Today, some of those same Republicans are now quietly on the job hunt as President Trump’s standing in the polls continues to slide against Joe Biden with decision time in just 18 days. But now, these GOPers are hoping the Trump presidency isn’t a disqualifying blemish on their resumes or permanent Google footprint as the door revolves the other way and they seek to land, once again, in the private sector.
Gaining distance from Trump and some of his more incendiary statements is likely to be an easier task for some alumni than others.
- Take Sean Spicer, for example, the most prominent example of a former Trump White House whose life after Trump has been heavily scrutinized. As the administration’s first press secretary, Spicer was forever memorialized by Melissa McCarthy’s brutal satire on Saturday Night Live — Trump’s gripe with the sendup was that Spicer was played by a woman — and for fantastically clinging to inflated totals of the crowd size that witnessed Trump’s inauguration. Spicer later said he regretted such claims.
- Since leaving the administration three years ago, Spicer has landed a few gigs on television, such as a contestant with ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and a show on conservative-leaning Newsmax TV. He’s also penned two books.
But his career arc has veered far from the usual gigs secured by former White House press secretaries and senior administration officials. There’s been no cushy landing on K Street or high-profile consultancy at a major lobbying or public relations firm. It’s a fate that might be befall many others in Trumpworld if the president loses — or even if they don’t relish staying on through a second term.
- “There’s always a market for lobbyists but look at someone like Spicer who had high-profile gigs in the White House and where did he land?” Amanda Carpenter, a Trump critic, CNN contributor and former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) noted. “He’s a host on Newsmax right now. That’s not the kind of leg up to high-profile communications in the corporate world that’s the typical path … If he can’t do it, I think people with such a high profile will have similar problems.”
Spicer appreciates the concern but says he’s doing just fine. He’s thankful for all of the opportunities he says he’s had since leaving the White House. “I’m living a very happy life and provide for my family and children and for that I am very grateful,” said Spicer.
- If Trump loses, “it’ll be challenging for Republicans everywhere” to find a new job, Spicer added. That’s just the way of Washington, where "[people] suck up to people with power and they let go of people who let go of it.”
Over a dozen Republican strategists, former Trump administration staffers, current Capitol Hill hands, and associates close to the Trump White House predict that many graduates of the Trump administration could have a tough time sticking a land in the private sector.
They say Trump’s shaky standing in the campaign — and his pull on down-ballot races — is already making Republicans especially nervous.
- “Quiet conversations in Gmail are more active now than would be expected a month before an election,” said a senior Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations. “I have a buddy in the administration who is starting to quietly move his resume around and he’s noticed people who he thought would be quicker to respond to inquiries have been less so. He called it ‘the Trump stink. How much Trump stink is on my resume right now?'”
- Read our full story here.
For some Trump officials, leaving the administration for the corporate world could be seamless and welcome — a necessary pit stop to refuel before placing their bets on a horse for the 2024 race. And job churn is always inevitable if there’s a transfer of power in Washington.
- “Americans have short memories,” Rodney Faraon, a former CIA analyst and member of the president’s daily brief team in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, who is now a partner with Martin+Crumpton Group. “One would think that the GOP would, as John McCain would say, ‘return to normal order,’ and then we can finally debate issues on the basis of real substance. But that’s the big $64,000 question. What happens to the GOP after Trump?”
Former staffers who have departed the administration are already finding out. There has been record turnover in what has been a chaotic and fast-moving administration.
Countless former Trump aides have landed smoothly on their feet. And some ex-administration and campaign officials have found refuge in the Trump reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee or in conservative media. Others who came to Washington to work for Trump were never going to slip in and out of the institutional D.C. class — and aren’t likely to try to do so in a post-Trump world.
And that might be a good thing. While the revolving door between government and corporate America has swung swiftly for decades and made many former officials wealthy, it also has been the source of intense criticism from good government groups who argue it has a corrupting influence on public policy.
But Republicans say the former Trump aides most successful in making the transition are those who already had deep connections inside the Beltway. Those aides also stayed further away from the more controversial issues and investigations that have riddled the White House, these Republicans pointed out.
