(CNN)Former President Donald Trump has taken his involvement in 2022 Republican primaries to a new level as he works to permanently mold the GOP in his image. Beyond Trump’s public efforts to oust Republican incumbents he considers disloyal, he has quietly tried to clear potential GOP threats to his endorsed candidates and encouraged others to run against his enemies.
Earlier this month, the former President enlisted the help of North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn to persuade former Rep. Mark Walker to end his campaign for Senate and instead run for the House, which could help Trump’s preferred candidate in the GOP Senate primary, Rep. Ted Budd, according to people familiar with the matter.
Trump has also had conversations in recent weeks with MAGA-aligned Republicans who are considering challenging GOP governors with whom he has grown disillusioned. The former President urged former Georgia Sen. David Perdue to run against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, who resisted Trump’s efforts to overturn his narrow 2020 loss in the state to then-candidate Joe Biden. And he has been receptive to the prospect of Alabama Senate GOP candidate Lynda Blanchard challenging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.
The notoriously vengeful former President has told associates he blames Ivey for a decision by the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park Commission earlier this summer to prevent him from holding a July 3 rally aboard the retired World War II battleship.
Ex-presidents usually leave the limelight after leaving office, refraining from inserting themselves in their party primaries. But a person close to Trump likened the former President to the mob patriarch Vito Corleone in the “The Godfather” movie for his efforts to retaliate against Republicans who criticized him for inciting the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol or for voting to pass Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. Trump has been “pulling strings behind the scenes and guiding candidates in the right direction,” this person said.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said the former President’s endorsement “is unquestionably the most powerful force in American politics” and that Trump continues to receive endorsement requests from Republican candidates up and down the ballot. “When he endorses candidates, they win,” Budowich told CNN in a statement, while declining to comment on Trump’s conversations with individual or prospective candidates.