Former chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele is joining the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans working to prevent President Donald Trump’s re-election.
“Today is the day where things should matter and you need to take stock of what matters to you – and the kind of leader you want to lead in these moments. And for me, it ain’t him,” Steele, a political analyst for MSNBC said making the announcement to host Nicole Wallace on Monday afternoon.
Steele was the first African American to be elected to statewide office in Maryland, serving as lieutenant governor from 2003 to 2007. He was also the first African American to serve as chairman of the RNC.
“I get my role as a former national chairman. I get it, but I’m an American. I get my role as a former party leader. I’m still an American,” Steele told Wallace, adding, “And these things matter to me more than aligning myself with a party that has clearly decided it would rather be sycophantic than principled.”
Since leaving his position as RNC chair in 2011, Steele has evolved into one of Trump’s most prominent Republican critics.
When Trump expressed frustration behind closed doors with people coming to the US from “shithole countries,” Steele called it racist. In April, he said: “America, in some respects, has been abused by this president.” And in June, he asserted that Trump does not believe America’s ideals.
Rick Wilson, a political strategist who co-founded the Lincoln Project, said in a statement that Steele is “a singularly insightful and effective political leader … (with) a remarkable track record of electoral success(.)”
“In the two decades I’ve known Michael Steele, he’s never been afraid to speak truth to power. As a former RNC chairman, Michael’s decision to join the Lincoln Project’s efforts to oust Trump and his enablers is a big deal,” Tara Setmayer, a senior adviser for The Lincoln Project and a CNN contributor, said in a statement. “It’s truly ‘country over party’ personified. Michael’s invaluable experience and brand of tell it like it is politics will fit right in on this pirate ship. Welcome aboard.”
The group has produced an array of scorching ads, that range from slamming Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic to attacking Republican senators who have stood with the President. The ads have drawn an angry rebuke from Trump, who has labeled the group “Losers Project” and called its founders Republicans in name only.
News of Steele’s arrival to the Lincoln Project on Monday comes as Republicans convene for the first day of the Republican National Convention. More than two dozen former Republican lawmakers also announced on Monday that they are endorsing Joe Biden for president.
Steele’s job announcement also comes a day after George Conway, a prominent conservative lawyer who co-founded the Lincoln Project, and his wife, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, said they would be leaving their jobs to focus on their family.
CNN’s Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.