- “Pence’s staff will be insulated more,” argued another GOP strategist who still works in Washington. “Especially as after-action reports come out about the role he played and the impact he was able to have on bigger decisions. His team ends up in a different boat.”
And, for some in Trumpworld, flouting the political-industrial complex and heading back to New York might be a relief. That group could include Trump’s family members, such as Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, who serve as senior White House advisers. But as the president’s children have assumed more fulsome roles in the Republican Party, it’s unlikely they’ll fade into obscurity.
- Trump is “going to get a lot of votes and win a lot of states and there are elected officials who have tied their boats not just to Trump but the movement and there will be plenty of opportunities for people to ride that movement,” a Trump campaign staffer told us. “But yes, it is hard to move into the corporate world. There’s just that stigma of being a Trump person. ”
Red lines: CEOs and businesses have become increasingly critical of the president for stoking racial rancor. Republicans who now work with Fortune 500 companies agree that any public defense of Trump on race and immigration — the hot-button issues on which Trump has staked his presidency — are the most problematic public positions to have taken for those seeking corporate gigs.
- For others, like a former longtime intelligence officer who now works in the corporate world, red lines on hiring include a track record of politicizing intelligence, along with defending Trump on issues of race.
- “If you’re against Black Lives Matter, if you’re pro-Proud Boys, and stuff like that? I won’t look at you at all,” the former officer noted.
- “Good talented people will always be in demand in D.C. if you’re coming from an agency and understand policies that animate the marketplace,” said the first GOP strategist. “The challenge is when you actually get closer to the president himself. When you look at the people who have been defending the president vocally and are explaining some of the things he’s done, then things get trickier.”
The longtime GOP strategist who runs a public affairs firm that works with corporate clients recalled coming close to hiring a former Trump White House staffer until a Google search revealed the prospective hire’s track record defending Trump on race and immigration. It ground the interview process to a halt, the strategist said.
- “A lot of people who came into this in 2015 and 2016, they knew that there would be a stigma going into this — and it’ll likely last for a very long time,” said a Trump campaign staffer. “Probably for the rest of their lives. I don’t think that’s lost on anyone. ”
TRUMP, BIDEN HOST DUELING TOWN HALLS: “The events — with Trump on NBC from Miami and Biden on ABC from Philadelphia — appeared to be broadcast from entirely different dimensions. The soft-spoken Biden leaned back in a white chair, relaxed and conversational as he hit upon notes of optimism and uplift. Trump’s appearance was heated and at times abrasive, with the candidate leaning forward as he defended his record and challenged the motivations of moderator Savannah Guthrie,” Michael Scherer, Jenna Johnson and Josh Dawsey report.
More on the president's town hall: “Trump doubted the effectiveness of wearing of masks to prevent viral spread, refused to denounce the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, repeatedly declined to say whether he was tested for the coronavirus before the last debate and battled with Guthrie, who pressed him with details and a mastery of the facts that some moderators have not possessed when sparring with him,” our colleagues write.
- One of the most notable exchanges was Trump's refusal to denounce QAnon: “He said he did not know about QAnon, a loose-knit online community that was recently banned from Facebook after sharing false stories, including ones about Democrats abusing children. Supporters of the group regularly appear with signs and apparel at Trump’s rallies. ‘They are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that,’ he said about the group before attempting to pivot the conversation to talk about left-wing radicals like self-described anti-fascist protesters.”
- Trump also refused to apologize for spreading another conspiracy theory this week: “He retweeted a false conspiracy theory that holds that the Obama administration faked the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and may have orchestrated the murder of U.S. Special Forces personnel. He said it was a ‘retweet,’ suggesting he was not responsible for its accuracy.”
This led to the line of the night:
Talk less, smile more?: A voter complimented Trump on his smile before diving into a question about DACA. But that's not the end of the story. Paulette Dale, a registered Republican who was described as leaning toward Biden, still plans on supporting the former vice president.
Dale told the Miami New Times's Jessica Lipscomb that Trump “steps in it every time he opens his mouth.”
