Trump's threat to start a new party designed to give him leverage during impeachment: report
Composite image of President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Photos by Gage Skidmore.

Donald Trump has been ridiculed over reports he is considering starting a "Patriot Party" to compete against the GOP, but the effort may be designed as an impeachment defense, according to a new report in The Washington Post.

"In recent weeks, Trump has entertained the idea of creating a third party, called the Patriot Party, and instructed his aides to prepare election challenges to lawmakers who crossed him in the final weeks in office, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC), according to people familiar with the plans," Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer reported for The Post on Saturday.

"Multiple people in Trump's orbit, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, say Trump has told people that the third party threat gives him leverage to prevent Republican senators from voting to convict him during the Senate impeachment trial," The Post explained. "Trump advisers also say they plan to recruit opposing primary candidates and commission polling next week in districts of targeted lawmakers. Trump has more than $70 million in campaign cash banked to fund his political efforts, these people say."

The idea of Trump starting a new party has the support of Lou Dobbs.

"The prospect of a divisive battle threatens to widen a split in the Republican Party and has alarmed leaders in Washington, who have been pleading publicly to avoid any new rounds of internecine retribution," The Post reported. "The central issue between the warring party elements is whether Republicans will continue to organize themselves around fealty to Trump or whether a broader coalition should be built in the coming years that can welcome both his most avid supporters and those who have condemned his behavior. The scale and shape of the big tent built by Ronald Reagan, nurtured by George W. Bush and transformed by Trump is once again up for grabs, as the party finds itself without power at the White House, the Congress or the Senate for the first time since 2014."

The GOP's civil war is already being waged.

"As it now stands, the big tent is tearing at the edges. Business groups have called for a Grand Old Party purge of more extreme leaders, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has blamed Trump and other Republicans for provoking the U.S. Capitol riot and McCarthy has said Trump 'bears responsibility' for the attack by not immediately denouncing the violence once it began — although he later said he did not believe Trump provoked the riot," The Post reported. "Trump's fiercest supporters in Congress, meanwhile, have continued to threaten and denounce those who criticize the former president, repeatedly raising the prospect of a more fundamental party division. Adding to the conflict, Republican voters remain overwhelmingly supportive of Trump, suggesting strength in primary races that the establishment figures fear could prompt losses in competitive state and national races."

Read the full report.