Donald Trump claims his popularity had “never been stronger” when he met with the Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy this week.
Mr Trump met with the US House Minority Leader in Florida on Thursday amid a tug of war over the Republican Party’s future, with congressional leadership appearing eager to present a united front with the former president.
Winning back the House of Representatives from Democrats in 2022 was the primary topic of the meeting at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, according to a readout provided by Save America, a political action committee linked to Mr Trump.
“They discussed many topics, number on of which was taking back the House in 2022,” read the statement.
“President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means perhaps more than any endorsement at any time.
“President Trump has agreed to work with Leader McCarthy on helping the Republican Party to become a majority in the House.
“They worked very well together in the last election and picked up 15 seats when most predicted it would be the opposite. They will do so again and the work has already started.”
The meeting with Mr McCarthy comes as it has been reported that Mr Trump has been invited to speak at the Republican Party’s spring donor meeting in April.
Politico reported the Republican Party is also set to invite other potential 2024 presidential candidates, fuelling speculation Mr Trump could run for office again.
But that could be determined by his impeachment trial. If convicted he would not be allowed to hold public office again.
The image of Mr Trump at his Palm Beach club standing beside Mr McCarthy is the first official photo of the former president released by his team since he left office on January 20.
The staged shot emphasises that Mr Trump will still support Republicans in their campaigns, despite question marks over whether he would move to set up his own political party.
In his first public statement since leaving office, the former president reiterated Monday he will “forever be a champion for the American People”.
Mr McCarthy, an ally who encouraged Mr Trump’s baseless election fraud claims, distanced himself from the outgoing president after Mr Trump was accused of inspiring his supporters to storm the US Capitol earlier this month.
He declared that Joe Biden was the winner of the November election and that Trump “bears responsibility for (the January 6) attack on Congress by mob rioters.”
But on Thursday Mr McCarthy appeared back in Mr Trump’s graces, as the men grinned broadly in a handout photograph taken in an ornate room reminiscent of a European palace.
“Today, President Trump committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022,” Mr McCarthy said in a statement that also attacked Democrats for “impeaching a president who is now a private citizen.”
“A united conservative movement will strengthen the bonds of our citizens and uphold the freedoms our country was founded on,” Mr McCarthy added.
House Democrat Katherine Clark expressed shock that Mr McCarthy was realigning with Mr Trump after the “seditious” Capitol assault.
Despite “active threats of violence,” she said, “Kevin McCarthy’s response is a photo op with the treasonous instigator.”
With Mr Trump impeached for an unprecedented second time, and the Senate girding for his trial, it was unclear how much political clout Mr Trump would retain beyond his presidency.
But recently several Republicans, following polling showing strong party support for Mr Trump, have signalled they will remain in the billionaire’s orbit – or at least not publicly break with him.
Pro-Trump Republicans will hold huge sway in the coming years. They are a large enough contingent to influence the Republican primaries.
But should Mr Trump be cast out and they abandon ship, the party would be severely weakened in its attempts to challenge Democrats for congressional control.
“You have the Trump wing of the party, wanting to purge those who have stood up to the president’s lies, (and) you have the establishment wing of the party wanting to purge the party of Trump,” Republican former congressman Carlos Curbelo told MSNBC.
“Right now, it’s clear that the Trump wing is dominant.”
– With AFP and The Sun