leadership role would likely be one of the topics of conversation on Thursday with Trump meets face-to-face in Florida with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Besides the possibility of losing her leadership position, Cheney’s already facing multiple primary challenges to her House seat in Wyoming.
Lewandowski said that Trump would be involved in supporting primary challenges against some of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him.
"They will all get primary challenges in my opinion," Lewandowski said. "I don’t know at what level the president’s going to weigh in on each of those races, but I think he will be involved in a number of them."
And Lewandowski said the poll commissioned by the former president’s political team is just the first, with more surveys to come on other Republicans up for reelection in 2022 who didn’t support Trump’s unsuccessful efforts to upend his presidential election loss to President Biden.
Recent national reports suggested that the former president was in discussions with top political advisers over potentially forming a third party – possibly named "The Patriot Party" – which Trump would lead and use to compete with the GOP.
But Trump's 2020 campaign senior adviser Jason Miller told Fox News on Sunday that the former president’s "made clear his goal is to win back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022." Miller added that "there’s nothing that’s actively being planned regarding an effort outside of that, but it’s completely up to Republican Senators if this is something that becomes more serious."
That appeared to be an implicit warning to Republican senators not to join Senate Democrats in voting to convict Trump in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.
Asked about the prospects of Trump forming a splinter group down the road, Lewandowski said "I don’t think the president has any interest in being part of a third party."
"The ballot access requirements for third parties are exceptionally difficult," he noted. "If the goal is to elect individuals, a third party is not a good vehicle to do that historically speaking. I think the president is going to work within the two party structure that currently exists and he’ll be very effective inside that structure."
Trump has repeatedly vowed to play an influential role in the GOP going forward, and also flirting with a 2024 presidential run to try and win back the White House.
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.
"We’re going to see how much influence the president wants to exert going forward," said Lewandowski. "I don’t think anybody knows that yet."
Lewandowski also said he wasn’t sure if Trump will attend the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference.
The largest and most influential annual gathering of conservatives – which best known by its acronym CPAC – is being held outside of the Washington, D.C., area for the first time in is nearly half century history. As Fox News first reported in December, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the confab will be held in person in Orlando, Fla., not too far from Trump’s home in Palm Beach.
The conference has become a mecca for the MAGA world during the Trump era, but Lewandowski said the former president "has not determined if he’ll be attending yet."