- Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Former President Donald Trump is known for his thin skin and his propensity for vengeance. Working with Mr. Trump often means you adhere to the first rule of Fight Club: You don’t talk about Fight Club.

But as the power of the vindictive ex-president who enjoys doling out vicious nicknames wanes, some former staffers — especially those whom Mr. Trump has berated in the past — are firing back.

“He’s scared s——less,” John Kelly, his former chief of staff, said the day Mr. Trump was arrested, fingerprinted and booked on 37 charges.

For the record, in his last year in the White House, Mr. Trump blasted Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, saying he was “unable to handle the pressure.”

“I know John Kelly. He was with me, didn’t do a good job, had no temperament, and ultimately he was petered out,” Mr. Trump told reporters at a press briefing. “He got eaten alive. He was unable to handle the pressure of this job.”

Mr. Kelly fired back after Mr. Trump delivered a campaign speech following his arraignment, blaming everyone and everything while pretending it’s all good.

“This is the way he compensates for that. He gives people the appearance he doesn’t care by doing this. For the first time in his life, it looks like he’s being held accountable. Up until this point in his life, it’s like, ’I’m not going to pay you, take me to court.’ He’s never been held accountable before,” Mr. Kelly said.

Another former staffer who took aim was Stephanie Grisham, who served as one of Mr. Trump’s White House press secretaries.

“It’s part public relations and part babysitting,” Ms. Grisham told The Washington Post. “He wants people to see the cheering crowds so they don’t think anything is going wrong. It’s also because the staff around him want to keep him busy and wants to have people cheering for him and giving him the ego stroke that he’ll need so they don’t have to deal with him being completely pissed.”

Mr. Trump ripped Ms. Grisham, too, after she left the White House and wrote a book in which she said of Mr. Trump: “He uses you until there is no use for you anymore, or until you dare to say something that could possibly be construed against him.”

It’s not the first time Republicans have ignored Rule No. 1 of Trump Club. Even before the Republicans’ dismal showing in the 2022 midterm elections — pundits predicted the GOP could pick up 20 to 30 seats in the House, but they barely won control — top party members were stepping out on Mr. Trump.

They bashed him for the poor endorsements he made in the campaign. In the 36 most competitive House races, set by the Cook Political Report, Mr. Trump endorsed candidates in just five contests, The New York Times reported. They all lost.

“I think the former president has been poorly advised because he’s made a lot of endorsements in an effort to showcase his formidability,” an adviser to Mike Pence, who served as Mr. Trump’s vice president, told Politico, “and that has the counter-effect that actually shows the endorsement doesn’t carry the same weight it once did.”

Mr. Trump had tried to play kingmaker throughout the midterm campaigns, endorsing a slew of candidates across the nation as he prepared for a return run for president in 2024. So while he wasn’t on the ballot, his virility was clearly on the line — and he came up impotent.

After his arraignment, another ex-Trumper hit the former president where it hurts. “This is the time that the Republican Party needs to ask themselves, are they going to continue to nominate poor-quality candidates to appease Donald Trump?” former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin said on CNN.

“If you want the Republican Party to thrive, we’ve got to just finally speak out and say, ‘This man is a loser, he lost 2020,’” she said.

This is only the beginning. The former president, who celebrated his 77th birthday on June 14, will lash out at anyone who crosses him. The problem: He’s all bark now, no bite. 

And Rule No. 1 of Trump Club doesn’t matter anymore. No one is afraid of the guy who lost to a candidate who half the time doesn’t even know where he is.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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