Dozens of former Republican officials in talks to form anti-Trump third party

 Dozens of former Republican officials in talks to form anti-Trump third party

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WASHINGTON • Dozens of former Republican officials, who view the party as unwilling to stand up to former president Donald Trump and his attempts to undermine United States democracy, are in talks to form a centre-right breakaway party, four people involved in the discussions told Reuters.

The early-stage discussions include former elected Republicans, former officials in the Republican administrations of Mr Ronald Reagan, Mr George H. W. Bush, Mr George W. Bush and Mr Trump, former Republican ambassadors and Republican strategists, the people involved said.

More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of “principled conservatism”, including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law – ideas that have been trashed by Mr Trump, said the people involved.

The plan would be to run candidates in some races but also to endorse centre-right candidates in others, be they Republicans, independents or Democrats, the people said.

Mr Evan McMullin, who was chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and ran as an independent in the 2016 presidential election, told Reuters that he co-hosted the Zoom call with former officials concerned about Mr Trump’s grip on Republicans and the nativist turn the party has taken.

Three other people confirmed to Reuters the call and the discussions for a potential splinter party, but asked not to be identified.

Among the call participants were Mr John Mitnick, general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security under Mr Trump; former Republican congressman Charlie Dent; Ms Elizabeth Neumann, deputy chief of staff in the Homeland Security Department under Mr Trump; and Mr Miles Taylor, another former Trump homeland security official.

The talks highlight the wide intra-party rift over Mr Trump’s false claims of election fraud and the deadly Jan 6 storming of the US Capitol.

Most Republicans remain fiercely loyal to the former president, but others seek a new direction for the party.

The House of Representatives impeached Mr Trump on Jan 13 on a charge of inciting an insurrection by exhorting thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol on the day Congress was gathered to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.

Call participants said they were particularly dismayed by the fact that more than half of the Republicans in Congress – eight senators and 139 House representatives – voted to block certification of Mr Biden’s election victory just hours after the Capitol siege.

Most Republican senators have also indicated that they will not support the conviction of Mr Trump in this week’s Senate impeachment trial.

“Large portions of the Republican Party are radicalising and threatening American democracy,” Mr McMullin told Reuters.

“The party needs to recommit to truth, reason and founding ideals or there clearly needs to be something new.”

Asked about the discussions for a third party, Mr Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, said: “These losers left the Republican Party when they voted for Joe Biden.”

A representative for the Republican National Committee referred to a recent statement from chairman Ronna McDaniel.

“If we continue to attack one another and focus on attacking fellow Republicans, if we have disagreements within our party, then we are losing sight of 2022 (elections),” Ms McDaniel said on Fox News last month.

Mr McMullin said more than 40 per cent of those on last week’s Zoom call backed the idea of a breakaway, national third party.

Another option under discussion is to form a “faction” that would operate either inside the current Republican Party or outside it.

Names under consideration for a new party include the Integrity Party and the Centre Right Party. If it is decided instead to form a faction, one name under discussion is the Centre Right Republicans.

Members are aware that the US political landscape is littered with the remains of previous failed attempts at national third parties.

“But there is a far greater hunger for a new political party out there than I have ever experienced in my lifetime,” one participant said.

REUTERS

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