Washington Whispers: The Trumps in Exile—Where are They Now?
By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.
Since Twitter and Facebook banned Donald Trump, we have been treated to far fewer of his tantrums, and almost none of his written bons mots. The Atlantic suggested in April that Trump has “remained unexpectedly peripheral since leaving office.” But when villains get quiet—when they’re not advertising much of what they’re doing—watch out!
Since leaving the White House, most of the Trump clan has decamped to Florida. According to People in April, Donald, Jr. bought a $9.7 million home in the Admiral Cove gated Community in Jupiter, not far from Mar-a-Lago; A Business Insider article reported in May that Eric and Lara bought a $3.2 million mansion in the Trump National Golf Club gated community next door, and Ivanka and Jared are building a home in Indian Creek, a swanky private island community in Miami-Dade County known as Miami’s “Billionaire Bunker.” Tiffany has been spending time in Miami. Until last week, when the former President moved to New Jersey for the summer, Trump, Melania, and Barron had been living at Mar-a-Lago.
Remember the Mar-a-Lago neighbors who tried to evict Trump from his “Winter White House?” They argued he couldn’t live there because it’s a resort, not a private residence. But the Palm Beach town attorney said that Trump may live there because he is a “bona fide employee.” I wonder if the guests can make him bring them towels, turn down their beds, and leave expensive mints on their pillows.
But no! Trump is spending his days playing golf and lunching. Like an old ham actor trying to relive his glory days, he even crashed a wedding held at his resort, where he ranted at length against President Biden’s policies towards Iran and China, and the supposed election fraud, before wishing the newlyweds well.
Occasionally, Trump has ventured out to a venue like CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) to recite to a receptive audience his tired complaints that the 2020 election was stolen from him. He’s also given interviews to some of his favorite right-wing cable-news shows.
Most of all, Trump has been plotting revenge on his political enemies as well as those who have otherwise offended him by not being sufficiently obsequious or not fully buying into his election fraud lie. At a Republican fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago in April, he called Mitch McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch” and a “stone cold loser” for accepting the electoral results. The former President has threatened to campaign against those Republicans who voted for his impeachment and for his conviction for incitement of insurrection. He even said he would travel as far as Alaska to campaign against the “disloyal” Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Last week, after Rep. Liz Cheney was ousted from her position as Conference Chair (the third-ranking Republican leader in the House) for her repeated challenges of Trump’s “big lie,” he issued the statement:
Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being. I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican party. She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our country. She is a warmonger whose family stupidly pushed us into the never-ending Middle East disaster, draining our wealth and depleting our great military, the worst decision in our country’s history. I look forward to soon watching her as a paid contributor on CNN or MSDNC (sic).
The statement, though nasty, is uncharacteristically articulate. One must wonder who wrote it for him.
Presumably, Trump has also been mulling over his legal jeopardy in both civil and criminal investigations, and contemplating how to evade extradition from Florida if he is indicted by New York prosecutors. If an indictment should happen to come down during the summer, he may find his summer locale in New Jersey hotter than Florida since he won’t have his friendly Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to run interference for him.
While we wait for the wheels of justice to slowly grind their way towards possible indictments for various crimes (tax evasion, fraud, obstruction of justice) the Trump family members are plotting their respective triumphant returns to Washington.
Trump plays the ousted king in exile, receiving his many vassals who come to show their obeisance. GOP lawmakers like Senator Lindsey Graham, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, and extremist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene have made the trek south. In March, a delegation of sycophantic Alabama Republicans even presented Trump with a framed resolution declaring him “one of the greatest and most effective presidents in the 245 years of this republic.”
These minions do not make the trip to Mar-a-Lago out of love or respect for the man but in hopes of currying Trump’s favor and thereby obtaining the votes of those still supporting him. The Atlantic reported in April that Trump tops polls of GOP voters for 2024 presidential candidates.
If the members of the Republican Party had stood in solidarity against Trump, they could have put a stop to his political life and outrages long ago. Certainly they could have done so after his January 6 attempted coup. But they had neither the will nor the desire. Apparently, with the exception of Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, they are willing to sacrifice their integrity and their souls in exchange for reflected power. The most gung-ho Congressional types like Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz are acting as surrogates, attacking all Trump’s enemies for him. With friends like that, who needs Twitter and Facebook?
Meanwhile, according to gossipy People magazine, Melania has been spending most of her time at Mar-a-Lago’s spa as well as with with her son, Barron, and her parents. Melania may or may not favor a 2024 presidential run for Donald, but it appears that she is no shrinking violet who needs to be “freed” from him. Apparently, she is well-satisfied with her marital bargain, and well able to navigate within it to get what she thinks she deserves.
People reported that, in 2005, a New York University student asked if Melania would still be with her husband if he wasn’t rich, to which Melania replied: “If I weren't beautiful, do you think he'd be with me?”
It appears now that, despite the official explanation when Trump first took office, Melania did not delay her move to Washington after his 2016 election victory so Barron could complete his school year. In The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump, author Mary Jordan reports that Melania was renegotiating her prenup agreement, using her delayed move to D.C. as leverage. But the author notes that Melania’s main purpose was apparently to ensure Barron would have an inheritance equal to that of Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric. Who knows? Perhaps Melania is quietly bargaining for a revised prenup yet again.
As for Trump’s children and children-in-law, the word is that Jared is out; Donald, Jr. is in.
Donald, Jr. is now reportedly the top adviser to his father. According to CNN, he is vetting Republicans seeking Trump’s endorsement, and advising Trump that divisive cultural issues like transgender rights and sex changes are the most likely to stir MAGA voters for the 2022 midterm election and beyond.
Eric Trump’s wife Lara has joined Fox News as a contributor, and it is rumored that she may run for Republican North Carolina Senator Richard Burr’s seat in 2022. (He is not seeking reelection.) Senator Lindsey Graham has said that Lara “represents the future of the Republican Party.” Lara’s not even a blood relative. But, apparently there is no one in the Trump family orbit whose boots Lindsey will not lick.
Ivanka and Jared are keeping a low profile. They are trying to maintain a distance from Trump’s political machine and rehabilitate their own images while still keeping themselves in the news. In April, Vanity Fair reported that the couple are plotting to make Ivanka the first woman president. If that happens, God help us all.
In the meantime, Jared has gone back to developing real estate with his ex-con father in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. And both Jared and Ivanka are acting as informal advisers to the newly formed America First Policy Institute (AFPI)—billed as a 35-person nonprofit think tank, whose stated mission is to perpetuate former President Trump’s policies. However, according to The Guardian in April, critics consider AFPI a “cash cow for Trump alumni with stained reputations.”
In February, after the Senate failed to attain the 67 votes needed to convict Trump, Senator Graham declared, “The most potent force in the Republican party is President Trump.” According to Graham, “Trump-plus is the way back in 2022.”
We need Trump-plus like we need a hole in the head. But it looks like Trump-plus is what we’ve got. And if the nefarious clan’s grandiose schemes bear fruit, and the courts don’t intercede, we may have to play whack-a-mole with Donald Trump and his odious offspring for years to come.
Jessie Seigel is a fiction writer, an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. She has twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her work. But, Seigel also had a long career as a government attorney, in which she honed her analytic skills. Of this double career, Seigel would say, “I guess my right and left brains are well balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.