The violent assault on the U.S. Capitol by President Donald Trump’s supporters and his long refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election have jeopardized the president’s political future and tainted prospects for his top lieutenants and family members, current and former administration officials said.
The Republican president has dangled the possibility of running for president in 2024, and political operatives had expected him to exert influence over the Republican Party for years to come.
But his behavior on Wednesday – goading supporters to march on the Capitol to encourage lawmakers to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s win in the Nov. 3 election, and then failing quickly to call on them to stand down after violence ensued – has sickened people who work and used to work for him and, they said, changed the equation for his post-presidential relevance.
“It was a dereliction of duty as commander-in-chief and I think he will be mortally wounded from a political career going forward,” one former White House official who worked for Trump said on Thursday. “He has blood on his hands from yesterday. A woman died.”
Trump supporters broke into the Capitol, pushed past police, and roamed through the building, forcing lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence to evacuate. One woman died after being shot by police; three other individuals died of medical emergencies.
“There’s no recovering from what happened. It was sedition. I don’t see how there’s a future,” said another former administration official, referring to Trump and his top aides. “I think the Cabinet members that stayed and that aren’t speaking out now or even quietly resigning have a stain forever.”
The former administration official singled out Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a Trump acolyte who may have presidential ambitions, for not doing more to condemn what happened. Pompeo issued a tweet in which he called the violence “unacceptable.” The State Department declined to comment further.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced on Thursday she would resign, as did Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who cited the impact of Trump’s rhetoric in spurring the Capitol melee. Other lower level administration officials have announced their departures, too, with roughly two weeks to go before the end of Trump’s administration.
The president came as close as he has to a concession in a video statement on Thursday night in which he pledged to work towards a smooth transfer of power to the new administration and called the violence at the Capitol a “heinous attack.”
But the statement was late, and it came after intervention from his daughter, Ivanka, according to one current White House official, who noted that the political hit from the week’s events would extend to his family members, such as daughter-in-law Lara Trump, a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina.
The former officials who spoke to Reuters for this story had been broadly supportive of the president, even after leaving their posts earlier in his four-year tenure.
Trump has raised massive amounts of money in the period since the election, capitalizing on discontent he has fomented by falsely claiming the election was rigged against him through widespread voter fraud.
But another former White House official said the president’s ability to bring in cash would be inhibited now, too, with the exception of smaller donations from still-ardent supporters in his political base.
“I think anything above low-dollar-crazy is going to be a problem,” the former official said. “Anything above the $100 giver is out.”
Many elected officials within the Republican Party have turned on Trump because of the violence, a break that could lessen his leverage over the political futures of other Republicans as well as his own. Senator Lindsey Graham, a long-time defender of the president, declared on Wednesday night that “enough is enough” and said Biden had been elected lawfully.
“I don’t think he’s going to be elected to anything else,” a third former White House official said of Trump. “As time goes on, he will continue to be a very strong voice and he will have a very big following, but … I think this lessens the chances that he runs for anything.”