The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Dozens of former GOP officials reportedly met last week to discuss mounting a new anti-Trump party

A sign reads “Save The GOP. Convict Trump” near the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. (Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg News)

Days before former president Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial began, more than 100 former GOP officials reportedly hopped on a Zoom call. The topic: how to best rally whatever anti-Trump momentum is left in the party.

The talk on Friday, which Reuters reported included former elected Republicans and officials from the past four GOP administrations, touched on whether to launch a new center-right party, said Evan McMullin, the former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, who co-hosted the call.

“Some people at the summit strongly favor starting a new party,” McMullin, who ran as an independent presidential candidate in 2016, told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “They think the GOP is irredeemable. They understand how difficult it is to form a new party, but they understand that there is no other choice.”

The call came as Trump maintains an enduring grip on the GOP even after his loss in November and incitement of a short-lived insurrection last month. A recent Post-ABC News poll found 56 percent of Republicans said Trump bears no responsibility for the Capitol attack, and a majority of Republicans said GOP leaders did not go far enough to back his baseless claims of fraud. Most GOP senators backed Trump by voting against moving forward with the trial.

But the talks are another sign of the deep divisions in the party, which has been split apart by power struggles after Trump’s defeat. Last week, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) survived a challenge to her role as the third-ranking House Republican over her vote to impeach Trump.

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Trump’s lasting influence in the party helped spark the meeting last week, McMullin said. Roughly 120 former officials called in, McMullin said. Reuters reported it confirmed those figures with three others who participated in the call, and said the group included John Mitnick, Trump’s general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security; former Pennsylvania congressman Charlie Dent; Elizabeth Neumann, deputy chief of staff at DHS under Trump, and Miles Taylor, who also worked at DHS under Trump.

While the call included discussion of forming a new party, only about 40 percent of those on the call appeared to support that course of action, McMullin said. The rest argued they could have more impact by nurturing the anti-Trump faction within the GOP.

He said the former officials were split between those who wanted to keep operating strictly under the GOP, and those wanting to back independent Republicans “willing to support Democrats [and Independents] when facing extremist Republicans in general elections.”

Jason Miller, a senior adviser for Trump, dismissed those on the call as irrelevant.

“These losers left the Republican Party when they voted for Joe Biden,” Miller told Reuters.

A representative with the Republican National Committee did not immediately respond to a message from The Post early Thursday.

McMullin said the meeting left him convinced that the anti-Trump wing of the party was motivated to address “extremists.”

“There is an extremist wing of the GOP party that has taken the party over,” McMullin said. “Certainly, former president Trump is the leader of the extremist wing of the Republican Party, but he’s not the only one. There are plenty who have joined him in Congress or elsewhere and there are many more who are silently going along.”