- She added the other question she had prepared to ask about climate change gets at her concerns about the president: “He's very combative and he doesn't believe in science, and that's a big concern to me,” she said. “And by his own words, he knows more than the [military] generals, knows more than the public-health experts, knows more than anybody. I believe Joe Biden will listen to the experts.”
- But, yes, she really does love Trump's smile, though she's “not a fan” of him: “I believe the man has a very nice smile; there was no reason not to comment on it,” Dale said. “Smiles are important to me. I like nice teeth."
Biden made little news during his town hall: “He spoke about taxes, fracking, outreach to Black voters, foreign relations and the pandemic. He was asked three sets of questions about racial justice and two about gay, lesbian and transgender rights,” our colleagues write.
- “Biden reiterated the importance of wearing masks, again saying that if he were president he would pressure governors and local leaders to institute mask mandates. He said he would not impose fines for those who refused to take a coronavirus vaccine.”
A Trump campaign adviser mocked his performance with an odd comparison:
We did get one key development: Biden and his campaign have tried to dodge whether he would expand the Supreme Court. So far, he has only offered he's “not a fan” of court packing. But last night, Biden promised to take a firm position by Election Day, a reversal from his previous stance that Americans would only hear his thoughts after the campaign is over.
- He also provided a little more insight into his thinking: “It depends on how much they rush this,” he said, adding of Senate Republicans working to quickly confirm Amy Coney Barrett's to the Supreme Court. “I’m open to considering what happens from that point on.”
JUST THE FACTS: “Trump spun a web of falsehoods like a whirling dervish while Biden talked in depth and at length on a range of policy issues, leaving us with a handful of claims to check,” our Fact Checker colleagues Salvador Rizzo, Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly report.
Or as CNN's fact checker in chief Daniel Dale put it:
Here are some highlights from our colleagues: In total, they examined eight claims from Trump and four from Biden. (A reminder they don't award their famous Pinocchios for claims made in live settings like town halls).
- A CDC study did not concluded 85 percent of people who wear masks get covid: “The top finding was that ‘close contact with a person with known covid-19 was more commonly reported among’ the positive cases (42 percent) than the negatives (14 percent) …,” our colleagues write. "The rate of mask-wearing is almost the same, so the takeaway from this study is that the positive cases had more contacts with a person with known covid-19 and dined out more.”
- Thousands of ballots for Trump have not been ‘dumped in a garbage can’: “The case Trump is referring to, from Pennsylvania, involves nine ballots, seven of which were for Trump, not ‘thousands,’” our colleagues write.
- America is not turning the corner on covid: “The rate of new U.S. cases has been trending upward in recent weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as several states begin to reopen their economies amid what epidemiologists say could be a second wave of the virus,” our colleagues write.
- The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers has not endorsed Biden: “Biden made this comment after moderator George Stephanopoulos noted that a member of Boilermakers Local 154, an important union in Pennsylvania, had expressed skepticism about Biden’s pledge to not end fracking,” our colleague writes. In fact, the union has not endorsed any candidate for president.
- Trump did not eliminate funding for community policing: “The program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), still exists. Trump in his 2019 budget plan proposed to cut the funding in half, but that’s not the same as zero,” our colleagues write.
WHITE HOUSE WAS WARNED OF RUDY'S TIES: “U.S. intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence …,” Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Josh Dawsey report.
- The details: “The warnings were based on multiple sources, including intercepted communications, that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine, where he was gathering information that he thought would expose corrupt acts by Biden and his son Hunter.”
Even Trump himself was cautioned: “National security adviser Robert O’Brien cautioned Trump in a private conversation that any information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia …,” our colleagues write.
- But it's not clear those concerns went anywhere: “But O’Brien emerged from the meeting uncertain whether he had gotten through to the president. Trump had ‘shrugged his shoulders’ at O’Brien’s warning, a former official said, and dismissed concern about his lawyer’s activities by saying, ‘That’s Rudy.’”
