Trumpworld smells a rat. Has someone in his inner circle flipped?

·5 min read
Trump Investigations FBI (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Trump Investigations FBI (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

With each passing day, it becomes harder for a casual observer to distinguish between the post-presidential life of Donald Trump and that of late-season Tony Soprano.

In the past week alone, Mr Trump’s home has been searched by the FBI as part of an investigationg into his handling of classified documents, he has pled the Fifth in a separate case into his business dealings in New York, and now, according to several reports, he is trying to flush out a rat in his orbit.

(It’s worth noting that Mr Soprano faced only two of three above).

“Trumpworld is abuzz with speculation about which close aide or aides has ‘flipped’ and provided additional sensitive information to the FBI about what former President Trump was keeping at Mar-a-Lago,” Axios reported this morning, citing several sources.

Newsweek, meanwhile, cites two senior government sources claiming that the FBI’s warrant to search Mar-a-Lago was based on information from a confidential human source “who was able to identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding.”

Mr Trump’s opponents are making the most of the rumours. The professional Trump-tormentors at the Lincoln Project cut an ad goading the former president about the possible collaborators in his midst.

“Who was it Donald? Who gave you up to the feds?” it begins, before running through a list of possible family members and associates who may have turned coat.

“Donald Trump is paranoid for a reason; they really are out to get him,” Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson told The Independent.

“His own staff has learned the lessons that Trump is a stranger to loyalty or honour. They’re damned if they cooperate, and damned if they don’t, but since going to prison rarely appeals to his followers, at least some of them are singing like birds,” he added.

Weeding out the enemies within has long been a pastime of Mr Trump’s. Even before he became president he was fond of promoting a conspiracy theory that the Deep State was out to get him. While in office, the turnover in his top advisors was 92 per cent heading into his last year, many of which were firings or resignations under pressure.

“Leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” then-president Trump wrote on Twitter in 2018.

This time around, the stakes are even higher. Availed of the protections of his office, Mr Trump is currently facing multiple investigations in multiple states for multiple alleged offences. The list of potential flippers and leakers has grown exponentially, as have the consequences.

The House committee investigating the January 6 attack has presented a parade of former Trump White House officials who have testified to his role in encouraging the events of that day — from former attorney general Bill Barr to former aide Cassidy Hutchinson.

In all those cases, though, Mr Trump has been able to fight back publicly. He called Mr Barr "weak and frightened" following his testimony, and Ms Hutchinson “bad news!”

This time, crucially, it’s not a leaker that is bothering Mr Trump, but an informant — someone who could not just embarrass the former president, but put him in genuine legal peril.

So, who are the potential candidates?

Mark Meadows, Mr Trump’s former chief of staff, is frequently suggested among the names of possible collaborators.

CNN recently reported that Mr Trump had been advised to break off contact with Mr Meadows, and that the former president ignored that advice. Mr Meadows is thought to be high up on the list of Trump advisors who may face legal peril relating to the events of January 6.

"The reason [Meadows] is valuable is also the reason he is in jeopardy: He was basically at Trump’s right hand throughout all these exercises and participated in key meetings and phone calls," Former White House attorney Ty Cobb told CNN.

Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner has also singled out Mr Meadows as a potential flipper.

"Do you really think Mark Meadows is just going to sit quietly by and take the fall for Donald Trump? Maybe just volunteer to dive under the bus? No," Mr Kirschner said in a video posted to YouTube last month.

"He’s going to cut his losses. He’s going to cooperate. He’s going to flip. He’s going to turn state’s evidence. He’s going to rat Trump out. He’s going to snitch," he added.

Mr Wilson, of the Lincoln Project, believes it might be someone much closer to Mr Trump, however.

“My money is on Jared. He’s looking for the exits,” he said.

There is another, less Shakespearan, scenario. Some of the most damning testimony from the January 6 hearings came not from high profile White House advisors, but from relatively junior staffers and aides who happened to be in the room when key events took place.

It was Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mr Meadows, who revealed the most shocking details about her boss and Mr Trump’s movements on the day. And Sarah Matthews, former White House deputy press secretary, who testified that Mr Trump was "pouring gasoline on the fire by encouraging the mob to march on the Capitol.

If someone in Trump’s orbit is providing information to authorities, it may well be someone whose name he doesn’t even know.