Just one month after Donald Trump left the White House, a top donor to his campaign received a call on his personal cellphone from a Republican candidate seeking financial support.
The call was unsolicited, according to four people familiar with the situation, and it rubbed the donor, whose friends had received similarly unexpected fundraising pleas, the wrong way. Shortly thereafter, the firm Jones Day, which served as counsel to Trump’s campaign committee, sent out a letter to former staff and consultants, warning them that they risked prosecution if they misused campaign resources. The letter then asked recipients to destroy or return any information they might have taken from the Trump campaign’s vast Rolodex of donor contacts.
A senior adviser to Trump insisted that the directive wasn’t in response to “a particular act” but merely to “make sure no one was misusing valuable campaign data.”
But inside Trumpworld, the episode sparked a game of whodunit over who had the audacity to abuse the confidential donor list, with GOP sources speculating that a pair of ex-Trump campaign hands were working to amass a donor profile of their own. And it added to the cold war that has broken out among competing factions that are seeking to capitalize on their time with Trump to score new business and political clients.
“These are people who didn’t like each other four months ago and now they all have a common interest: how to get some coin out of the Trump post-presidency,” said a former senior administration official, who like others would talk about internal squabbles only on condition of anonymity.
For staff of a losing presidential candidate, the weeks and months after that loss present difficult career choices. Many choose to move on from politics altogether, worn down from the days on the trail. Others take time off or explore the lucrative fields of consultancy or K Street.
For some Trump aides, the landscape has been different. Getting jobs in corporate America has been difficult, owing to the often toxic reputation of the 45th president, especially after the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill. Their boss, meanwhile, continues to float the idea that he will run for president again, and he is in the process of setting up a political — and, potentially, social media — apparatus aimed at cementing him as a lasting fixture in GOP politics. That has incentivized his onetime aides to stay in the game. It’s also sparked infighting, as those aides view maintaining their MAGA bona fides as critical for landing jobs on current and future Republican campaigns.