Ahead of a Donald Trump rally on Saturday in South Carolina, former White House allies say the former president “simply got bad advice” when it comes to backing a candidate in a contentious GOP primary for Congress in the state.
Mr Trump heads to the city of Florence for another campaign-style rally, and there he’s likely to praise GOP hopeful Katie Arrington and trash the incumbent Nancy Mace in the upcoming race for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District.
Previously, Mr Trump has called Ms Mace “absolutely horrendous.”
Mr Trump’s support for Ms Arrington has exposed the rift between him and former Trump White House officials Mick Mulvaney and Nikki Haley, both of whom hail from South Carolina. Neither will appear at the rally, despite their high profile in the state.
“If there is one thing the party — and the president — should have learned in the last decade it is that bad candidates lose,” Mr Mulvaney, former acting White House chief of staff, told Politico. “I can only wonder if he got advice from anyone who actually follows S.C. politics. I know he didn’t ask me, or Nikki.”
The former president “simply got bad advice in this race,” Mr Mulvaney added.
The divisions, as with most rifts within the GOP at the moment, date back to the 2020 election, the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol, and the 2024 presidential race.
Both Mr Mulvaney and Ms Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, sharply criticised Mr Trump after the attack.
“I can’t stay,” Mr Mulvaney said on television the day after the insurrection, announcing his resignation from his post as US special envoy to Northern Ireland. “Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they’re worried the president might put someone worse in.”
Since then, the former South Carolina congressman has pushed back against Mr Trump’s attempt to whitewash what happened on 6 January, such as when the former president denied the widespread violence at the insurrection occurred and claimed his supporters were “hugging and kissing” police, while posing “zero threat.”
“I was surprised to hear the President say that. Clearly there were people who were behaving themselves, and then there were people who absolutely were not, but to come out and say that everyone was fine and there was no risk, that’s just manifestly false – people died, other people were severely injured,” Mr Mulvaney told CNN last March. “It’s not right to say there was no risk, I don’t know how you can say that when people were killed,” he added.
Ms Haley also slammed the president, though she has since gone back on her condemnations to a degree.
“We need to acknowledge he let us down,” Ms Haley said after 6 January, adding to Politico that she thought Mr Trump’s political career was over. “He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.”
Later that year, Ms Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, had a dramatic about-face.
“He has a strong legacy from his administration,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “He has the ability to get strong people elected, and he has the ability to move the ball, and I hope that he continues to do that. We need him in the Republican Party. I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump.”
Since then, the former governor has said she would only consider a 2024 presidential run if Mr Trump wasn’t running, a position she also went back on, telling the Journal in October the former president is a friend she would discuss a campaign with, but whose opinion wouldn’t determine her choice.