On the Hill
BARRETT ON SWIFT COURSE TO CONFIRMATION: “GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee set up an Oct. 22 vote on her nomination, despite procedural protests from Democrats,” Seung Min Kim and Karoun Demirjian report.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would begin full consideration of her nomination a day later and he confidently predicted that she had the votes to win confirmation.
- Democrats said a backlash is coming: “They predicted a voter backlash against the GOP for confirming a conservative whose jurisprudence is the polar opposite of liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month. Citing her past statements and writings, Democrats repeatedly warned that Barrett could be a vote to overturn the landmark decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion, may undermine same-sex marriage and could put key health-care protections at risk.”
Meanwhile, the left is targeting Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee: “At the conclusion of the hearing, she thanked Graham for how he led the proceedings, and the two maskless senators hugged — amid a pandemic,” our colleagues write.
- “Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group focused on the judiciary, called on Feinstein to step down as the panel’s top Democrat. If she won’t do so voluntarily, then other Democratic senators needed to intervene, the group said.”
THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS ABOUT TRUMP: “In the years since [Trump’s 2016 campaign], I’ve pored over books on the Trump era, trying to keep pace with the intellectuals, journalists, insiders, partisans, and activists who are grappling with the turmoil it has wrought. I’ve read some 150 of them thus far, and even that is just a fraction of the Trump canon. One of the ironies of our time is that a man who rarely reads, preferring the rage of cable news and Twitter for hours each day, has propelled an onslaught of book-length writing about his presidency,” Carlos Lozada writes in his new book “What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era.”
- On the countless tell-all tomes: “Too many books of the Trump era are more knee-jerk than incisive, more posing than probing, more righteous than right, more fixated on calling out the daily transgressions of the man in the Oval Office — this is not normal! — than on assessing their impact. They are illuminating in part because they reflect some of the same blind spots, resentments, and failures of imagination that gave us the Trump presidency itself, and that are likely to outlast it. Individually, these books try to show a way forward. Collectively, they reveal how we’re stuck …. ”
And the books that really matter: “The books that matter most right now are not necessarily those revealing White House intrigue, policy disputes, or official scandals, no matter how crucial those subjects. They are, instead, the books that enable and ennoble a national reexamination,” Carlos writes.
- “They are the books that show how our current conflicts fit into the nation’s story, that hold fast to the American tradition of always seeing ourselves anew. They are the books on the white working class that do not oversimplify its motives or its politics, and the resistance volumes that resist dogma and exclusion. They are the studies on the decline of truth that leave room for self-doubt, and the works on immigration that find newcomers changing America from within, and being changed by it, too.”
Unlike ephemeral tweets, these will last: “Such books are not beholden to this moment, which is why they reveal so much about it. The most essential books of the Trump era are scarcely about Trump at all,” Carlos writes.
In the media
Coronavirus cases are rising across the country: “For the first time since early August, the number of newly reported coronavirus infections in the United States on Thursday topped 60,000. More than 36,000 people are hospitalized nationally with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, amid a long-feared autumnal rise of infections and serious illnesses,” Joel Achenbach and Jacqueline Dupree report.
Sen. Kamala Harris has suspended campaign travel after two people in her orbit tested positive for coronavirus: Harris tested negative for the virus on Wednesday, the campaign said. “A person who recently flew on the same plane as Biden also tested positive, the campaign said, but that individual was never within 50 feet of the former vice president, who is not taking any additional steps to isolate himself,” Chelsea Janes and Sean Sullivan report.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) unloaded on Trump: “It’s hardly the first time that Sasse has leveled scathing criticisms at Trump. Sasse critics were quick to note that despite his rhetoric, the senator has often backed Trump when it counts — most prominently during the president’s impeachment trial,” the Omaha World Herald's Joseph Morton reports. The paper says the comments were made during a Wednesday evening telephone town hall.
- Tell us what you really think: “It isn’t just that he fails to lead our allies. It’s that the United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership. The way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor. The ways I criticize President Obama for that kind of spending, I’ve criticized President Trump for as well. He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists,” Sasse said. The senator's statements were first reported by the Washington Examiner, which obtained audio of his answer to a question about why he criticizes the president.