Former US president Donald Trump has tightened his grip on the Republican party, engineering the election of an ally to a key leadership position in the House conference on Thursday as he plans, according to a report, to start addressing rallies next month.
Elise Stefanik, a Trump ally, was easily elected chair of the House Republican conference with the strong backing of the former president. She will be the No 3 Republican in the House, replacing Liz Cheney, who was among the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him in January and whose ouster was driven by the former president.
“Congratulations to Elise Stefanik for her Big and Overwhelming victory!” Trump said. He had given her “complete” and “total” endorsement earlier and had reiterated support for her on Thursday, on election eve, and attacked her opponent Chip Roy.
Since leaving office, the former president has sought to retain a tight grip on the Republican party, after fending off initial backlash triggered by his role in inciting the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, which houses both chambers of the Congress. Critics and opponents have been forced to fall in line, such as Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican; or give up, such as Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican; or who have been ousted or sidelined, such as Cheney.
Unlike past US presidents, who retire from public life mostly, Trump has kept himself in, through statements fired at the same rate as posts on Twitter and Facebook, before the social media platforms banished him. He has also done interviews on friendly TV networks such as Fox and Newsmax.
And now New York Post, another supportive media outlet, has reported that Trump plans to start addressing his signature rallies, with two planned for June and on around July 4 holiday. His team is said to be working on the details of the venue and timing.
Trump has not yet revealed his plans for another run for the White House, but he told a news publication last week that he is “enthused” by the possibility of it. His favourability ratings remain high among Republicans – at 82% and77%, according two recent polls.